The EuroLeague tournament concluded last week in exciting fashion, with UMMC Ekaterinburg completing their three-peat after fending off a surprise early run from Perfumerías Avenida in the Finals. The semifinals were similarly close and competitive, with Fenerbahçe and Sopron Basket making both Avenida and UMMC really work for their spots in the Finals. Let’s look back at the last few games of the EuroLeague and discuss a few of the top storylines and performers of the EuroLeague semifinals and Finals.
Allie Quigley and Alina Iagupova had a semifinals shootout for the ages
One of the more exciting moments of the Final Four came in the semifinals between UMMC Ekaterinburg and Fenerbahçe, with Allie Quigley and Alina Iagupova getting into a shooting match worthy of an old Western. Quigley and Iagupova are two of the best shooters in the world, with Quigley shooting above 50 percent on three-point attempts this EuroLeague, and Iagupova slashing the coveted 50/40/90 splits on her way to being named MVP.
The two legends were particularly on fire in the first half of the game, with Iagupova helping Fenerbahçe stay in it with 18 first-half points on six-of-ten shooting, hitting four of her five threes. Quigley was similarly lethal in the first half, scoring 21 points and only missing one of her 10 shots. While both defenses did succeed in slowing Quigley and Iagupova down in the second half some, Iagupova capped the day off by drilling this unbelievable three-pointer with a defending Breanna Stewart all over her, bringing Fenerbahçe within two points in the last seconds of the game.
Fenerbahçe llevando al límite a Ekaterinburg 😳 pic.twitter.com/4URC8D60IH
— Luis Vallejo (@Lvallejocolom) April 16, 2021
Satou steps up in the semis
Earlier this EuroLeague, I wrote about Satou Sabally and the areas of her game she could focus on improving with Fenerbahçe. In particular, Sabally becoming more confident and reliable on offense jumped out to me, so it was very exciting to see her put up a very successful and efficient offensive performance in Fener’s semifinals loss to UMMC. Sabally dropped 20 points, having only taken nine shots. She did much of her work from the free-throw line, going nine-of-ten from the stripe.
What impressed me most, though, was Sabally’s ability to stay keyed in on offense down the stretch in this high stakes game, facing single elimination up against one of the best teams in the world. Sabally scored on all three levels down the stretch, recording nine points (including a three-pointer!) in the fourth quarter to help keep Fenerbahçe within a few possessions. This kind of focus, confidence, and ability to create offensively in high pressure situations bodes well for Sabally’s future. It’s a great sign that she’s already having games like this at her age, especially for a Dallas Wings team that figures to look to Satou as an on-court leader as they integrate a new set of rookies, and a new coach in Vickie Johnson, into the fold.
Tiffany Hayes is still greased lightning
Tiffany Hayes had an excellent EuroLeague tournament for Perfumerías Avenida, showing flashes of her 2018 All-WNBA First Team campaign. Hayes averaged 18 points per game, hitting over 60 percent of her shots and propelling Avenida to the Final Four, where she stepped up to another level. She dropped 25 points in the semifinals to lead Avenida to victory over Sopron Basket, missing only three shots as she forced her way to the basket off the drive, drawing fouls and making easy layups.
But Hayes wasn’t done there, coming out the gates on fire in the championship game against UMMC Ekaterinburg. She scored 11 points in the first quarter, propelling Avenida to an early lead over the favored UMMC. Even as Ekaterinburg rallied back and took the lead, Hayes refused to take her foot off the gas pedal, ending the game with 29 points on 12-of-19 shooting.
— EuroLeague Women (@EuroLeagueWomen) April 19, 2021
As Tiffany Hayes looks toward returning to the Atlanta Dream after opting out of the 2020 season, a game like this is an encouraging sign that she can still be a positive contributor on offense against WNBA defenses—after all, UMMC’s roster is composed of some of the WNBA’s most elite players. One hurdle for the Dream this season, though, will be the roster’s sheer abundance of on-ball guards, between Chennedy Carter, Courtney Williams, rookie Aari McDonald, and Hayes herself. With Hayes looking as deadly as ever with the ball in her hands, will the Dream be able to make the most of all four of these players—or could a trade be in the cards?
Breanna Stewart continues building her case in the GOAT discussion
It’s been a prolific past year for Breanna Stewart after coming back from an Achilles injury that saw her sidelined for almost all of 2019. At only 26, she’s already become one of the most decorated active players in basketball, boasting an impressive trophy case of four NCAA Championships, two WNBA Championships, two FIBA World Championship gold medals, one Olympic gold medal, and now, a EuroLeague championship title as one of the many stars of Russia’s UMMC Ekaterinburg.
Stewie is on the cusp of having won every major trophy there is to be won in women's basketball.
She's 26. https://t.co/oHmpkJBX0H
— Chris Wozniak (@wlohaty) April 18, 2021
With another Olympics on the horizon, and both Seattle and UMMC Ekaterinburg preparing to defend their titles in the next year, there’s a lot of runway ahead of Stewie to continue accruing titles and accolades. If Stewart isn’t already in the GOAT conversation, she’s forcing her way into it. This first EuroLeague championship, and Final Four MVP to go along with it, is a testament to that. And a testament to Stewart not only being one of the best players in the WNBA, but in the world.
Much Ado about Katie Lou
As Winsidr previously covered, Katie Lou Samuelson has been having a breakout season playing with Spanish team Perfumerías Avenida. Samuelson averaged 15.5 points and 5.1 rebounds in EuroLeague tournament play on her way to being named to the All-EuroLeague First Team. It’s been a busy few months for Samuelson, between her play overseas and the attention directed on her by the recent trade that sent her to the Seattle Storm in exchange for the top pick in the WNBA draft (which Samuelson’s former team, the Dallas Wings, used to draft Charli Collier). Naturally, with all of this, there were heightened expectations placed onto Katie Lou as she, and her team, headed into the tournament’s Final Four.
While Samuelson had a good showing in the semifinals against Sopron Basket, scoring 16 points on five-of-nine shooting, she had trouble getting anything going offensively in the Championship match against the stacked UMMC Ekaterinburg. She went cold, scoring only six points in 37 minutes, going 3-of-13 from the field and missing her four attempts from deep. But you can’t dismiss the progress Katie Lou has made, especially when guarding her was seemingly the main defensive focus of one of the most talented teams in the world—she won’t be targeted like that playing for Seattle, and I’m pretty certain she won’t be guarded by Breanna Stewart this season. In games like this, however, when Samuelson is drawing defensive attention or can’t get her shot to fall, it’s vital that she works to create for her teammates. She didn’t record a single assist in the EuroLeague Finals, instead trying to shoot her way out of her scoring woes to little success. Again, don’t get me wrong, Katie Lou Samuelson has given the Storm and their fans a lot to be excited about in her first European tour. But if Seattle is going to defend their title, they’ll need more from their possible starting small forward in high stakes games like this.