February 4, 2023
EuroLeague Week 12: Three teams in, five already out of postseason contention
With only two games left on the schedule — only three teams have sealed their postseason ticket with five more places still up for grabs
The EuroLeague is entering a three-week hiatus that will keep all teams on the wings until the competition returns on Feb. 22 with one of only two slates remaining on the schedule. In other words, it’s about time we got some clarity when it comes to the playoffs, am I right!?
That’s what happened earlier this week. Kind of. Three teams from Group A (Fenerbahçe, Praha and Valencia) punched their tickets for the postseason. No team from Group B qualified. There were two teams in Group A which got the worst of this week’s results, as they are now out of contention to reach the EuroLeague quarter-finals, while only two have gotten eliminated in Group B.
In Group A, BC Polkowice and Tango Bourges (who play each other right after the break) will know their respective fate next match day in a win-and-get-in matchup. Things are quite murkier in Group B, with six teams still fighting for a place in the postseason: Sopron, CBK and Famila Schio with an 8-4 record, Girona and Avenida at 7-5, and DVTK still hanging in there (only by a very thin thread) at 6-6.
Let’s review what took place this week in the 12th game of the regular season before looking at what is ahead in future columns.
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Fenerbahçe and Valencia win and clinch; Praha earns postseason berth in loss
With two of the favorites for the title playing in Group A and facing each other this week, something had to give. Fenerbahçe earned their 10th victory in a row after defeating Praha 73-66 on the road, locking a No. 1 seed finish in the group stage and breaking the 1,000-point barrier on the season, having 1,026 total points in their collective bag already.
Fenerbahçe took advantage of a turnover-plagued game by Praha in which the Czech Republic team lost 22 (!) possessions with three different players (superstars Teja Oblak, Alyssa Thomas and Valeriane Vukosavljevic) dropping either five or six rocks each. The 19 points scored by Fenerbahçe off Praha’s turnovers were more than enough to decide the game in favor of the Turkish side.
Five players from Fenerbahçe scored double-digit points, led by Breanna Stewart with 18 pops and a very special announcement for those following the WNBA as a whole and the New York Liberty in particular. Satou Sabally‘s 14-point, six-rebound, six-assist, three-steal outing was the best-graded performance of a player on Fenerbahçe’s side (efficiency of 22), though the WNBA player got bested by Vukosavljevic’s double-double (23 points, 10 rebounds, efficiency of 24) and Brionna Jones‘ 16-point, 9-rebound, 23-efficiency game.
The win by Fenerbahçe (10-2) and the loser’s point earned by Praha (8-4) allowed both teams to qualify for the postseason. The third team to do so and join the two favorites is Valencia, as the Spanish side won a tight matchup against Polkowice by a final 69-64 result.
The game featured a wild turn of events, though, with Pokowice taking an early 12-point lead, surrendering it by the middle of the third period and ultimately getting down by 11 points themselves after Valencia put on an extraordinary last 13 minutes in which the Spanish squad never surrendered the lead again.
Even though Weronika Telenga (10 points,12 rebounds, three blocks) came out of the blue with her best game of the season and was helped by both Artemis Spanou (23) and Erica Wheeler (21) hitting more than 20 points, Polkowice fell short of Valencia and lost a game for the third time in a row.
Valencia, on the other hand, bounced back from defeat and won their eighth game of the season to get in possession of the third place in Group A and punch a postseason ticket on their debut season in the competition. They can very well thank an otherworldly Queralt Casas’ whose efficiency of 28 led all players appearing in a game this week thanks to scoring 27 points to go with seven rebounds, three steals and one assist. Leticia Romero added 10 points, Ángela Salvadores contributed 11 and Lauren Cox filled the stat line to the tune of seven points, six rebounds, four blocks, two steals and one dime.
Tango Bourges remains in contention, Virtus loses chance of potential qualification
The French team from Bourges won for the second time in a row after beating KSC by 16 points in a matchup that featured two tied periods and a deciding one in the fourth stanza. Bourges won the last quarter by 17 points and wrapped up their 77-61 victory easily after entering the final 10 minutes just one point ahead of KSC on the scoreboard.
Thefts came to the crime scene donning Bourges threads this week by the look of the team’s steal tally: 16 between all players, with three of them snatching three, four and five possessions, respectively. Five players from Bourges hit double-digit figures on the scoring front, led by Alix Duchet with 20 points and seven dimes to go along with Yvonne Anderson‘s 15-point contribution.
Ruthy Hebard did all she could to help KSC as she finished with a 13-point, 10-rebound double-double on the day, but that wasn’t nearly enough to prevent Bourges from running away with the win. Sydney Wallace had 16 points, Cyesha Goree contributed eight points and eight boards and Agnes Studer had a wild performance, including nine points, nine rebounds, but also eight turnovers.
