24 teams started this EuroLeague Women season with dreams of a title, but four months later only four remain.
For Wisla Can-Pack it will be their first trip to the Final Four, while their three rivals have all been before
They will face Ros Casares in one Semi-Final while the other will offer a mouth watering match-up between the two rivals from Russia : Spartak Moscow Region and UMMC Ekaterinburg.
photos by By Dmitry Argunov / By Dmitry Argunov.com
By Jeff Taylor
Spartak Moscow Region gained the upper hand in the Russia Superleague Women title race with an 84-70 win at UMMC Ekaterinburg over the weekend.
The outcome has left both sides with 15-1 records in the regular season, but Spartak’s +14 margin of victory has given them the superior goal average in their head-to-head meetings with UMMC and thus earned them first place in the standings.
When UMMC and Spartak play, the games are always intense and the stakes are high.
UMMC beat Spartak in the Russian Cup earlier this year while the sides will meet again on April 9 in the EuroLeague Women Final Four.
Both teams are also likely to meet in the Superleague Women Finals.
Spartak coach Pokey Chatman (photo left) says the latest win bolstered her team’s confidence but stressed that more important battles against UMMC are to follow.
“I wouldn’t insult anyone’s intelligence by saying it doesn’t mean anything,” she said.
“Anytime you can have success against one of the best teams in the world, it is helpful.
“As you learn from losses, you also learn from wins. But this is where it ends. Two leagues – Russian, Euro – two different sets of circumstances. We will continue working to improve as will Ekat.
“And I’m sure another epic match-up will take place.”
In the weekend showdown, UMMC’s FIBA Europe Women’s Player of the Year Sandrine Gruda of France had 18 points and 10 rebounds, but that wasn’t nearly enough.
UMMC were out of rhythm on offense.
Gundars Vetra’s side struggled shooting the ball, hitting just four of 19 shots from behind the arc and 12 of 21 (57.1%) at the free-throw line.
Spartak, who are the three-time defending champions of the EuroLeague Women, buried nine of 23 from long range.
As is often the case, Diana Taurasi led Spartak with 28 points while Sue Bird contributed 16.
Spartak’s Ilona Korstin and Sylvia Fowles (both 11pts) also hit double figures in the win.
Chatman, in her first season as the head coach of Spartak, spoke to Basketball World News about the game.
How did you go to Ekaterinburg and not only win, but prevail by 14 points to take pole position in the Russian standings?
Pokey: Ekat is always a tough opponent. They have tremendous talent – (Cappie) Pondexter,
|FIBA Europe’s Women’s Player of the Year Sandrine Gruda of UMMC Ekaterinburg had a double double against Spartak but saw her side go down to the arch rivals|
(Candice) Parker, (Deanna) Nolan, Gruda, Biba (Agnieszka Bibrzycka), (Maria) Stepanova, (Ann) Wauters, etc – and a fine coaching staff. We knew this game would be a battle to not only win, but to cover the spread. We had to lock in on every possession and be mentally prepared. Not only was JMac (Janell McCarville) not playing, but this was a road game with 6,000 (UMMC) fans against the top team in Russia that we had lost to previously. To make a long story short, we were focused and fortunate to carry out our game plan on both ends of the floor. It was a total team effort, with many players contributing in areas that don’t show up on the stat sheet, but we value as a club. For example, screeners are just as important as scorers in our system. Get a teammate open, make a second cut! Read the defense.
I’ve asked you before but once again – is your team getting better and better as the season goes along?
Pokey: I think many individuals have taken the time to improve their conditioning, strength, shooting, passing, etc., which in essence has improved our team. Also, we are in a different club from last year and we have learned how to achieve desired results, albeit in a different manner. Yes, we are improving, but every team that is successful this time of year is improving. With that being said, we understand that our focus and intensity must continue to improve over the next several weeks.
Will you tell your players that UMMC are going to be more determined than ever after this result when they take on Spartak in Valencia?
Pokey: I won’t mention this result again this season. We enjoyed it for 24 hours. It’s over! Focus forward.
