October 22, 2022 

Girona defeats Villeneuve, completes 2022-23 EuroLeague regular season field of teams

Girona defeated Villeneuve by 23 points

What a night in Girona for the ones donning yellow threads last Wednesday. Just as a quick reminder and for context, Spanish side Girona faced the French from Villeneuve a week ago in the first leg of their home-and-away qualifying play-off. The Spaniards suffered a rather large defeat playing away from home, losing by a final scoreline of 69-57 and a 12-point difference.

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You wouldn’t have guessed what happened Wednesday, though, judging by the first game’s outcome. Girona dominated ESVBA to the tune of a 23-point difference, nearly doubling the margin the French had built for themselves in their home game. It was a true sight to behold and a result that allows the women from Girona to play EuroLeague basketball this season as the third Spanish team in the best continental competition.

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It took Girona a while to settle into a game in which, if we’re honest, winning by more than 12 points looked more like a miracle than something achievable. Even though the Spanish team went to halftime leading ESBVA, the four-point difference was still three times shorter than the one they needed to reach. Winning the game was never out of the question but doing so by double digits was starting to look impossible at that point.

That’s when things started to change.

With 15 seconds left in the third quarter, Crystal Bradford banked a three-point shot that put Girona up nine points entering the fourth period. Three minutes later Girona was already looking at an 11-point difference. Halfway through the final period and assisted by Laia Flores, Binta Drammeh did the impossible and thrust Girona into a 12-point lead after hitting a three. Less than a minute later, the same Drammeh scored a two-pointer and Girona was already up 55-41 with just 4:29 remaining on the clock.

ESBVA didn’t know it, but it was game over for them.

After taking that commanding 14-point lead and a timeout taken by Villeneuve following Drammeh’s bucket, it all went down for the French. Girona started to dump points in bunches on an ESBVA team that was left astonished and lacking all sorts of answers. Only two points did they score after surrendering that 12-point margin to Girona in the remaining four minutes of play.

Girona never stopped pushing, kept the pedal to the metal, finished with 66 points and truly earned their berth for the regular season that is ahead.

Rebekah Gardner had eerily close performances in both games for Girona, putting up stat lines with the same rebounds (five), assists (three), and steals (four) in each of the two matches to go with 15 points away from home and 12 on Girona’s court. Binta Drammeh’s 14-point contribution (along with one steal) was more than enough to see Girona through the qualifiers and into the regular season while Marianna Tolo (12) was the only other player with an efficiency grade into the tens.

Three players from ESBVA posted double-digit figures in efficiency in their home game but only Kariata Diaby (14) reached them last Wednesday. Kennedy Burke didn’t play for ESBVA (sprained ankle) while Hind Ben Abdelkader heavily underperformed the expectations for the second game in a row and couldn’t help her team either.

With Girona now qualified, the 2022/23 EuroLeague Women’s regular-season field of teams is now complete. Girona joins Olympiacos (Greece) and DVTK (Hungary) as the three teams to enter the competition via qualifying tournaments/playoffs.

The final 16 teams are split into two groups of eight in which they’ll have to face their rivals one time at home and another one away starting next Wednesday and until the final week of the regular season takes place in March.

After the qualifying portion of the tournament, Hungary and Spain will be the only nations to feature three teams in the regular season with reigning-champs Sopron leading the Hungarian nation along with KSC (returning from last season) and DVTK (newcomer). Spanish teams will be Avenida (third-place finish last year), Valencia (newcomer) and Girona (made the postseason last year).

Golden nuggets from the Qualifiers

Before we turn our attention to the regular season starting next week, here is a quick recap of what happened through the qualifying part of the EuroLeague in terms of individual performances worth highlighting, unique stat lines, efficient games, bad outings, forgettable outcomes and everything else my data-crunching abilities allowed me to come up with!

Dallas Wings forward Megan Gustafson (13) at the free throw line during the WNBA game between the Dallas Wings and the Connecticut Sun at Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, Connecticut, USA on May 14, 2019. Photo Credit: Chris Poss
  • Megan Gustafson was easily the MVP of the qualifiers. Gustafson’s averages of 27 points, nine rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.5 blocks in just 25.5 minutes per game were out of this world and out of reach for any other player appearing in these games.
  • Khadijiah Cave, playing for Sepsi, put up the second-best average efficiency of this period with a 24.0 figure only topped by Gustafson’s 32.5 (!) mark.

  • Only one player, Shakira Austin from Elizur Ramla, was able to finish the two-game tournament averaging a double-double: 15.5 points, 13.5 rebounds, 3.5 blocks, 1.5 assists and one steal adorning her per-game line.
  • Austin, though, reached that line with an extraordinary first game (19 points, 19 rebounds, six blocks) followed by a rather upsetting second one in comparison (12 points, eight rebounds).
  • That said, Austin put up the fourth-highest mark in points and the highest ones in rebounds and blocks in that first game. No one else even reached 15 boards or five blocks in an individual game through the qualifiers.

  • Gustafson’s 29 and 25 points in her two games were the two-highest marks by anyone taking part in these games. Not only that, but she was able to score those 25 points in just 17 minutes against KKZ Crvena Zvezda. No other player scored more than 14 points in an individual game in which she played 17 or fewer minutes.
  • Olympiacos enjoyed Gustafson’s availability but the Greeks can’t complain about also having Angeliki Nikolopoulou in their roster: the guard put up a six-point, seven-rebound, qualifiers-high 13-assist line against KKZ for an efficiency of 19. No other player reached double-digit assists in any single game.

  • Four players had a 10-5-5 game with 10 points, five rebounds and five assists. Only one of those (Tyrone Mosby) reached a 15-10-5 line, though, having a 17-10-5 outing against Botas in the second game of Ramla’s qualifiers run.
  • Four players attempted more than 15 shots in a single game. Only Gustafson (68.4 FG%) hit more than 37% of those attempts, going 13-of-19 in her first game while reaching a qualifiers-high 29 points. Gustafson didn’t attempt a single three-point shot, though.
  • Five players attempted more than ten three-point shots through the qualifiers but only Darcee Garbin (52.8%) hit them at a higher-than-39% clip.

  • Three different players committed six turnovers in a single game: Aleksandra Katanick, Elina Babkina, and Egle Sventoraite. None of their teams qualified for the regular season.
  • Only two players got eliminated from a game via personal fouls with five each: Maxuella Lisowa Mbaka and Hind Ben Abdelkader. Again, none of their teams advanced.

The EuroLeague Women regular season begins this Wednesday, Oct. 26.

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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