Aussies go 3 for 3 in EuroLeague Women Qualifiers

A thrilling night of basketball in Venezia combined with victories for Arka Gdynia and Lattes Montpellier has seen Australians emerge victorious from all three EuroLeague Women qualifying ties overnight.

Alex Ciabattoni, Sami Whitcomb, and FIBA Asia Cup All-Star Five team member Bec Allen progressed through to the regular season of Europe’s premier intercontinental club competition.

Ciabattoni and Reyer Venezia had trailed by as much as 19 in their first leg defeat to Hungarian side DVTK, but rallied to come into last night’s match with a 10-point deficit, meaning that only an 11-point victory would be enough to secure qualification. The Italian side controlled the match throughout, and with four minutes to play held a 14-point advantage. However, DVTK fought back in the final few minutes to erase five points of that deficit, sending the game to overtime with the score on the night reading 71-61 in Venezia’s favour, but the aggregate standing at 146-146.

A 7-0 run to open overtime from DVTK threatened to send Venezia into EuroCup for 2019/20, but the Italian side responded with a run to move 13 points ahead on the night, securing victory as a three-point attempt in the dying seconds from DVTK was off-target, handing Venezia an 81-68 victory on the night and a 156-153 win on aggregate. Alex Ciabattoni played 8 minutes off the bench, with her only points coming courtesy of a three that gave Venezia a 15-point lead, their largest of the night, mid-way through the second quarter.

Arka Gdynia were forced to play without Bec Allen in the first leg of their tie against Turkish side Botas, but emerged with a 16-point win to give themselves a handy cushion heading into the second leg at home.

The Polish side were rarely troubled, as although Botas took a five-point lead on the night early in the second quarter, they would get no closer to overhauling their deficit from the first leg. Arka Gdynia tied the game at 42-42 going into halftime, and with Allen draining three's for fun in the fourth quarter, the Polish side emerged with an 84-75 victory to secure their own pathway to qualification, winning the tie 172-147 on aggregate. Allen finished with 14 points and 4 rebounds in 19 minutes off the bench, burying all four of her three-point attempts in the process in what was a brilliant start to her European campaign.

Sami Whitcomb and Lattes Montpellier had eked out a 66-63 win on the road at Olympiacos to hold a slender advantage as they hosted the second leg. However, there was to be no repeat of the first leg thriller as the French side came out firing to open up an early lead.

Whitcomb dished and swished her way to 8 first quarter points alongside 2 assists, helping BLMA to a 28-18 lead after 10 minutes of action. Olympiacos responded in the second quarter to cut the margin to six on the night. Yet with Whitcomb starring alongside new arrival, Indiana Fever forward Stephanie Mavunga, BLMA continued to build their advantage to roll to an 86-67 victory and finish the series ahead 152-130 on aggregate. Whitcomb finished the game as BLMA’s second-top scorer behind Mavunga’s 23, tallying 19 points as well as 5 rebounds and 3 assists.

Reyer Venezia will now be placed in Group A alongside defending champions UMMC Ekaterinburg of Russia, whose roster has no less than seven current WNBA players, including the likes of Brittney Griner and Emma Meesseman. They are joined by 2018/19 third placed finishers USK Praha of the Czech Republic. BLMA and Arka Gdynia slot into Group B alongside last season’s runner-up Dynamo Kursk, also of Russia, with a roster that features WNBA players DeWanna Bonner and Epiphanny Prince.

The EuroLeague regular season commences on October 16, with the 14-round regular season extending to February 26 before the knockout rounds commence on March 11. The top four teams in each group will progress to the quarter-finals, whilst the fifth and sixth-place finishers in the eight team groups are parachuted into the second-tier EuroCup, a competition that already features Funda Nakkasoglu’s Galatasaray side.