RUS – Spartak edge ahead in race for Russian glory
VIDNOJE (EuroLeague Women) – Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird and Sylvia Fowles will later this year try to help a star-studded Team USA in their quest for gold at the 2010 FIBA World Championship for Women.
Right now, the trio are in the hunt for two major titles in Europe with Spartak Moscow Region and by the looks of things, it’s going to take a lot to stop them.
All three were in good form for Spartak, the three-time defending champions of the EuroLeague Women, on Sunday in heavyweight showdown against UMMC Ekaterinburg – a team that has USA internationals Candice Parker and Cappie Pondexter and France’s 2009 European champions Sandrine Gruda and Celine Dumerc.
Taurasi had a game-high 28 points, Bird 16 and Fowles 11 in an 84-70 Spartak triumph.
The magnitude of the Spartak and UMMC games can’t be overstated.
Even more players in both sides will compete for their countries at the FIBA World Championship for Women in the Czech Republic later this year.
Spartak’s win allowed them to move into first place in the Superleague Women and to take the inside track to the Russian title.
“Anytime you can have success against one of the best teams in the world, it is helpful,” Chatman said.
“As you learn from losses, you also learn from wins. But this is where it ends.
“Two leagues – Russian, Euro – two different sets of circumstances. We will continue working to improve as will Ekat.”
The two clubs will again meet on April 9 in Valencia, Spain, for the third straight year in the EuroLeague Women Final Four.
Pokey Chatman, in her first year as Spartak’s head coach, liked what she saw in her team at Ekaterinburg where 6,000 screaming fans left disappointed.
“And I’m sure another epic match-up will take place.”
Chatman says her team is getting better at the right time of the season.
“Yes, we are improving,” she said, “but every team that is successful this time of year is improving.
“With that being said, we understand that our focus and intensity must continue to improve over the next several weeks.”
The celebrations after Sunday’s big win that has left both sides with 15-1 records but allowed Spartak to move into top spot due to superior goal differential, have stopped.
“I won’t mention this result again this season,” Chatman said.
“We enjoyed it for 24 hours. It’s over! Focus forward.”
As it stands, UMMC lead in the number of titles won this season.
They beat Spartak earlier this year Russian Cup Final.
|Paul Nilsen is a freelance basketball journalist writing for various web-sites and publications across Europe. If you would like to contact Paul you can e-mail him here firstname.lastname@example.org.|
If you want the lowdown on the EuroLeague Women teams heading to Spain next month for Final Four then look no further as we get the inside track on those who will be involved in Valencia. Yes, it’s time to hand over ‘Paulball’ to some rather special guest columnists!
And what better place to start than with three-time champions Spartak Moscow Region and the one and only Janel McCarville? Having been out of action for the last couple of weeks with an injury, she’s back to fitness and ready to resume one of the best seasons of her career to date.
The center and her Spartak colleagues will be searching for an incredible fourth straight ELW crown when they walk onto the floor at the Final Four, and here is her rundown of those tasked with realising that ambition.
Take it away J-Mac!
|McCarville is averaging 10.6 points and 6.1 rebounds per game this year for Spartak Moscow.|
Marina Karpunina – Marina is one of the feistiest players I have ever seen on defence! She has a real attitude about her and going into any game, I always feel she is more focused on stopping her player than anything else. She has that Dwayne Wade mindset of ‘ get knocked down, but get right back up’ and she always just keeps going!
Sonja Petrovic – I’m so sad for ‘SoSo’ with the injury she got in our last game at Fenerbahce to advance to the Final Four of the competition. She is an up and coming star and she was really starting to shine for us. We have also given her the nickname of ‘I.O’. which stands for ‘instant offence’. She knows what she is good at, knows what needs work and comes in daily always wanting to get better!
Anete Jekabsone-Zogota – “Netty….Netty…!” She is the most unselfish shooter in the game! If I could give her any advice what so ever, it would always be to ‘shoot the ball’. I love playing with her because of it though. She is so smart and makes such good decisions for the sake of the team and that’s a rare quality to have!
