December 17, 2022 

EuroLeague Week 6: Is newcomer Polkowice a legitimate contender?

Plus: Fenerbahçe cruises, Group B stays tied at the top and more

With Polkowice playing in the EuroLeague for the first time this year, nobody really had the team in contention ahead of the regular season. The likes of Fenerbahçe, Praha and Sopron were always safer bets to make the postseason.

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Alas. With six weeks of games in the books, Polkowice (5-1) leads Group A, ahead of last year’s Final Four participants Fenerbahçe and Praha. The Polish side is also tied in the overall regular-season standings with Group B’s Avenida and Famila Schio, edging 2022 champion Sopron (4-2). Not bad for a newcomer, is it?

This week, Polkowice needed everything and then some to stay atop its group, beating Tango Bourges 63-62 away from home on Wednesday. Bourges took a four-point lead on a Yvonne Anderson layup with 49 seconds left, but a 3-pointer by Zala Friskovec, a steal by Stephanie Mavunga and two free throws by Artemis Spanou sealed the deal for Polkowice.

Mavunga fell one point short of a double-double with nine points and 12 rebounds (along with four steals) while Friskovec and Erica Wheeler added 14 and 19 points, respectively. Tough day for Anderson as she had an extraordinary 25-point, seven-rebound, four-assist performance but couldn’t get Bourges over the hump.

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Fenerbahçe cruises, Praha ends two-week slump

The other two main contenders in Group A also earned victories on Wednesday. Praha had it easy facing another of this year’s newcomers in Olympiacos from Greece. The Greek side is 0-6 this season, and Praha showed no mercy in a 95-63 win. Praha scored at least 20 points in every quarter to bounce back from a two-game losing streak.

Another double-double from Megan Gustafson (16 points, 10 rebounds) wasn’t enough for Olympiacos, which also enjoyed nice outings from Kylee Shook (15 points and eight boards) and Anna Stamolamprou (17 points, four assists).

Brionna Jones and Alyssa Thomas were their usual selves: They combined for 20 points, 20 rebounds and 14 assists, and Thomas had an 11-point, 11-assist double-double. But the player of the match was Maria Conde with 32 points, seven assists, three steals, two rebounds and one block in 33 minutes.

After a confounding 0-2 start to the season, Fenerbahçe has hit cruising speed and strung together four consecutive victories, including Wednesday’s 72-66 win against Valencia. The Spanish side had a rough second quarter (8-15), which turned out to be the deciding factor in a game in which no team won any other period by more than one point.

Four players from Fenerbahçe hit 11-plus points, including a game-high 20 from Kayla McBride, who also dished out six assists. Kiah Stokes keeps doing her very particular thing by contributing nearly exclusively on the boards, grabbing 12 rebounds but attempting (and missing) just one field goal.

Valencia’s Raquel Carrera was the best performer for the Spanish side (17 points, six rebounds). No other player from her team scored more than 11 points (Leticia Romero had that many) or pulled down more than five rebounds (Lauren Cox and Alba Torrens).

Famila Schio and Avenida maintain lead in Group B

Six games played, five victories and four- and three-game winning streaks are the tales of Famila Schio’s and Avenida’s seasons to date. The Italian side had to sweat out its latest triumph, beating the newcomer Kangoeroes Mechelen 74-70 away from home.

Kangoeroes close the gap to two with 6:50 left in the third quarter, but that’s the closest it got after leading by one point early in the first period. Mechelen saw Morgan Bertsch (25 points) and Lisa Berkani (21) score over 20 points apiece and another great outing by Ziomara Morrison (11 points, 11 rebounds).

The Italian side didn’t have to rely on any single player, as four players scored at least 11 points and three others added six each. Kim Mestdagh had an all-around contribution with six points, five rebounds, four assists and one steal but somehow finished with a minus-3 plus/minus.

The Spanish club Avenida won its third game in a row, this time over Hungarian side DVTK, while welcoming Michaela Onyenwere to Salamanca after parting ways with Erica McCall. DVTK started the game leading 2-0 thanks to a jump shot by Cheridene Green but never led again after Bridget Carleton tied the score with 9:31 remaining in the first period.

Avenida put on a show, winning 94-52 behind a 16-0 run between the late third and early fourth quarters. DVTK’s 20 turnovers didn’t help, and neither did the disparity in assists (12 to Avenida’s 24).

Arella Guirantes performed below expectations but was far from bad, contributing 13 points, four rebounds, five assists and one steal. Avenida, though, had four players score in double figures, with Silvia Dominguez adding seven assists and Aleksandra Crvendakic pulling down six boards. Onyenwere debuted mere hours after arriving, playing 12 minutes and finishing with nine points, three boards and one dime.

Cukurova and Sopron bounce back, Landes can’t build winning streak

Boasting one of the most talented rosters in the EuroLeague, Turkish side CBK Mersin (Cukurova) is just 3-3 after six weeks of play. The front office deemed it necessary to make a head coaching change during the last break, and Wednesday’s result (a 64-50 win over Girona) validated the move, at least for now.

Chelsea Gray focused on playmaking and defending, putting up 23 points and nine assists to go with three steals. Jonquel Jones took care of the boards with 11 points and 16 rebounds. Tiffany Hayes added 17 points and six rebounds, and DeWanna Bonner contributed eight points and eight boards.

Girona never led and trailed by as many as 22 in the third quarter. No Girona player scored more than eight points or grabbed more than five rebounds in a day to forget for the Spanish side.

After losing back-to-back games to sandwich the break, Sopron finally won a match this week, defeating Basket Landes 61-50 away from home. Landes kept things close until a fourth-quarter burst from Sopron made it impossible for the French team to keep up. Regan Magarity (14 points, seven rebounds) and Marine Fauthoux (14 points, five assists) were the best performers on Landes’ side, but it’s telling that the latter had more assists than the rest of her team combined.

Jelena Brooks led Sopron in minutes (36) and points (22), and Ezi Magbegor scored 15 points and pulled down six rebounds. It was also nice to see Dragana Stankovic bounce back a bit from her early-season woes by grabbing nine rebounds to go with two steals and two blocks in just 19 minutes.

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In the final game of the week, KSC defeated the Italian side Virtus Bologna 73-64. Both teams are now 3-3, and judging by their records and results to date, this was a rather “predictable” outcome. Neither of them had put together consecutive victories or defeats, so it made sense for KSC to beat Bologna so both teams could keep their up-and-down seasons going.

This was a nice game all around with multiple players putting up strong outings. All players in this match who have WNBA experience reached double-digit points and efficiency figures. KSC’s Ruthy Hebard led her team with 19 points, but four other players joined her in double figures. Three players also finished with at least three points, three rebounds, two assists and two steals. It was a concerted team effort and one that gave KSC its third win after going winless just one year ago.

For Virtus, Kitija Laksa scored a game-high 23 points, and Cheyenne Parker and Cecilia Zandalasini contributed 14 points. Parker also added eight rebounds, five assists and two blocks.

The EuroLeague will be back next week before another break for Christmas.

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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