March 18, 2023
EuroLeague quarterfinals: Fenerbahçe punches Final Four ticket
Three other playoff series will have decisive Game 3s next week
The first knockout stage of the EuroLeague postseason tipped off last Tuesday, followed by a second slate of games on Friday. After two matches in each best-of-three series, only Fenerbahçe (the über-favorite) could qualify for the Final Four; the rest are tied at 1-1 and will have a decisive Game 3 next week.
Here is a recap of each series as we gear up for the three matches that will decide the rest of the EuroLeague Final Four. The semifinals will tip off on April 14, and the Final Four is scheduled for April 16.
Fenerbahçe blasts Sopron, confirms ‘favorite’ status
Less than a year ago, Fenerbahçe and Sopron were battling to lift the 2022 EuroLeague trophy. If you stopped watching their first game of this year’s postseason at the end of the third period, you might have thought it was an extension of last year’s final, as just four points separated the teams.
But Fenerbahçe then cooked itself a 20-4 fourth quarter in which it left no doubt about who was the pretender and who was the contender. Five players from the Turkish team finished the game with double-digit points, including Breanna Stewart with a 20-point, 10-rebound double-double. Ezi Magbegor (17) was the only double-digit scorer for Sopron.
On Friday, one quarter was all Fenerbahçe needed to again make it clear to everyone watching that there is one clear-cut favorite to lift the EuroLeague trophy, and it hails from Istanbul.
With 10 minutes gone, Fenerbahçe had already scored 32 points and led the Hungarian team by 13. By the final buzzer, Stewart had a game-high 25 points and three steals; Emma Meesseman contributed 16 points, seven rebounds, and three blocks; and Alina Iagupova had a do-it-all type of outing with six points, seven rebounds, nine assists, two steals and one block.
Sopron left the tournament with an impressive pair of performances by Jelena Brooks (21 points) and Magbegor (15 points, four rebounds, two assists) but missing Yvonne Turner‘s talent, as she could only score four points on 2-for-8 shooting. But her hitting those six missed shots wouldn’t have helped Sopron that much, anyway.
Lauren Cox calls game — and Game 3
Five minutes were all that separated Valencia from starting its series against Famila Schio with a victory, as everything was tied at 61 with 4:58 left. All things considered, Valencia could have been thankful to reach that point of the game still close. But then Schio scored 14 points in the final five minutes to Valencia’s two.
Astou Ndour-Fall (21) and Marina Mabrey (20) scored in bunches for the Italian team and combined for 12 rebounds, four assists and three steals. Three Valencia players scored 10-plus points led by Leticia Romero‘s 15, while Queralt Casas had the most complete outing with nine points, five rebounds, four steals and two assists. To no avail, that was.
The second game brought another close affair that forced a Game 3 next week. A 3-pointer by Lauren Cox sealed the deal, putting the Spanish team up four with just 17 seconds left. Cox finished with the second-most points (14) among Valencia players while Raquel Carrera (21 points and 11 rebounds) and Leticia Romero (10 points and 11 assists) both earned double-doubles.
Famila Schio wasted an extraordinary game by Costanza Verona, as she had 20 points and seven dimes. Jasmine Keys (18) and Mabrey (12) hit double-digit points, too, but it wasn’t enough. Rhyne Howard and Ndour-Fall played below their expected levels, and that hurt the Italian team’s chances of sealing its Final Four berth.
Avenida forces Game 3 after OT buzzer-beater
After making the EuroLeague playoffs on the last day of the regular season, Avenida fell way short of reaching Praha’s standards in the first game of their series, falling 77-56. The game was decided from the get-go, with Praha leading by six at the end of the first quarter and 17 at halftime.
As expected, Praha outrebounded Avenida 48-29 while also getting 14 fast-break points to Avenida’s zero. Maria Conde, Valeriane Vukosavljevic, Alyssa Thomas and Brionna Jones scored at least 13 points each while the latter also grabbed 13 rebounds for an efficiency of 28. Avenida’s best performer was Leonor Rodriguez with an efficiency of 16; she came off the bench to put up 11 points, five assists, three rebounds and two steals.
All the excitement that Game 1 lacked was provided in bunches on Friday. In fact, Avenida could have pulled a reverse when it went up 10 points midway through the game, only for Praha to retake the lead right before the fourth period. Things went down to the wire twice: at the end of regulation with a basket waved off, allowing Avenida to force overtime, and then a buzzer-beating tip-in by Andrea Vilaro to win the game for Avenida and force a third game next Wednesday.
Thomas (21 points, 17 rebounds) and Jones (23 points, 11 rebounds) were their usual unstoppable selves for Praha, but Conde’s five turnovers, Vukosavljevic’s subpar game, and a strong team effort by Avenida were too much to overcome.
The Spanish team used nine players, of which eight logged at least 21 minutes, while only two starters played more than 28 minutes (including overtime). Four Avenida players scored in double digits; Bridget Carleton finished with nine points and nine rebounds; and Vilaro scored five points to go with five rebounds, four dimes and two steals.
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CBK dominates Game 1 but sees Game 2 comeback fall short
The most unbalanced matchup of the EuroLeague quarterfinals started with CBK demolishing French side Tango Bourges 84-56 in the first game of their series. After a 15-15 first stanza, CBK had a 27-19 second period that previewed what was coming in the final quarter: a 26-10 score in favor of the Turkish team.
Elizabeth Williams finished with just eight points but had a performance for the ages with 10 rebounds, four steals, three blocks and no turnovers or personal fouls committed in 31 minutes. Four CBK players scored 10-plus points, led by Tiffany Hayes‘ 19, while only two (Yvonne Anderson with 12 and Endy Miyem with 10) reached that mark for Bourges. No player from the French team grabbed more than six rebounds or dished out more than four assists.
In the second game, things changed quite a bit. The French team hosted CBK and put on a wire-to-wire effort to stave off the favorites’ attempts at advancing. Bourges entered the final period up by 13, but a monster 27-15 run by the Turkish team nearly completed the comeback. Aleksandra Crvendakic’s 3-pointer with one second left got CBK within one point, but that was it.
We’ll have a series finale on Wednesday to determine who makes the EuroLeague Final Four. Anderson and Alix Duchet had 22 and 16 points, respectively, for Bourges, and three of their teammates grabbed five-plus rebounds each.
CBK got a double-double from Williams (14 points, 10 rebounds, five blocks) to go with Hayes’ 26 points and six dimes. Outside of those two, though, CBK’s only other above-average performer was Crvendakic; no other player from CBK finished with an efficiency mark above seven.