January 28, 2023 

EuroLeague Week 11: Teams close in on postseason berths

And Olympiacos, led by Megan Gustafson, gets first win

This week was the first one in which a few EuroLeague teams could have clinched postseason berths. Fenerbahçe and Praha, which entered the week with 17 and 18 points, respectively, would have each qualified with a victory and a defeat of Tango Bourges at the hands of Valencia. After Wednesday’s games, however, both favorites learned that they would have to wait at least seven more days.

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Bourges defeated Valencia 70-68 in the tightest game of the week. The French team had to pull off a comeback after trailing through the third period. The game wasn’t decided until Kayla Alexander put Bourges up one point with 25 seconds to go from the charity stripe, Lauren Cox missed a 3-pointer that could have won it for Valencia, and Elodie Godin hit the last free throw of the game to wrap things up.

With the victory, Bourges (6-5) inched closer to Valencia (7-4) and Polkowice (7-4) in the standings after the latter also lost this week. That keeps Bourges’ chances of qualifying for the EuroLeague postseason very much alive. Bourges can thank Anete Steinberga for her 12-point, 12-rebound double-double and Yvonne Anderson for having a monster outing with 19 points, seven dimes and six boards.

Speaking of Polkowice, the EuroLeague newcomers could have hardly asked for a better start, putting together a 6-1 record through the first half of the season. But their record is now 7-4 after dropping back-to-back games, including Wednesday’s 92-57 defeat to Praha (8-3).

The Czech squad started the game strong, building a 10-point lead through the first quarter and losing the second period just by one point. It then erased all doubts with a staggering 30-9 third quarter.

Even in a “bad” game, Alyssa Thomas finished with 16 points and eight rebounds, while teammate Brionna Jones had eight points and nine boards. Teja Oblak was the most impactful player on Praha, though, dishing out a league-wide season-high 14 assists in 30 minutes while contributing seven points, four rebounds and two steals.

Polkowice had a couple of phenomenal performers in Artemis Spanou (15 points and six rebounds) and Erica Wheeler (13 points and nine assists). EuroLeague MVP candidate Stephanie Mavunga had her worst game of the year, finishing with nine points, six rebounds and three assists but committing four turnovers.

Fenerbahçe (9-2) won its ninth consecutive game after starting the year 0-2. The Turkish behemoth blasted Virtus Bologna 95-73 by scoring at least 21 points in each quarter.

It was just another day at the office for the Fenerbahçe players. Four of the five starters scored at least 10 points while Satou Sabally added 19 off the bench in just 23 minutes. Emma Meesseman led her team in points with 22, and Breanna Stewart had a 14-point, 10-rebound double-double with four assists and four steals. Three Fenerbahçe players finished the game with four steals each while two more stole two possessions.

The postseason dream is over for Virtus Bologna (3-8) after this week’s defeat. Kitija Laksa scored a game-high 29 points but didn’t contribute on any other statistical front except for grabbing a single rebound. Iliana Rupert (14), Cecilia Zandalasini (11) and Ivana Dojkic (11) all scored in double figures while Rupert (eight), Zandalasini and Olbis Andre grabbed at least seven rebounds.

Sopron and Famila Schio lead race for Group B’s No. 1 seed

The pecking order is more or less settled in Group A with Fenerbahçe leading the way, Praha following, and a tie between Polkowice and Valencia for the remaining two playoff spots. But in Group B, Sopron and Famila Schio are tied at the top with an 8-3 record.

Sopron had it much harder than Famila Schio on Wednesday, though, barely defeating Spar Girona 62-60 thanks to a miraculous comeback. With just nine minutes left, Sopron was nine points down, but it put together an extraordinary 18-8 final run to earn its eighth win of the season.

Girona, on the other hand, has alternated victories and defeats for the past four weeks but is still in contention for a postseason berth. While the Spanish team couldn’t beat Sopron this week, it still must have been happy to have signed Brittney Sykes earlier this year. Sykes scored 21 points against her former team while also dishing out five dimes and pulling down three rebounds. She could be a key factor in the postseason if Girona qualifies.

