January 14, 2023 

EuroLeague Week 9: Fenerbahçe’s offense and Sopron’s defense lead the way

Could the teams be on a collision course for a championship?

After a wild start to the 2022-23 season, things have slowly but surely started to fall into place. Fenerbahçe finally found its footing after starting the season 0-2, and Sopron recovered from a little slump after going 3-0 to start the season. Both clubs now sit at the top of their respective groups, boasting 7-2 records.

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If the two squads end up meeting in the EuroLeague final next spring, as was the case last season, the matchup might turn into an instant classic considering what they did to their opponents earlier this week.

Fenerbahçe, loaded with WNBA imports and fielding one of the strongest teams (if not the best roster, full stop) in the competition, ran KSC out of Istanbul, beating the Hungarian side 91-71 and scoring at least 20 points in each of the four periods.

After a good-not-great debut two weeks ago, Breanna Stewart dominated Wednesday’s match with 30 points and 17 rebounds in 38 minutes. She was helped mostly by Emma Meesseman (25 points, eight rebounds) and a ridiculously productive Alina Iagupova (19 points, seven rebounds, six dimes and five steals).

Sydney Wallace (19), Victoria Vivians (16) and Agnes Studer (15) all hit double-digit scoring for KSC, and Ruthy Hebard had six points and 10 rebounds, the second-most rebounds in the game behind Stewart.

While Fenerbahçe’s offensive firepower looked stronger than ever, Sopron’s defense proved to be stiffer than you’d have thought. Facing the other Turkish giant in the competition, CBK Mersin, Sopron turned a 0-7 deficit to start the game into a 51-44 victory on Thursday. The reigning champs limited CBK to a measly 37 points in 37:50 after the Turkish side’s opening run.

Only four players from the two teams combined scored 10 or more points. CBK’s Quanitra Hollingsworth earned a 10-point, 10-rebound double-double, and DeWanna Bonner fell just one rebound short with 10 points and nine boards. No other CBK player had more than five boards.

Ezi Magbegor led Sopron with a low efficiency of 13 by way of scoring five points, pulling down 11 boards and blocking three shots. Dragana Stankovic (11) and Zsofia Fegyverneky (15) scored in double figures while Yvonne Turner and Jelena Brooks added eight points each.

Polkowice bounces back, Valencia edges Praha

Having defeated Polkowice in their head-to-head matchup earlier this season, Fenerbahçe remains atop Group A. The Polish side did all it could this week to keep up with Fenerbahçe by defeating Olympiacos 76-52 in Poland. The Greek side will keep looking for its first victory, still sporting the only winless record in the EuroLeague.

Outside of the ever-present Megan Gustafson (17-point, 11-rebound double-double), Olympiacos didn’t have any other big contributor to try to fend off Polkowice. The Greek side closed the first period down just three points (15-12), but the margin grew to 15 by halftime and Olympiacos never recovered.

Stephanie Mavunga had one of the best performances of the week with 19 points, 17 rebounds, two dimes, two steals and a blocked shot. Three more players scored 11 or more points for Polkowice, with Erica Wheeler matching Mavunga’s 19-point tally. All players on Polkowice’s side finished with a positive plus/minus, whereas no Olympiacos player did.

The other two teams fighting for a top seed in Group A, Valencia and Praha, had an entertaining affair as the latter turned an unbalanced game into a tightly contested matchup at the end of regulation. Praha cut a 16-point deficit to just five points with 2:19 left, and that score held until Raquel Carrera’s free throws widened the gap to seven with 1:43 remaining. Valencia ended up winning by that same margin, 82-75, and earned its sixth win of the season to match Praha’s record at 6-3.

It must have been a disappointing week for the Praha faithful, though, considering that Alyssa Thomas did everything she could to help her team win with a triple-double (!) of 17 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists (and four steals). Brionna Jones scored a team-high 21 points while Maria Conde was ridiculously good all around with 11 points, five steals, four dimes and three rebounds.

Valencia, although wildly outrebounded on the glass (39 to 29), still found a way to score more points than Praha off turnovers (27 to 20) and enjoyed 38 points from its bench compared to Praha’s 15. Marie Gulich and Alba Torrens finished the game with 22 and 19 points, respectively, to go with four rebounds each. Lauren Cox had 10 points while Queralt Casas filled her stat line with seven points, eight rebounds, five assists and three steals.

