April 17, 2023 

EuroLeague Final Four: Breanna Stewart, Fenerbahçe win title in dominant fashion

Breanna Stewart scores 35 points, Fenerbahçe makes history

Prague was the city hosting chosen by FIBA to host the Final Four this season. Following Friday’s semi-final matchups, Turkey was always going to be the destination of the trophy. After a few minutes of play in Sunday’s final, though, it was clear who’d win the EuroLeague title.

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Five-time finalist Fenerbahçe finally got to lift the much-desired title after destroying fellow Turkish side CBK Mersin and winning the final game of the season, 99-60.

Fenerbahçe 99, CBK Mersin 60

The players clad in blue and yellow reigned supreme on Sunday after failing to do so in their prior four runs through a EuroLeague final. After missing in 2013, 2014, 2017 and 2021, Fenerbahçe didn’t come to Prague to let this slip through their fingers a fifth time. One player made certain of it.

Breanna Stewart.

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From the second the ball was tipped off, you knew what was coming. Stewart gave CBK no chance at all at winning this final, one in which the Fenerbahçe national (and also continental this time) rivals were playing for their first time ever after debuting in a Final Four last Friday.

Fenerbahçe finished the first period already up 12, 29-17. By halftime: 57-24. Stewart, who played nearly the first 12 minutes without getting to rest on the bench, first hit the pine with 24 points in her bag at the start of the second quarter. Only sitting, once the outcome wasn’t in doubt, kept her from setting every record imaginable.

Stewart was on pace to end with more than 80 points scored had she not rested at all. For perspective: only one player this season scored more than 32 points (Valeriane Vukosavljevic, 33) in a single game, and it took her the full 40 minutes.

Stewart wrapped up her day by scoring 35 points in 35 minutes. She hit 10-of-17 field goals, had a perfect five-for-five from beyond the three-point arc, and also dropped 10 of her 11 free-throw attempts. She added six rebounds, three assists, and two steals.

CBK ended up losing the rebound battle 36 to 29, turning the ball over 20 times, stealing just five possessions against Fenerbahçe’s dominant 12 steals, and dishing out a minimal 15 assists compared to the champs’ 28 dimes.

Four players on CBK’s side scored exactly 10 points with Chelsea Gray adding nine. Aleksandra Crvendakic grabbed a team-high seven boards and Chelsea Gray topped the assists column with six. That was far too little to stop Stewart, let alone Fenerbahçe as a whole.

Regular-season MVP Emma Meesseman celebrated getting her award by dropping 10 points to go with seven rebounds, six steals, and three assists. Kayla McBride, often forgotten because of the magnitude of her teammates, was invaluable in scoring 16 points, getting six boards, and assisting five buckets. Satou Sabally and Olcay Calkir added 11 points each. Alina Iagupova, one of the best players in the continent and a perennial top performer, only played 15 minutes. Fenerbahçe didn’t need her.

CBK Mersin won’t be happy with the trouncing, but they can still be proud of their accomplishment. They reached the Final Four after a midseason coach change. They started the year with Jonquel Jones in tow only for her to leave midway through the campaign. They lost some other players, signed many more, and were in a never-ending status of flux. No matter the changes, they stayed relentless and were just one game (one Breanna, really) away from winning it all.

Turkey now boasts a couple of EuroLeague-winning squads in Galatasaray (2014) and Fenerbahçe after both teams met in the first-ever all-Turkish final nearly 10 years ago. The latter achieved it by winning an impressive 16 games in a row after losing their first two matchups this season. Talk about flipping the narrative.

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Third-place game: USK Praha 56, Famila Schio 59

In the game that opened Sunday’s slate, Famila Schio became the first Final Four debutant to earn a medal by beating Praha 59-56 at their home court and getting a bronze medal.

The game featured the wildest ending ever. Feel free to watch the clip below and you’ll see what I mean. Yes, the full highlights reel lasts nearly four minutes and more than half of it is devoted to the final half of the final quarter.

Famila Schio and Praha found themselves locked into a 54-54 tie with 1:16 minutes left to play following an Alyssa Thomas made free throw. It was bedlam from that point on. Marina Mabrey put her team up two with a layup, leaving just 16 seconds for Praha to react on the clock. Teja Oblak’s fadeaway jumper with five seconds remaining tied it all at 56. Chaos followed.

Rhyne Howard inbounded the ball to Giorgia Sottana, who turned the ball over after attempting an ill-advised pass. Valeriane Vukosavljevic stole it, but instantly lost it after hitting Marina Mabrey trying to dribble the ball. The most unlikely of three-point shooters present on the floor, Schio’s center Egle Sventoraite, snatched the loose ball right on the edge of the arc, shot a hail-mary, and nailed it.

Praha failed to reach 60 points in a game for the second time in a row, something they had not done in any single game before Friday and through the quarterfinals. Alyssa Thomas (15 points, 12 rebounds) and Brionna Jones (10 and 15) were the main players carrying Praha last Sunday, but not even those two double-doubles were enough for the hosts to beat their guests.

Teja Oblak was less than five seconds away from forcing overtime but got denied the chance of bulking up her 17-point, five-rebound, four-assist stat line. As was the case on Friday, Praha’s injuries and lack of depth hurt the Czech team and forced them to use an insufficient seven-player rotation with all members logging at least 17 minutes each.

Famila Schio didn’t have any remarkable scorer other than Marina Mabrey (game-high 17 points) on the court, but the contributions of Astou Ndour (11 points and six rebounds), Costanza Verona (nine and four), and Ryne Howard (nine points) made up for the lack of top-heavy productions in a team effort that led the Italian side to a third-place finish in their first-ever trip to a Final Four.

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EuroLeague regular season awards

To wrap up our coverage of the 2022-23 EuroLeague campaign and before moving on to the offseason, it’s worth listing the award winners of the regular season, who were named by the league last Saturday following the first slate of Final Four games and right before Sunday’s slate.

Most Valuable Player: Emma Meesseman (Fenerbahce)

All-EuroLeague Women First Team: Chelsea Gray (CBK), Yvonne Anderson (Tango Bourges), Breanna Stewart (Fenerbahce), Alyssa Thomas (Praha), Emma Meesseman (Fenerbahce)

All-EuroLeague Women Second Team: Alina Iagupova (Fenerbahce), Marina Mabrey (Famila Schio), Jelena Brooks (Sopron), Raquel Carrera (Valencia), Mariella Fasoula (Avenida)

Defensive Player of the Year: Alyssa Thomas (Praha)

Young Player of the Year: Pauline Astier (Tango Bourges)

Coach of the Year: Georgios Dikaioulakos (Famila Schio)

Written by Antonio Losada

International freelance writer covering the WNBA overseas. Bylines at places, touching different bases. Always open to discussion over @chapulana || Full portfolio

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