MOSCOW (EuroLeague Women) - Pressure? What pressure?
That’s what CSKA Moscow guard Edwige Lawson-Wade says heading into the EuroLeague Women Quarter-Final Round clashes against UMMC Ekaterinburg.
CSKA have had no equals this season, rolling to the FIBA Women’s World League crown and going unbeaten in all of their EuroLeague and Superleague games.
Gundars Vetra, in his first spell as the CSKA coach, has led his team to a perfect record and maintaining the undefeated mark is not a burden, according to Lawson-Wade.
“We are building confidence with those victories and we trust each other more and more,” Lawson said to Basketball World News.
“The danger would be to be too confident, but the coach is here to make sure that it won't happen.”
If anyone missed the battle CSKA had to wage to beat Halcon Avenida in the second game of their eighth-finals tie and just looked at the 78-70 scoreline, they might assume that cracks are beginning to show in their armor.
On the contrary, if that game showed anything, it showed that Lawson-Wade and Co can keep their cool in a very hot environment.
Indeed, the Salamanca club led that contest late, but CSKA came from behind to win.
“The game in Salamanca was definitely a tough game, but we knew that it's always very hard to play there,” Lawson-Wade said.
“Their fans are amazing, and they are able to play very well. The goal of a team like CSKA is to win the EuroLeague, so we will be able to judge our season only when the EuroLeague is finished.”
Only two of the eighth-finals ties went the distance, with Ros Casares and Gambrinus Sika Brno winning game three deciders against US Valenciennes and MiZo Pecs.
CSKA swept Avenida to set up a showdown with Ekaterinburg, who brushed aside ESB Lille Metropole in two games.
How tasty is this series?
Consider the line-ups for each team.
CSKA have Lawson-Wade, EuroBasket 2007 MVP Amaya Valdemoro, Russian internationals Maria Stepanova, Olga Arteshina, Belgium superstar Ann Wauters and American sharpshooters Nicole Powell and Becky Hammon.
Ekaterinburg have the MVP of the 2006 FIBA World Championship, Penny Taylor, and her fellow Australians Kristi Harrower and Suzy Batkovic, along Agnieszka Bibrzycka of Poland, Sandrine Gruda and Caroline Aubert of France and Belarus international Yelena Leuchanka, American Deanna Nolan and Russian internationals Svetlana Abrosimova, Oxana Rakhmatulina and Natalia Vodopyanova.
Can CSKA, who lost to Spartak in the semi-finals of last year’s tournament, go all the way this year?
“We have to get there step by step,” said Lawson-Wade, before adding, “It's good we made it to the quarter-final, but it will be even harder to beat Ekaterinburg to make it to the final four.”
Bourges Basket, who are seeking a fourth EuroLeague crown, and Fenerbahce will meet in the last eight.
Bourges needed just two games to beat MKB Euroleasing while Fener won both of their games against Wisla Can-Pack Krakow.
Dynamo Moscow had to go to overtime in their second game against Lotos PKO BP but finally won that encounter and they will meet Spartak Moscow Region, who blew out TEO Vilnius in their two games.
A glitzy quarter-final will pit Ros Casares against Gambrinus, the champions of two seasons ago.
Instead of cursing his luck after being drawn to face Gambrinus, Ros Casares coach Manolo Real said: "No games are easy anymore.”
The quarter-finals will take place February 26, 29 and, if deciders are needed, on March 5.