Virtus Bologna and Kangoeroes Mechelen can’t end losing streaks

Another week, another loss for Virtus Bologna and Kangoeroes Mechelen. The former endured its seventh loss of the season, dropping its fourth consecutive game, while the latter hasn’t won a match since it did for the first (and final) time back on Nov. 10.

Although it was a close game throughout and the score was tied at 73 with just 31 seconds left, Virtus couldn’t stop Tango Bourges from finishing the game on a 6-1 run. The final score was 79-74 in favor of the French side.

Although Laetitia Guapo didn’t score a single point in the final three minutes of play and wasn’t involved in Bourges’ late scoring run, she led the team with 19 points in 29 minutes and had a team-high efficiency of 25. Kayla Alexander and Yvonne Anderson added 12 points each while grabbing nine and six rebounds, respectively. Anderson also had a game-high four steals.

Cheyenne Parker scored the most points for the Italian side (20), and Iliana Rupert cooked herself an 18-point, 10-rebound, five-dime double-double while shooting 70% from the field on 10 attempts (including hitting two 3-pointers). Two other players from Virtus added nine points, one had eight, and another scored seven. Virtus Bologna scored 24 points from beyond the arc compared to Landes’ six, but not even that long-range prowess helped them outscore the French side overall.

Arella Guirantes, take a bow. DVTK kept building on a strong run, which now spans three games after demolishing Kangoeroes 96-60, in no small part because of Guirantes and her otherworldly 21-point, 16-rebound, seven-assist double-double. Guirantes also stole two possessions and blocked a shot in just 33 minutes.

The Hungarian side was relentless and featured four more players scoring double-digit points and two more hitting eight and nine. Guirantes was determined to will DVTK to victory, attempting 16 field goals and eight free throws. DVTK had not scored more than 82 points in any game this season before this week.

Kangoeroes, on the other hand, had always scored at least 62 points, but it was limited to a measly 60 on Thursday. Ziomara Morrison (12), Lisa Berkani (18) and Morgan Bertsch (16) all scored in double figures for Kangoeroes, with Morrison grabbing a game-high 18 rebounds for her fourth double-double of the season in nine games.

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Famila Schio moves up to second place after Avenida throws game away

Two of the best teams in Group B had reasonably winnable matchups this week, but only one took advantage. Famila Schio (6-3) defeated the Spanish side Girona 70-65 thanks to an extraordinary performance by Rhyne Howard after the 2022 WNBA Rookie of the Year had struggled overseas through the first half of the season.

Howard scored a season-high 26 points to go with five rebounds. She was the reason Schio ended up victorious, as no other player on her side scored in double digits. Jasmine Keys was the only Schio player with more than seven rebounds, with 12. Astou Ndour-Fall and Kim Mestdagh had subpar outings, combining for only 14 points and 10 rebounds.

Girona’s strength-in-numbers approach fell a bit short, though its game plan of using as many as 10 different players and playing each of them between 13 and 26 minutes almost worked out. Rebekah Gardner led the team in points with 15, but she had no help. No other Girona player even scored nine points.

If you checked the score of the game between Avenida and Basket Landes at halftime and decided you had seen enough, I would not have blamed you. Avenida led Landes 44-29 after two quarters and 53-38 after three. Everything changed in the final 10 minutes, though, as Landes put together a phenomenal 20-5 period, tied the game on a Marine Fauthoux layup with 26 seconds left, and then outscored Avenida 13-6 in overtime to pull off a miracle win.

It’s been a tumultuous season for Avenida, and this game was just another example of how up and down its results have been. Avenida threw away a 19-point lead, allowed Landes to go on an 18-0 run, and ended up losing a game it led for 34:55. On a day to forget for the Spanish side, Michaela Onyenwere led the team with 18 points and nine rebounds, three other players from Avenida scored at least nine, and four grabbed five or more rebounds.

Fauthoux scored the game-tying bucket for Landes on her way to finishing with 25 points and eight rebounds. Regan Magarity scored 11 and fell one board short of a double-double, and Kristen Mann added 14 points. A key under-the-radar performer for the French side was Marie-Eve Paget, who contributed six points, six assists, five rebounds and two steals while only turning the ball over once in 30 minutes.

Avenida (5-4) now sits in a four-way tie for third in Group B while Landes improved to 2-7, edging bottom-dwellers Kangoeroes Mechelen (1-8).

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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