Ilona Korstin – I don’t care who you are, ‘Ilo’ is going to get you with her jab step one way or another! She is one of the fastest on our team and it shows with her full-court speed. Better believe if you are even with her at the start, its a lay up on the other end.
Sue Bird – Just a solid all-round point-guard. Nothing too fancy for around ninety percent of the time and when you least expect it, she’s going to whip out this amazing dime. She always has a smile on her face, and I’m not going to lie, it even looks like she is best friends forever with the refs even when she is yelling at them. Sue, please tell me – how you do it? I watched you on film the other day (you were so angry, and I heard how you talked to the referee) but when I saw it again on video, you had a smile on your face the whole time. I had to laugh – please teach me!
Irina Osipova – Ira is probably the second best passing post in the game today (besides me of course, ha ha). Long, lean and very quick, Ira is craft on the defensive end and I bet that I learned lots of nice little Russian secrets by watching her.
Diana Taurasi – ‘Dee’ is ‘Dee’! I mean you all know what she can do. You can tell when she is angry, happy, having fun and all that hoopla. One thing people don’t see is the work she puts in behind the scenes. Dee is not happy with being just good or even better than most. She doesn’t settle with this and that is what puts her above everyone else – and I mean everyone. On a daily basis she is the first one in and last one out.
Ekaterina Lisina – Played with her last year and was happy Spartak picked her up at Christmas time this year. Big and mobile, she’s able to shoot the jumper and is a force on the defensive end. You cannot teach 1.98m and from first hand experience, she can alter shots!
Natalia Vieru – Works hard, and asks questions. She is a young Russian who is playing with the big dogs and I know she likes it. She battles everyday with Syl and that’s no easy task. She has got better as the year has gone on and I am so happy for her.
Kelli Miller – Kelly has hit more clutch triples this year than anyone on our team I reckon. I mean no joke, with all the times we had the shot clock running down, Kel would step up to the plate and bang it in. I mean watch out Dee, Kelly might be more clutch than you right now!
Sylvia Fowles – I mean wow. Seriously wow! Syl is a beast and if you don’t know it, you will soon find out! It’s been fun going up against her all year but its even better on game day when I get to watch her do work on other people, and not me for a change! If she gets you in the post it’s basically over. She’s been working on her moves and I feel she has really improved this year around the bucket.
Coach Chatman – one of the coolest cats in the game and thats the truth right there. Pokey knows basketball, she knows players and she knows what it takes to win. I am having a blast playing for her, and i wouldnt change a thing.
The Off Court Team
Christie – A real basketball junkie. Always working with players on their game. She is fun and brings a lot to practice and we’re lucky she’s here! I mean not only do we have an American Head coach, but an American assistant as well.
Srdjan – Focuses on strength and conditioning means it is great working with him, because he really listens to you and meets you with the best options.
Sasha – for the first three months, Sash would shoot half court shots one handed – backwards until he made it while we stretched, and bet he made it every time.
Steve – Loves ball and loves us! He really does his best to take care of us, and make it as easy as possible since we are so far from home. We are lucky to have him
I also want to mention and thank everyone behind the scenes that make this Spartak wheel go round. We have been through a lot and have stuck together making this season so special.
Finally, want to also pay respect to Shabtai. His main concern was always with us and making sure we were happy, having fun and enjoying Moscow. He treated everyone of us so well, and he is missed by all of us.
(Nilsen) Well, I am sure you will all want to thank Janel for that super contribution to our build up to the EuroLeague Women Final Four. However by doing the preview, this doesn’t get her off lightly and I needed to find someone to tell us more about J-Mac herself. So, a big welcome to our second ‘PaulBall’ guest columnist of the week – none other than Pokey Chatman! Take it away Coach…..
Janel McCarville – Firstly, I will think I had better start with the basketball and serious side of JMac. She has done a tremendous job of filling in a much needed position on our squad and is playing her best basketball as of late – which is just what we need as we continue in the Russian Superleague and prepare for the Final Four of EuroLeague Women.
