Congratulations to the ladies of Sony Athinaikos, who backed into the EuroCup Women championship title by falling to Nadezhada last night, 57-53.
The final winner of the FIBA competition is determined by aggregate score over two games – a system with which BallinEurope must publicly disagree, potentially leading as it may to blowouts and/or paradoxical situations which allow winning-by-losing – and Nedezhada could not make up the 65-57 hole they’d dug in Greece last week.
Official FIBA Europe writeup follows the break.
(FIBA Europe) – Sony Athinaikos captured the EuroCup Women title on Thursday night by completing a narrow two-legged triumph over Russian outfit Nadezhda.
The Orenburg team trailed by eight points after the first leg and managed to close the gap to just two points on aggregate late on Thursday, but it ended up winning the second leg 57-53, giving Athinaikos a 118-114 victory overall.
Anastasia Veremeenko scored the first points of the night on free throws with one minute into the game after being fouled on a lay-up attempt by Gintare Petronyte.
Athinaikos looked nervous early on, as former Young Women’s Player of the Year Petronyte missed close-distance shots in front of a packed gym of 450 spectators and the same amount at a public viewing screen just outside the arena.
Veremeenko and Nadezhda took control under the defensive glass and had the better of Athinaikos – especially Petronyte – at this stage of the game.But when Athinaikos coach George Dikeoulakos went for Irena Vizbariene and Ruth Riley under the basket instead of Kosma and Petronyte, things started looking better for the Greek powerhouse.
Russian youngster Tatiana Burik buried a three pointer to give Nadezhda a 7-3 lead with six minutes to play in the first quarter. Athinaikos finally seemed to have found a rhythm on offensive thanks to a couple of pick-and-roll plays that we executed nicely either by point guard Kalentzou or rolling centers Vizbariene and Riley. Candice Wiggins opened the second quarter with a three pointer that was answered immediately with another triple by Burik.
After Monique Currie scored on consecutive fast breaks, the latter after a steal on the high-post and a breakaway lay-up, Nadezhda were holding a slim lead at 23-20 with five minutes gone in the second period.
With 2:35 left before halftime, Athinaikos had to specially thank one player that they were not down by more than one point: Vizbariene had scored 10 of her team’s 22 points and pulled down three rebounds in an inspired performance.
Nadezhda had played lockdown defense in the first half, only allowing 22 points and forcing the controlled Athinaikos offense into bad shots and several 24 second violations. Only one player was irresistible throughout the night and that was Vizbariene, who hit two long twos after good dishes by Olga Chatzinikolaou and Kalentzou midway through the third quarter.
Unimpressed by her previous turnover that made coach Koloskov take her out of the game and have some serious words with her, Burik checked back in to drill a long three from seven meters to make it 36-34 with 3:40 to play in the third.
In a tough but fair game, both teams exchanged blows but neither team was able to open a bigger lead with both defences looking well prepared for the opponent’s offensive scheme and so the game headed into the final period with a tight but insufficient Nadezhda lead at 40-38.
Nadezhda put themselves in a good position with a three pointer by Belarus international Katerina Snytsina and were up 45-40 with seven minutes to play, which meant they were only trailling by three on aggregate. But little-used Petronyte made her free throws and cut the deficit to three on the next possession.
With the score 47-43 and 3:35 to play, anything seemed possible for Nadezhda, who were now fully in control of the offensive glass as well. But young Iouliti Lymoura showed no signs of fear when she drilled a three pointer to close the gap and went to the hoop right after to get awarded two foul shots.
Lymoura made the first but missed the second, and so Athinaikos were still trailing 47-49 with exactly 2:00 on the scoreboard. Currie made her free throws and a lay-up after her own offensive rebound, and the Orenburg outfit looked good to go.
Then Candice Wiggins showed her class by burying another three pointer and the Greeks came up with a big steal at half court to give them the ball up five on aggregate and 55 seconds to go in the thriller. Dimitia Kalentzou could have put it beyond doubt, but missed both her free throws while Currie made hers in turn to bring the difference back to three on aggregate.
The hosts turned the ball over at the inbound and Nadezhda could have tied it but Riley got the rebound on scored one free throw after being fouled right away.
Currie, again with free throws made it 57-51 and Kalentzou stepped to the line again after being fouled with 11 seconds to go.
This time, Currie kept her cool and made both.
Veremeenko subsequently airballed a three point attempt and Athinaikos prevailed for good with the frenetic crowd celebrating the title.
Anastasiya Veremeenko had a double-double of 12 points and 14 rebounds in defeat, with Currie leading all scorers at 18. Athinaikos got 14 points from Vizbariene, who fouled out early, plus nine points and nine rebounds from Ruth Riley.