The 2021-22 EuroLeague Women season has reached its apex, with the competition’s Final Four (postseason semifinals) this Friday, April 8 and its championship game on Sunday, April 10. All games will be streamed live and for free on FIBA’s EuroLeague Women YouTube channel.
Competitively, not much has changed after the first round of the postseason, with each of the four favored teams — Perfumerias Avenida, Sopron Basket, ZVVZ USK Praha and Fenerbahçe Safiport — all advancing. This sets up what promises to be a competitive and entertaining Final Four; the competing clubs will be cross-matched by regular-season group, ensuring that they will be unfamiliar with one another.
With that in mind, let’s take a quick look at each of the four remaining teams in the competition, including their strengths and weaknesses, notable players and team statistics, in preparation for what should be a big weekend for international basketball!
Perfumerias Avenida (Spain)
At a glance: 80.7 points and 69.9 points allowed per game; 7.8 3-pointers made per game
Coming off a second-place finish in the shortened 2020-21 EuroLeague Women season, Avenida entered 2021-22 with high expectations, having largely maintained its roster while replacing Tiffany Hayes with Kahleah Copper in its go-to perimeter scorer role. The transaction turned out to be one of the competition’s most impactful; Copper ascended to EuroLeague stardom incredibly quickly, winning regular-season MVP honors after averaging 22.5 points and 6.1 rebounds in nine games.
Avenida is far from a one-player show, though. With sisters Katie Lou and Karlie Samuelson (both shooting above 40 percent on 3-pointers) flanking Copper on the wing, Avenida has one of the most dangerous perimeter scoring groups in the world. Its backcourt of Maite Cazorla and Silvia Dominguez is as steady as they come, while Bella Alarie and Emese Hof excel in their defense-minded frontcourt roles. Factor in 2022 Coach of the Year Roberto Íñiguez, who has an extensive history of getting the most out of his teams, and Avenida looks awfully dangerous entering the Final Four.
Is this the year Avenida gets over the hump? If the club has one weakness, it’s that it can struggle to control a game on defense; an 80-55 midseason defeat at the hands of ZVVZ USK Praha was evidence of this, as was an overtime loss to Spar Girona in the previous round of the playoffs. It should be fun to find out what Avenida’s ceiling is, especially when facing clubs it didn’t play in the regular season.
Sopron Basket (Hungary)
At a glance: 66.8 points and 64.1 points allowed per game; 38.3 rebounds per game
Unlike the other clubs in the Final Four, Sopron fields a team that would prefer to play slowly and lean on its defense to grind out its wins. Sopron’s 66.7 points scored per game ranked 13th among the 16 EuroLeague Women teams and is by far the lowest among those in the Final Four, but it gave up just 64.1 points per game on the other end of the court.
Although Sopron did not reach the regular-season heights it did last season when it went 6-0, it still earned a second-place finish in Group B, coming out on top of Beretta Famila Schio and Dynamo Kursk in a tiebreak scenario. The stars of the show reflect the team’s philosophy for winning games: Gabby Williams, Briann January and Bernadett Határ, in tandem, make Sopron a pain to score against, with Williams and January providing unmatched activity on the perimeter and Határ clogging up the paint at 6’10.
The question is: Will this be enough? It’s rare that a team that doesn’t have a consistent source of offense wins a championship in any professional league — a defense-first mantra sounds good in theory but needs, at the very least, timely scoring to back it up — and Sopron didn’t have much luck against its Final Four competition in the regular season, losing a pair of games to Fenerbahçe by over 20 points apiece. Perhaps the late-season addition of Stefanie Dolson can maximize the talents of Sopron’s perimeter players, but as it currently stands, this club probably need more to go right for it than any other during a hypothetical championship run.
ZVVZ USK Praha (Czech Republic)
At a glance: 83.6 points and 64.3 points allowed per game; 11.4 steals per game
If there’s a club in this remaining group that will go only as far as its upper-level talent takes it, it’s Praha. Led by Alyssa Thomas and Brionna Jones, Praha went on an impressive six-game winning streak during the regular season in which its average margin of victory was 35.5 points. Its statistical profile as a team has the fingerprints of the two Connecticut Sun stars written all over it: 43.1 rebounds (No. 2 in EuroLeague Women), 19.1 free throw attempts and 11.4 steals (both No. 1) per game.
Sustaining this level of play, of course, is a different story entirely. Praha was challenged by Beretta Famila Schio in the opening round of the playoffs, squeaking by the Italian Group B club in its first game and dropping its second before closing things out. Just like in Connecticut, if Thomas can’t assert herself in transition, the team’s halfcourt offense can be hampered, which will certainly be on the scouting report of Praha’s future opponents.
Keeping Praha out of transition is much easier said than done, however, given the team’s rebounding prowess. While it’s not as deep as its competition in the Final Four, Praha is perfectly capable of being willed to victory by one or two players, and its physical brand of basketball can be flat-out overwhelming for opponents.
Fenerbahçe Safiport (Turkey)
At a glance: 79.1 points and 63.7 points allowed per game; 4.8 blocks per game
Perhaps the highest-profile club remaining in the competition, it should surprise no one that Fenerbahçe has made it this far. Its roster is, to say the least, star-studded; Alina Iagupova is a two-time EuroLeague Women MVP and one of the most skilled playmaking guards in the world, and Kayla McBride is one of its best shooters (19 points per game; 46.1 percent on 3-pointers). Elizabeth Williams earned Defensive Player of the Year honors after leading the competition in blocked shots (2.5 per game), while budding star Satou Sabally gives Fenerbahçe a level of individual talent few opponents are equipped to handle. The list goes on, with Amanda Zahui B., Kiah Stokes and Bria Hartley also among the club’s group of instantly-recognizable names.
Fenerbahçe got off to an unexpectedly shaky start to the EuroLeague Women regular season at 2-3, but has been on fire since then, reeling off nine straight victories and comfortably winning an otherwise highly competitive Group B. Among the Final Four teams, Fenerbahçe is likely the most balanced, with several playmakers and shooters on the perimeter and quality depth in the frontcourt. It’s likely the club most favored to win it all.