PRAGUE (FIBA Women's World Championship/EuroLeague Women) - It took nearly a decade, but a team from the proud basketball nation of the Czech Republic has reached the promised land again in European women's basketball.
On Sunday, ZVVZ USK Praha defeated UMMC Ekaterinburg to capture the EuroLeague Women title.
Led by veteran coach Natalia Hejkova, the Prague ouftit prevailed, 72-68.
When Gambrinus Brno won in 2006, they also did so against a powerhouse from Russia, beating VBM-SGAU (Samara).
That game was played in the Czech Republic, too, in Brno, and current Praha star Jana Vesela was a member of that team.
On Sunday, the 31-year-old Czech international made two free-throws with 6.2 seconds remaining to secure the four-point triumph.
"I am so happy for our team because this season wasn't easy," Vesela said.
At one point, in late January, USK Praha were 4-5 and not looking like title contenders at all.
They ended up winning six of their last seven games in the competition.
"But we played together as a team and just wanted to enjoy the Final Four as we weren't favorite," Vesela said.
We just played our game and we did it -Vesela
The 1.94m Vesela, a Czech international, has now won the EuroLeague Women three times.
She was also member of the Ros Casares team that rolled to the championship in 2012.
The triumph filled Czechs all over, including men's national team star Tomas Satoransky, with pride.
The Barcelona point guard took to the social media to offer his congratulations.Sunday in Prague was a special day for other international basketball players, too, most notably Laia Palau of Spain.
When her country reached the podium at a World Championship for the first time in 2010, in Karlovy Vary, the Czech Republic, she was their fiery point guard.
She was Spain's playmaker on their EuroBasket Women 2013 title-winning side, and on their team that finished runners-up to the USA at the FIBA Women's World Championship in Turkey.
Palau, who was also on the Ros Casares team that captured the crown in 2012, provided a constant spark for Praha at the Final Four.
In the triumph over UMMC, she had the sort of all-round solid performance that has made her one of the best players in the world for the past several years.
The 35-year-old had four steals and six assists to go with her three points in 39 minutes.
In their 62-49 victory over Fenerbahce in the Semi-Finals, Palau had 13 points, seven assists and six rebounds.
Everyone contributed - Palau
"On defense, we have been especially concentrated," Palau said.
"I can't believe it.
"It was already an accomplishment to reach the Final Four.
"This wasn't in the script."Serbia international Sonja Petrovic also came up big for the Prague team, just as she has all season.
The 26-year-old small forward poured in 13 points and collected eight rebounds.
Petrovic nailed two of her three shots from the arc, with Praha connecting on five of nine as a team.
UMMC, who lost sweet-shooting Diana Taurasi to a broken hand earlier this month, shot just one of 16 from long range.
Former EuroLeague Women MVP Alba Torrens of Spain made that one three-ball for UMMC but missed five others.
The Prague team had other valuable contributors this season.
Kia Vaughn, who played for the USA youth teams, was the Final Four MVP.
She had 18 points and 12 rebounds on Sunday.
Danielle Robinson, who joined Prague in January, had a spectacular title game.
She poured in 24 points, dished out three assists and came up with a couple of steals.
USA international Candace Parker scored 24 points and pulled down 14 rebounds for UMMC.
In the third-place game, another USA international, Nnemkadi Ogwumike, had 21 points and 14 rebounds for Dynamo Kursk as they defeated Fenerbahce, 67-58.
Ogwumike played for the USA last year when they won the Women's World Championship.
– Pauline Courtois leads after first day
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