Sopron’s Ezi Magbegor had a game for the ages even though she failed to hit double digits in any statistical categories. She blocked seven shots to go with nine points, seven rebounds, two steals and one assist in a historic defensive outing that was game-changing for Sopron. Jelena Brooks kept up her impressive campaign and carried the offensive load by contributing a team-high 18 points.

Famila Schio hit the hardwood running against Basket Landes, dumping 29 points on the French team through the first period, and coasted to an 85-71 victory. Landes said goodbye to the EuroLeague postseason, dropping to a 2-9 record with just three more games on the schedule.

Both Regan Magarity and Marina Mabrey finished with 21 points for their respective teams, but the Italian side boasted three other players scoring in double digits (led by Rhyne Howard with 15 points) while the French team had only one (Laura Gil with 10).

Astou Ndour didn’t crack double-digit points against Landes but pulled down more rebounds than anyone with nine to go with two assists and seven points. For Landes, Celine Dumerc was the leading assister with eight dimes. No other player had more than six assists in this matchup.

Cukurova rises to third; Avenida breaks four-game skid

DVTK faced Cukurova on Thursday with both teams sitting at 6-4 and fighting for sole possession of third place in Group B. DVTK took a three-point lead with less than a minute left, but DeWanna Bonner‘s two baskets in the final 50 seconds flipped the scoreboard in favor of the Turkish team, earning Cukurova a 78-77 victory.

Those two buckets added four points to Bonner’s final 25-point tally. Chelsea Gray (13) and Tiffany Hayes (12) hit double-digit points for Cukurova, while Elizabeth Williams was disappointing with just three points and two rebounds in 23 minutes.

For DVTK, Arella Guirantes had another extraordinary outing of 21 points, eight assists and seven rebounds. Four players scored 10-plus points for DVTK, while Darcee Garbin fell one rebound short of a double-double.

Avenida finally broke its four-game losing streak with a 75-61 victory over Belgian side Kangoeroes Mechelen. The Spanish side recently parted ways with former head coach Roberto Iñiguez (now 2-0 in the EuroLeague after getting the same job at Cukurova) and won its first EuroLeague game under the guidance of newcomer Pepe Vazquez after losing to Famila Schio last week.

Morgan Bertsch led Kangoeroes with 24 points while teammate Ziomara Morrison pulled down a game-high 14 rebounds. Each finished with two dimes, two steals and at least one block. Lisa Berkani also had 12 points.

Avenida stole 10 possessions (to Mechelen’s six), assisted on 18 baskets (six more than its rivals), and turned the ball over just 13 times to Kangoeroes’ 17. Most importantly, though, Avenida’s bench outscored Kangoeroes’ second unit 32-10.

Mariella Fasoula had a team-high 18 points to go with five rebounds, Maite Cazorla finished with 14 points and led Avenida with four assists, and Bridget Carleton contributed 13 points and six steals while shooting a perfect 7-for-7 from the charity stripe.

Olympiacos gets first win, KSC is eliminated

It would have been very difficult for KSC to make the EuroLeague postseason even if it had won this week, but a 87-68 loss to Olympiacos sealed KSC’s fate. KSC, though, must be proud of what it has accomplished this year after going winless last season. Something similar can be said of Olympiacos, which finally earned its first victory after losing its first 10 games this season.

Led by (who else?) a dominant Megan Gustafson, Olympiacos led for the last 36-plus minutes of play on Wednesday. Nothing worked for a KSC squad that hoisted 70 shots but made only 29 of them for a 41% success rate.

Olympiacos kept things simple, moved the ball smoothly on its way to 23 assists (with four players getting between five and six dimes each), and converted nearly 65% of its 37 2-point shots. Gustafson had a season-high 32 points and 10 rebounds for her eighth double-double of the year. She also swatted two shots and stole three possessions. No player in the EuroLeague has scored 200 points this season except for Gustafson, who has 252 and counting.

Three players scored at least 14 points for KSC, led by Sydney Wallace’s 17. Ruthy Hebard had 16 points and seven rebounds, though she committed five personal fouls that limited her playing time to 27 minutes. Agnes Studer had a team-high six dimes.

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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