Saturday, April 25, 2009

Spartak Squares Russian Finals

The Russian Superleague Finals are headed to a deciding Game 3 after Spartak evened the series at one game apiece with a commanding 86-67 home victory in Saturday's Game 2. Powered by hot shooting, Spartak jumped out to a 26-11 lead after one quarter, had a 21-point advantage at the half and cruised from there.

Sue Bird was the ringleader of an offense that saw Spartak knock down 11 three-pointers at a 45.8-percent clip. Bird was 4-of-7 from three herself, scoring 18 points and handing out five assists. Diana Taurasi, bouncing back from a rough Game 1, had 20 points, six boards and four assists. Lauren Jackson added 15 more points.

The contrast was especially obvious beyond the arc, where UMMC Ekaterinburg came up empty in 13 tries. Spartak shut down Ekaterinburg's guards. Cappie Pondexter missed six of seven shot attempts, Deanna Nolan eight of 10. They combined for 11 points. Asjha Jones, who scored 16 off the bench on 11 shots, was the only UMMC player to get anything going.

The series returns to Ekaterinburg for the rubber match not only of this series but also for major competitions. UMMC won the Cup of Russia single-game tournament, while Spartak toppled Ekaterinburg en route to winning the Euroleague Final Four. Game 3 promises another thriller.

The Russian Superleague featured three dominant teams, and that was demonstrated in the consolation series, where Dynamo Moscow was outclassed by a resurgent CSKA Moscow squad. CSKA earned the sweep today with a 112-69 win. Janell Burse aquitted herself nicely with 17 points and five rebounds, making 13 free throws in 16 attempts. However, CSKA simply had too much depth.

In Italy, semifinals are underway. Game 1 saw Club Atletico Faenza pull off a 67-65 upset win over Cras Basket Taranto. Taranto scored well, including 14 points for Suzy Batkovic, but could not get enough stops. Faenza shot a sizzling 72.2 percent on two-point shots. Game 2 - a must-win for Taranto - will be played later today.

The Spanish 5th-8th place series culminated in an Ibiza-PDV sweep of Joventut Mariana. Ibiza relied on another dominant performance from Sancho Lyttle to earn a spot in EuroCup for next season. Lyttle scored 40 points on 17-of-20 shooting, grabbing 11 rebounds. The Storm's Shannon Johnson added 16 points on 7-for-14 shooting.

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