Virtus Bologna ran Olympiacos out of the gym with a solid 92-69 victory built through the first and final periods of play. The Italian team closed the first 10 minutes up 10 points and then cooked themselves another 11-point margin in the final period to get their fourth win of the season after losing their matchup last week.
Incredibly, Megan Gustafson completed the rare no-double-double game “only,” scoring 17 points and grabbing five rebounds. She was bested by teammate Angeliki Nikolopoulou and her 16 points to go with eight boards. Anna Stamolamprou scored 18 points, but only one other player on the Greek team scored more than four throughout the game.
Five players from Virtus scored 10 or more points, with Ivana Dojkic reaching 19, Kitija Laksa getting 18, and Olbis Andre bagging 10 points and 10 dimes for a sweet double-double. Virtus, even in victory, lost all chances at qualifying for the EuroLeague postseason after Valencia’s win over Polkowice. Those two teams, along with Tango Bourges, will be the ones fighting for the final two open places in Group A.
Girona, Avenida and CBK victories make things interesting in Group B
There could be chaos in Group B entering this week, so of course, chaos ensued. The wins by the aforementioned three teams make things as tight as they could be in the group, with five teams bunched into the top 5 and separated by just one win.
Starting at the top, CBK’s 79-67 victory over Famila Schio helped the former team make it to the top three of Group B, now sitting at 8-4 and tied with both Schio and Sopron with two games remaining on the schedule. While the Turkish team was in possession of the lead throughout most of the game, it wasn’t until the final stanza that they were able to separate for good from their foes.
DeWanna Bonner was her usual self finishing with a gaudy 20-point, 10-rebound double-double that led all players on CBK’s side when it came to points and rebounds. Laura Cornelius was a surprising performer for the Turkish club, getting close to dub-dubbing with a nine-point, eight-rebound outing.
Only two players from Famila Schio scored in double digits (Marina Mabrey had 15 points, Astou Ndour reached just 10), but they put on a strong team effort with as many as six ballers getting to eight points scored. Rhyne Howard struggled shooting by hitting only 3-of-11 field-goal attempts, though she ended the game with a solid nine-point, five-rebound, four-assist, three-steal stat line.
In the other huge-stakes matchup of the week in Group B, Avenida didn’t find it too hard to defeat reigning champions Sopron 74-61 in a game they led wire to wire. The Spanish team even got to reach a massive 22-point lead at the start of the second half putting on a 12-0 scoring run then and there. It’s Avenida’s second win in a row and Sopron’s second loss in the last three weeks of play.
Mariella Fasoula (16 points) and Michaela Onyenwere (13) were automatic from the floor, scoring on 12-of-15 of their combined field-goal attempts, including a 3-for-3 for the latter when shooting from beyond the arc.
Ezi Magbegor fell one rebound short of getting a double-double after scoring 15 points, and Jelena Brooks led Sopron with 21 points but also committed five damaging turnovers. No other player on Sopron’s side scored more than eight points, while Andrea Vilaro (12) was the only other double-digit scorer for Avenida.
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Girona overtakes DVTK; Mechelen breaks seven-game losing streak
The fact that Girona and DVTK don’t belong to the top part of Group B doesn’t mean that the game between both teams this week wasn’t important. It could be a tournament-deciding one, in fact, as DVTK is now facing a scenario in which they won’t have qualification testing on their own hands after losing 74-56 to Girona.
Girona’s strong victory was built on a great team effort, with as many as seven players logging 20 or more minutes of play and sharing the floor throughout most of the game. Marianna Tolo, Rebekah Gardner, and Maria Araujo all scored 14 or more points, while Brittney Sykes had a day off on the shooting front, only scoring three buckets for seven points.
DVTK missed their best performer this season; Arella Guirantes and the rest of their players just didn’t have enough to stop the Spanish team this week. Three players scored 10 or more points, led by Vernoka Kanyasi, but that was it for the Hungarian team. The 18-team turnovers didn’t help DVTK either, with two players on their team losing four possessions each.
Talk about a top-heavy rotation. Mechelen’s coach gave five of the team’s players at least 32 minutes of play, but at least all of them scored eight or more points, with Ziomara Morrison (21) leading the way and Lisa Berkani hitting 19 herself. The Belgium team defeated Basket Landes 78-68, broke a seven-game losing skid, and tied the French side in the standings with both squads still buried at the bottom of Group B with 8-2 records.
Marine Fauthoux was fantastic in Landes’ losing effort scoring 25 points and dishing out four dimes to go with three rebounds and one steal. She had little help, though, with Jillian Harmon scoring 12 points but no other player on her side scoring more than eight points or grabbing more than five rebounds.