Sunday, April 5, 2009

Spartak Tops Again in Euroleague

The remarkable Euroleague run of Spartak Moscow Region continues. With an 85-70 triumph Sunday over host Halcon Avenida in the title game of the Euroleague Final Four, Spartak earned its third consecutive Euroleague Championship.

Playing against a raucous home crowd that helped Avenida defeat MKB Euroleasing Sopron in Friday's semifinals, Spartak quieted the fans by taking control of the game in the second quarter and never letting go. Up one after one quarter, Spartak opened up a 12-point advantage by halftime and never allowed the hosts to get within double-digits in the second half, leading by as many as 21 points.

While Diana Taurasi was voted Final Four MVP after her second consecutive 30-plus-point effort, Sue Bird was equally as valuable for Spartak in the two wins in Salamanca. Bird had a double-double in the final, scoring 13 points, handing out 10 assists and grabbing six rebounds while going the full 40 minutes. Despite cold shooting, Lauren Jackson contributed 13 points and five rebounds.

Avenida, which features just two WNBA regulars (forward Le'Coe Willingham, who scored a team-high 25 points, and center Michelle Snow) simply could not match Spartak's amazing array of talent.

For Bird, it's a third consecutive Euroleague crown to go along with her dizzying array of titles (two NCAA Championships at UConn, two Olympic gold medals and, of course, the 2004 WNBA championship). Jackson wins her second straight Euroleague title, having joined Spartak just after the team won the 2007 Euroleague Championship.

Now, Spartak sets its sights on winning the Russian Superleague for a third straight time. Despite their Euroleague triumph, that is anything but a certainty. Next weekend, Spartak begins a semifinal series against talented CSKA Moscow, led by Becky Hammon. Should Spartak advance, the likely opponent in the Superleague Finals would be Cup of Russia champions UMMC Ekaterinburg, who challenged Spartak in Friday's semifinal matchup before settling for third place in Euroleague and would have home court in the series.

No comments: