EuroLeague Women Semi-Final preview: Fenerbahce v UMMC
EKATERINBURG (EuroLeague Women) - We look forward to the first Semi-Finals match-up at The Final Four as hosts and reigning champions UMMC Ekaterinburg go up against Fenerbahce who continue their search for their maiden title.
It promises to be a mouth-watering contest between both clubs who have rosters laden with world-class players and there is the added spice of Fenerbahce duo Candace Parker and Sandrine Gruda going back up against their former club, having won the title with UMMC.
Fenerbahce arrive having changed their coach and it will be quite a setting for Firat Okul to dip his toe in EuroLeague Women waters, although he is assured hero status if the Turkish giants go all the way.
As for UMMC, it's 10 straight appearances at the Final Four and they are trying to pull alongside former arch rivals Sparta&K M.R. Vidnoje on four titles and notably, attempting their first-ever successful defense of their cherished silverware.
Records So Far: UMMC were left stunned on the opening night of the campaign when they were beaten in Salamanca by Perfumerias Avenida. However, 15 straight wins later, they have not tasted defeat since last October. They swept aside Beretta Famila Schio in the Quarter-Finals and have been particularly rampant all-season at the site of the Final Four, DIVS Arena. Fenerbahce finished the Regular Season in second place in Group A with an 11-3 record, prior to having to deal with the pressure of a 2-1 Quarter-Finals series win against Perfumerias Avenida.
Key Match-Up: It's all about the battle between Diana Taurasi and Alexandria Quigley in the shooting guard spots as both are potential game-winners and MPV's if they get into a shooting rhythm. Taurasi has the titles to her name of course and is the great veteran, but Quigley was on fire for Fenerbahce in the decisive Quarter-Finals win against Avenida, reminding everyone of her firepower too.
- UMMC center Brittney Griner who is the deadliest finisher in the competition after converting 61.7% from the field so far this season, although she will face Jantel Lavender who is third best with an impressive 58.9%.
- The last two trips to Ekaterinburg for The Final Four in 2013 and 2014 witnessed Fenerbahce making the Final on both occasions. In 2013, Candace Parker was MVP for UMMC after torching her current club with a 24-point and 11-rebound double-double.
- Birsel Vardarli Demirmen and Anstasiya Verameyenka are the only Fenerbahce survivors from the line-up that competed in their first Final appearance four years ago.
What They Say:
"It will be a tough encounter. We have a good group, and we also have very high quality players. We are Fenerbahce and we're are not afraid of anyone - we will do everything to make the Final" - Newly installed Fenerbahce play-caller, Firat Okul.
"We are preparing for a tough battle against one of the powerhouses of women's basketball in Europe. Fenerbahce's post line-up with Gruda, Parker and Lavender, bolstered by Allie Quigley, is obviously the cornerstone of their team. The clash of both of our respective frontlines seems to be the main battle ground, but I look to the guard play as the decisive factor in this match up. The fact that we are facing two former team-mates makes this game even more thrilling. We are excited to host The Final Four again and we're looking forward to the challenge - one game at a time" - UMMC Ekaterinburg head coach, Olaf Lange.
You can watch The Final Four live on www.livebasketball.tv