Regular Season Review - Part 2
MUNICH (EuroLeague Women) - We check back with our resident women's basketball specialist Paul Nilsen to get his assessment of how the remaining eight EuroLeague Women clubs performed during the Regular Season.
HATAY BSB (A)
It was such a turnaround for Hatay and roller-coaster ride as their rookie season started disastrously with four straight defeats. But, they gradually grew into the competition and once they made history with a first triumph, they were terrific. They finished the season by winning seven of their last ten games and that was incredible in itself – even if they were denied a place in the Quarter-Finals as the odd one out in a three-way tie. Courtney Paris has been immense under the basket for them and the leadership of Katsiaryna Snytsina is priceless.
Their decision to change coach early also paid dividends and congratulations to Aikaterini Chatzidaki for the job done!
Ahead of the season, I looked at the roster of Mersin and was genuinely excited and confident about their first-ever EuroLeague Women campaign. How wrong I was. It was an absolute disaster in almost every way and to go 0-10 was ridiculous with the talent they had. Worse still, they were in the easier of the two groups! Their comeback win against Schio to belatedly get that historic first success was arguably the only highlight. So many times they were in a good position in games near the start of the season but just didn’t capitalize. Meanwhile the 96-47 defeat in Prague was up there with the worst performances I have ever seen – especially from a team playing in a great league like Turkey. I feel sorry for Lithuanian ace Gintare Petronyte who was so consistent and shot almost 60% from the field. Without her, I can't even imagine how bad it would have been.
When key members of the team that reached the Final of the competition in 2016 and wrote historical headlines began to leave Orenburg last summer, and not least their kingpin DeWanna Bonner, it looked like Nadezhda might struggle. Yet somehow, with tournament rookies like Amanda Zahui, Elizabeth Williams and Tiffany Mitchell, the club has picked up where they left off last year. The common denominator has been the organization and high class coaching skills of Roberto Iniguez. Zahui and Williams have been particularly impressive and to win 10-of-12 games against everyone else but UMMC was a top effort!
PERFUMERIAS AVENIDA (B+)
I found Perfumerias Avenida probably the most difficult team to rate. They have had some tremendous highs such as home wins against Russian powerhouse duo UMMC and Nadezhda, but I have to balance that with the fact they were unable to post a wining Regular Season record.
Before Week 1, my anticipation around the roster was well documented and I was hugely excited by the possibilities. Did they deliver? Well kind of. Avenida needed a three-way tie situation to progress and there was some roster churn with the departure of Erica Wheeler and Tijana Krivacevic. Still, they provided lots of entertainment and Adaora Elonu has had a fantastic debut season.
UMMC EKATERINBURG (A)
Stung by their opening night loss at Perfumerias Avenida, it has been nothing but a string of W’s for UMMC Ekaterinburg and so that deserves a big congratulations. As ever, Diana Taurasi is leading the way and the combination of Brittney Griner and Emma Meesseman in the paint gives them a world-class feel under the basket. The 13-1 record is excellent, they topped the group and some of the home performances have been just phenomenal. They could not have done much more, other than go unbeaten, and coach Olaf Lange says better defense is the key, so improvements might lie ahead and the holders remain the team to beat.
UNIQA SOPRON (B)
After a very tough season in 2015-16, Uniqa Sopron could not have asked for a better start as they won three of their first five games. That had everyone dreaming of great times again – remember the Hungarian champions were once a Final Four club. Of course this season the aim was to avoid seventh or eighth spot to move into the EuroCup Women Quarter-Finals. However, a disastrous five losses in their last six games made all of their great early season work evaporate. The wheels came off and they missed out to finish 4-10. But having seriously struggled 12 months ago, and some key injuries to the likes of Binta Drammeh, it is hard to be overly critical. Too many of their senior players simply misfired down the season stretch.
WISLA CAN-PACK (B+)
Losing their marquee player Ewelina Kobryn for a key chunk of the season as well as several other players means that finishing 5-9 and making the EuroCup Women Quarter-Finals was a major triumph for Jose Hernandez and his injury-ravaged Wisla Can-Pack side. It had been looking bleak, but the return of Kobryn helped them finish with a flourish and register three wins in their last four games to save their season.
Thank you team. Great effort to continue competing in Europe. We will continue fighting for Wisla. Jazda, jazda, jazda. pic.twitter.com/TA2xbk3f5W— José I Hernández (@Joseihf) February 15, 2017
The mid-season addition of Vanessa Gidden was a nice move and I think Sandra Ygueravide has done a very good job as playmaker. Meanwhile Hind Ben Abdelkader has shown she can deliver some consistency at the highest level. Still much to learn for the Belgian guard, but a positive contribution which I am sure some thought might not arrive.
ZVVZ USK PRAGUE (B+)
For most of the season, Natalia Hejkova and her ZVVZ USK Prague side have continued setting the standard that has seen them win the title in 2015 and then make a return to Final Four in 2016. Flying high at 9-2, they hit a bump in the road as they lost their last three games which isn't the kind of momentum they wanted for the Quarter-Finals. The main issue was that players weren't shooting the ball well enough and offensively, they dropped down too many gears. I must hand out a mention to Laia Palau for her historic high of becoming the first-ever player to hand out 1,000 EuroLeague Women assists – it still makes me drop my jaw in astonishment every time I say it out loud. Oh and Sonja Petrovic? I think she is now my favorite player in the game – bar none. Anything is still possible with her on board and this three-game series with Nadezhda could be epic!
Read Part I of the Regular Season Review.
You can follow Paul @basketmedia365