Olympiacos landmark, losing with class, rise of Lapena and Schio revival headline talking points
MUNICH (EuroLeague Women) – There was a major slice of EuroLeague Women history and a couple of notable ongoing revivals during Week 9.
Here are the main talking points – according to our women's specialist Paul Nilsen, aka @Basketmedia365
History for Olympiacos
It's probably the case that it wasn't only Olympiacos fans who celebrated the landmark moment when their team won their first ever game in the competition. I suspect I was just one of many neutrals who were also thrilled for them, since they were the exception to the rule that the 'standings/table never lies'. Ninth time lucky, they finally did it and I think most of us knew that the 0-8 record did not reflect how competitive they have been in a tough rookie year. The way they got off the mark in such style was extra special and it was certainly an eye-catching 63-52 success against a high-flying Sopron Basket. It is also a good and timely boost for Greek basketball after the national team missed out on the FIBA Women's EuroBasket 2019.
Losing with class
It's easy to say nice things about your opponent when you maybe win a tough or exciting game. It is less easy to show class when you have lost and lost badly. So I have to take this opportunity to give praise to Sopron Basket head coach Roberto Iniguez. He did everything in his power to not cloud the accomplishment of Olympiacos or to rain on their parade. In fact, I think it was classy of him to put the disappointment of his own team's display to the side and state very clearly, "Olympiacos deserved to win, because they were better than us in every aspect of the game from the first until the last second. They played bravely, and proudly."
The rise and rise of Lapena and Nadezhda
It is becoming a fairytale season so far for Victor Lapena as he becomes the latest in a long line of impactful and successful Spanish coaches in the tournament. His team are absolutely flying and now not only winning, but also beating the bigger teams - following up that epic win in ZVVZ USK Praha by taking down Bourges Basket. That made it five wins in six games which in EuroLeague Women is superb. I hope I am not putting a curse on Coach Lapena but I think it is important to not only recognize the unexpected 5-4 record at this stage, but some of the bumps in the road and challenges. They had to beat Cukurova just to make the Regular Season (and we have all seen just how good the Turkish side actually are, since that time), Nadezhda actually started 0-3 and they scored only 36 points in a game with CCC Polkowice. But now, they are looking strong for a top-four finish in Group A and the minimum of EuroCup Women entry. Great job all around. Although the challenge is to keep it sustained for these last five weeks.
A season of two halves for Schio?
When Famila Schio ended their seven-game losing streak since the start of the season with a thumping win against Castors Braine, there was the notion that 'It was just Castors Braine'. In other words. while a first win was both welcome and needed, it didn't prove anything. What a difference it makes to now be talking about Schio having won at ZVVZ USK Praha. You wait half of the season for a victory and two come along at once! It was a first road win as well, but it also made a statement. One that suggests Schio have turned the corner and can make this a season of two halves and push for EuroCup Women participation. With Allie Quigley doing her thing and dropping six triples, while Sandrine Gruda and Jantel Lavender went to work inside, you suddenly see a revival that could be as spectacular as their early slump was. For example, they have ESBVA-LM next and you would back them to make it three wins in a row!
Under the radar
- Brittney Griner grabbed 14 defensive rebounds for UMMC Ekaterinburg in their hard-fought road win at CCC Polkowice and that is more than any other player has managed in a game this season.
- With Olympiacos winning, it now means that suddenly it is Castors Braine who have the worst losing streak in the competition with eight in a row. Additionally, if they lose their next game, they will secure the worst losing streak of the season at a minimum of nine games. They were so well-placed heading into the last period in the derby against ESBVA-LM but really did fall apart. Credit to their opponents though, who have also had a rough time.
- We are still waiting for a player to grab six steals or more. The list of players with five steals in a game is never-ending.