They might have lost to the reigning Euroleague Women champions last night, but Uni Gyor passed the first stage of what will be the hardest season in their history.
They competed in their first game since that fatal morning on September 7, 2013. A date that etched into the minds of Hungarian basketball fans forever.
It wasn’t about UMMC Ekaterinburg beginning their Euroleague Women’s season with a 101-43 win over the Hungarians in front of an emotional crowd in Gyor. It was about one team getting back on their feet again and getting back to business following the road traffic accident that took the lives of head coach Akos Fuzy, General Manager Peter Tapodi and ended the career of Serbian teen Natasa Kovacevic.
Before the game against Ekaterinburg, Milica Ivanovic tweeted: “I feel blessed to be able to say GAME DAY again. Wish some people were still with us but I know they ll be watching.”
Not many of the Uni Gyor players took to Twitter or any social media platforms to express their feelings towards the big day. They didn’t need to, the tears before the game even began was enough to see just how much the night meant to them.
“As a titleholder the start in a new international season is always important,” UMMC coach Olaf Lange said after the game. “We played well, but we know that our opponent is after a big tragedy. We wish them nothing but the best for the future.”
No one is expecting Uni Gyor to advance from a tough Group A but maybe this is what they need. Competitive basketball against the best teams in the women’s game to take their mind, if at all possible off what has happened over the past three months. They can relax, knowing that results-wise, there is no pressure on them. They have their own goals: To make their late coach and GM proud.
Uni Gyor fought the current Euroleague Women’s champions and to the team’s credit, they played courageous team basketball against the favourites to win it all again this year. Cheered on by 1000 fans, who were feeling the emotion of the game night just as much as the players were.
It was an opening night unlike any other in women’s basketball.
The game itself was over as soon as it started. The Russian giants arrived in Hungary with the purpose of winning the game, and they did that. You would expect nothing less from them or indeed any team that visits Gyor this season.
A triple from Russian international Anna Petrakova made it 21-2, mid-way through the first quarter and although the hosts finished the first ten minutes strong, scoring 7 points in quick succession to end the period, the game was over. Ekaterinburg led 25-9 after one and even though they gave Uni Gyor a glimmer of hope in the second quarter, they responded to lead 54-28 at the half. From there, the result was a formality.
It doesn’t get any easier for the young Uni Gyor side as they prepare for an away game in the Slovak Republic against Good Angels Kosice next week. As said, the pressure is off as they are allowed to rebuild.
And whatever happens to them this season, women’s basketball, and indeed all of world basketball is behind them every step of the way.