TalkBasket’s John Hobbs failed to get out to Yekinterinburg for the Euroleague Women Final 8, but kept in touch throughout on the goings on in Russia as UMMC Ekaterinburg ended a decade of hurt to finally lift the crown.
UMMC Ekaterinburg are European women’s basketball champions.
Was it in any doubt as the Final 8 began? No, not really.
The Russian side were dominant throughout this season’s Euroleague Women, a 65-57 loss to Perfumerias Avenida the only blemish on a near flawless overall record in their 17 games played.
It was only fitting that the Final 8 was played in Yekaterinburg, and throughout the six-day tournament, the hosts proved to be delightful to their enthusiastic fans but deadly to their opponents. Fenerbahce were the only side to make it past the half century of points and they were still swept aside in the final game.
They were obvious pre-tournament favourites, even when FIBA Europe announced that the Final 8 would be in their own backyard, their billing rose further. It almost felt like it was a matter of when they would pick up the trophy, not if.
And on a snowy evening in the Russian city, with the yellow and blue of Fenerbahce right in-front of them and with 6,500 cheering wildly, UMMC made their final move and once the emotion in Diana Taurasi’s face became clear when her pass to Candace Parker made it 8-0 in the first few minutes of the first quarter, the contest was over.
Fenerbahce had their moments though. An 11-5 run in the second period narrowed the gap, but UMMC’s lead was still 15 at the half and from then on in, it was going through the motions.
Aside from the WNBA talent that Ekaterinburg possessed, there was a Spaniard on the roster that didn’t get herself involved in the headlines over the course of the week – she just played the game she loves – and as a reward, claimed her third straight Euroleague Women’s medal, with her third consecutive club.
“It’s amazing but I think I was just in the right place at the right moment each year,” said Silvia Dominguez.
“I am just fortunate to be in these teams with great rosters.
“We didn’t expect the kind of start we had, but we have to say it was almost perfect in the first quarter for us.
“Now I play for UMMC on the same court as where I won two years ago, it was nice to win the title in front of all these home fans.”
Candace Parker took the plaudits, individually with another double-double showing of 24 points and 11 rebounds but she, along with Ekaterinburg have been doing that all through this tournament, taking the plaudits. There were close-run games, like the 71-70 over Galatasaray in Istanbul that had people claiming that this side could be beat after all, they are human.
By the time their first defeat did come around, they had a Playoff spot sealed and coach Olaf Lange was experimenting different roster changes.
It’s been a decade in the making, but with probably the most star-studded line-up in Euroleague Women’s history, UMMC Ekaterinburg got the job done.
There were other stories of the season to tell, the tremendous effort of French side Bourges Basket en route to third place and for Celine Dumerc, the FIBA Europe Player of the Year, another unexpected podium finish to finish the season. No one expected France to win a medal at the Olympics but thanks to Dumerc, they did. It was a mild case of déjà vu as she led her side to a 65-57 success over Good Angels Kosice in the 3rd/4th place Playoff game.
“I am so proud of my team because there were two finals being played today and we won our final, ” Dumerc proudly said afterwards.
“Kosice are a great team and after a long week, it was difficult to find the energy to finish very well but we did it.”
With such an injury-hit side over the course of the season, Bourges were not given much of a shot, especially against the veteran side from Slovakia. But their heart and passion for the game that they play and love got them through.
It wasn’t just Dumerc. Endene Miyem, who missed the semi-final loss to UMMC, didn’t want to miss this occasion and suited up for her side; playing through the pain barrier grabbed 10 rebounds and even though she shot 1/11 from the floor, her determination exemplified Bourges Basket throughout not just the Final 8, but the season as well. The efforts of Jo Leedham and Merissa Coleman must not go un-noticed either.
It was Ekaterinburg’s season though, they lived up to their billing, and how.