She’s not only able to stretch the defence with her shooting range, but I think she’s one of the best passing posts in the league. She “will” find the open player, even in traffic. And let’s not forget to mention she can be a “thief in the night” (9 steals)
J-Mac’s experience, energy and enthusiasm is something I look forward to every single day in practice.
Now, the lighter side! Let’s start with the hair! Style? Colour? Both game to game decisions, and one she doesn’t take lightly. I’m actually at the point to where my first look as I walk into the locker room is J-Mac’s wig! (ha, ha) I hope she has stock in the hair products she uses! She’s witty, a jokester, never in a dull mood and always ready to have some fun – even if it’s on a train to Kursk.
All jokes aside, her best asset is that she understands the game and is able to help others. This is something all coaches want, and I’m thankful I have that in JMac. Maybe don’t print that, I’d hate to have her think I actually “like” her (ha, ha)!
You can get more insight by following:
FIBAEurope at www.twitter.com/FIBAEurope
EuroLeague Women with Paul Nilsen at www.twitter.com/EuroLeagueWomen
Janel McCarville at www.twitter.com/JanelMcCarville
Pokey Chatman at www.twitter.com/PokeyChatman
It was a few hours before the Good Angels Kosice forward and her Rest of the World teammates ran onto the floor to entertain the crowd with a game against Europe’s all-stars.
Dupree, who played college basketball at Temple University for USA great Dawn Staley, and now competes in Europe and in the WNBA, said: “The last four years playing overseas is probably the best experience I’ve ever had.”
The seasons are long and hard, and players are far away from the comforts of home.
Family and friends are an ocean away, as are their favorite drive-through windows.
Dupree and all the players log plenty of miles in buses and on planes to compete in domestic leagues and in Europe.
There are lots of floor burns in practice.
But for Dupree, it’s all worth it.
“I think over here, you have more of an opportunity to experiment on the court, expand your game,” she said.
“We (Americans) spend seven months out of the year over here, so it’s pretty much where we get a lot of our work in – expanding your range, learning to put the ball on the floor, ball-handling skills, stuff like that.
“If you don’t work on it over here, it’s not going to make you a better player come the WNBA season.”
It’s players like Dupree that make the EuroLeague Women what it is, and that’s one of the finest basketball competitions in the world.
No one will dispute that after the kind of year she has had in Europe.
The 25-year-old averaged 18.9 points and 11 rebounds for the Slovakian club.
More important, the team won game after game.
Dupree didn’t expect this year to go as well as it did, especially after Kosice’s 0-3 start in Europe.
The team made it to the EuroLeague Women Quarter-Finals, though.
She didn’t panic.
It helped that Kosice, after the first two defeats, went out and signed her fellow American Angel McCoughtry and German Linda Frohlich.
Most important was having the right mindset.
That, according to Kosice coach Stefan Svitek, is something McCoughtry and Dupree possess.
“They both are great players playing for the US national team,” Svitek said.
“We always are talking about the team and team success but they mean a lot for us.
“They are not only excellent players, but also great personalities.”
Dupree did her homework on Kosice before joining.
“I heard a lot of good things about the club before going there,” she said.
“I didn’t really know what to expect, though, but the coach ended up being a great guy – a great coach.
“The teammates were great. I also play with Angel McCoughtry.
“We ended up just having a good time.”
It’s been a win-win situation for both Dupree and Kosice.
“Slovak players can learn a lot from them and their game, and by the way, we have lot of fun together,” Svitek said.
The fans have now twice voted Dupree into the All-Star Game.
She represented Wisla Can-Pack Krakow last year when the event was staged in Paris.
“It’s an honor,” she said.
“I love the fact that people acknowledge I’m a good player and I have an opportunity to come here and play with some of the best Europeans in the world and the best Rest of the World players.”
Dupree is humble, yet certain that she has won the respect of fans, players and coaches in Europe.
At least that’s what the all-star voting suggests.
“I think so,” she said, before laughing and adding “or either my mother’s voting all the time.”
Jeff Taylor has been covering European basketball since 1997, when he first worked on the television program SLAM. He has been a basketball writer and broadcaster since that time, traveling the continent and covering the game in depth for FIBA Europe since its launch in 2003.