Four USA National Team Athletes Heading to EuroLeague Finals
In an exciting and hard-fought first EuroLeague semifinal game, Brittney Griner and Breanna Stewart helped UMMC Ekaterinburg advance to play for a sixth EuroLeague championship after holding off host Fenerbahce Oznur Kablo 88-84.
Griner and Stewart will face USA teammates Tiffany Hayes and Katie Lou Samuelson in the 2021 EuroLeague title game after Hayes and Samuelson helped Perfumerias Avenida, which was down two points at halftime, storm past Sopron Basket 72-61 in the second semifinal game of the day.
Kayla McBride and Jasmine Thomas, who star for Fenerbahce in EuroLeage play, will compete against Sopron in Sunday’s consolation game.
UMMC Ekaterinburg 88, Fenerbahce Oznur Kablo 84
Favored to win it all, Ekat, which hasn’t lost a EuroLeague game this season, was aided to victory by 17 points, eight rebounds and three assists by Stewart, who nailed a key put-back with about 1:30 to play; while Griner contributed 16 points, eight boards and three assists.
McBride scored 12 points and dished out four assists for Fener, while Thomas contributed seven points, four rebounds and three assists.
With the game deadlocked at 79-all with under three minutes to play, Griner assisted on an Emma Meeseman jumper that put Ekat up for good. Meeseman was fouled on the shot and converted her free throw, which gave the Russian squad a three-point, 82-79 edge.
Fener cut it to 82-81, but after a Griner miss, Stewart was there for the rebound and put-back at 1:34, which pushed Ekat to an 84-81 lead. Then, with less than a minute to play, Griner stepped to the line and swished in a pair of free throws to up Ekat’s lead to 86-81.
Fener was buoyed by a long 3-pointer that banked in with 13 seconds remaining to pull within two, 86-84. But Fener was forced to foul in order to stop the clock and Ekat closed the game up 88-84 on free throws.
The game’s six lead changes all came in the first quarter, which closed Ekat owning a slim 22-21 edge, including eight points from Stewart. Ekat outscored Fener 33-27 in the second quarter and headed into the locker room with a 55-48 lead.
Opening the second half on a 5-0 spurt, Ekat’s advantage increased to 60-48, the largest lead of the contest, before McBride hit a turnaround jumper to cut it to 10 points. By the end of the period, which was tied in scoring at 13-13, Ekat held a seven-point, 68-61 advantage.
Perfumerias Avenida 72, Sopron Basket 61
Hayes closed out the night with 25 points and five rebounds, and Samuelson, who had just four points in the first half, finished with 16 points and three rebounds.
Down 32-30 at halftime, Samuelson hit a fadeaway jumper to push Avenida ahead 40-39 with 5:29 to play in the third quarter. Samuelson scored all 10 points in a 10-0 Avenida run that gave the Spanish side a 48-39 lead with 3:19 to go in the quarter, which ended with Avenidas up 50-42.
Avenidas went up as many as 19 points in the fourth quarter before settling in for the 72-61 victory.
Hayes was a steady force throughout for Avenida and finished shooting 8-of-11 from the field and a perfect 8-of-8 from the charity stripe. Samuelson, after hitting 1-of-4 from the field in the first half, hit 4-of-5 in the second half and was a perfect 5-of-5 from the line.