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EuroLeague Women: Fenerbahçe adds Stewart and Sabally ahead of rematch with Mavunga, Polkowice

EuroLeague Women kicks off the calendar year with the resumption of group play. Group A favorite Fenerbahçe Alagöz Holding, having added significant reinforcements in Breanna Stewart and Satou Sabally, will try to avenge a season-opening loss to BC Polkowice this week.

Fenerbahce Oznur Kablo v UMMC Ekaterinburg: EuroLeague Women Semi Final
Satou Sabally (left) returns to Fenerbahçe, where she’ll suit up alongside Emma Meesseman (right) for the remainder of the 2022-23 EuroLeague Women season.
Photo by /BSR Agency/Getty Images

The moment EuroLeague Women fans have been waiting for has arrived. Turkish basketball club Fenerbahçe Alagöz Holding, which loaded up on international talent following a disappointing end to the 2021-22 season, welcomed Breanna Stewart to its roster during the competition’s brief mid-winter hiatus. Satou Sabally, who has starred for Fenerbahçe since the 2020-21 season, also returned to the club.

Stewart and Sabally join a stacked Fenerbahçe team that already features one of the world’s best playmaking guards in Alina Iagupova and a top-tier shooting guard in Kayla McBride. With versatile forward Emma Meesseman also in tow, Fenerbahçe now boasts arguably the most talented starting lineup in EuroLeague Women and will likely be favored to win the competition’s championship when the playoffs begin in March.

Things are far from decided in Group A, however. Polish club BC Polkowice, which defeated Fenerbahçe to open the season, has been on a tear, winning four-straight games and sitting atop the group standings with a 6-1 record. Polkowice is led by forward Stephanie Mavunga, who is currently averaging 16.6 points and 13.7 rebounds per game and was recently named EuroLeague Women MVP for the month of December.

Fenerbahçe will get another crack at Polkowice in Week 8, which has understandably been tabbed as FIBA’s game of the week.

Meanwhile, in Group B, there’s another star-studded Turkish club making noise. CBK Mersin Yenişehir Bld, which features big names such as Chelsea Gray, Tiffany Hayes and DeWanna Bonner, will seek its third consecutive win against Spanish club Perfumerias Avenida. Mersin’s 4-3 record is certainly not indicative of its overall level of talent, and though the team parted ways with Jonquel Jones over the break, it was quickly able to replace her with Elizabeth Williams.

This week’s slate of EuroLeague Women games begins at 11 a.m. ET on Wednesday, Jan. 4. All games will be streamed live and for free on FIBA’s EuroLeague Women YouTube channel. Let’s dive into each of the week’s matchups and which players to keep an eye on.

Wednesday, January 4

Fenerbahçe Alagöz Holding (5-2) vs. BC Polkowice (6-1)

When: 11 a.m. ET

Where: Metro Energy Sports Hall, Istanbul

How to watch: FIBA YouTube live stream

Notable players: Breanna Stewart, Satou Sabally, Emma Meesseman, Kayla McBride, Alina Iagupova, Kiah Stokes, Olivia Epoupa (Fenerbahçe Alagöz Holding); Stephanie Mavunga, Erica Wheeler, Artemis Spanou, Weronika Gajda (BC Polkowice)

Matchup details: Polkowice’s season-opening blowout of Fenerbahçe laid the groundwork for much of what has made the Polish club so tough since then. It currently leads EuroLeague Women in rebounds per game (44.4), and no club has attempted (26.3) or made (10.3) more 3-pointers per game. Granted, Fenerbahçe’s lineup looks considerably different than it did in Week 1, and it now has the all-around firepower it needs to compete with Polkowice’s shooting. If you can watch only one game on Wednesday, try to make it this one.

CBK Mersin Yenişehir Bld (4-3) vs. Perfumerias Avenida (5-2)

When: 11 a.m. ET

Where: Servet Tazegül Spor Salonu, Mersin

How to watch: FIBA YouTube live stream

Notable players: Chelsea Gray, DeWanna Bonner, Tiffany Hayes, Elizabeth Williams, Briann January (CBK Mersin Yenişehir Bld); Bridget Carleton, Michaela Onyenwere, Maite Cazorla, Aleksandra Crvendakić (Perfumerias Avenida)

Matchup details: The loss of Jonquel Jones hurts Mersin on the glass and Williams won’t be quite ready to play in this one, but the Turkish club still has more than enough offense to compete with EuroLeague Women’s best. In three games since arriving in Turkey, Gray has averaged 24 points on a blistering 61.7 percent shooting from the floor; how Avenida goes about defending her will obviously be crucial, as will the Spanish club’s plan for taking advantage of Mersin’s momentary weakness up front. Avenida won the first meeting between the two teams handily, but that was before Gray and Hayes had joined Mersin, so that result probably doesn’t mean much now.

Olympiacós SFP (0-7) vs. Tango Bourges Basket (3-4)

When: 11:30 a.m. ET

Where: Peace and Friendship Stadium, Piraeus

How to watch: FIBA YouTube live stream

Notable players: Megan Gustafson, Kylee Shook (Olympiacós SFP); Yvonne Anderson, Kayla Alexander (Tango Bourges Basket)

Matchup details: A matchup against winless Olympiacós comes at a good time for Bourges, which just a few weeks ago seemed like a solid contender for Group A’s fourth playoff spot but has since fallen off with a pair of losses. Efficient scoring continues to be an issue for the French club, though Anderson is doing her fair share, ranking third in the competition in points per game (18.7). On the other side, Gustafson continues her massive campaign for Olympiacós (24.6 points and 28.6 efficiency per game — both first in EuroLeague Women), but it hasn’t been enough to make up for the club’s porous defense (80.3 points allowed per game).

Atomerőmű KSC Szekszárd (3-4) vs. ZVVZ USK Praha (5-2)

When: 12 p.m. ET

Where: Városi Sportcsarnok, Szekszárd

How to watch: FIBA YouTube live stream

Notable players: Victoria Vivians, Ruthy Hebard, Cyesha Goree, Sydney Wallace (Atomerőmű KSC Szekszárd); Alyssa Thomas, Brionna Jones, Maria Conde, Temi Fagbenle, Valériane Vukosavljević (ZVVZ USK Praha)

Matchup details: There’s been a lot of fuss surrounding the other top teams in Group A, but don’t forget about Praha. The Czech club is leading the group in cumulative point differential (+64) and scoring (81.4 points per game) while Thomas (18.6 points, 12 rebounds, 6.6 assists and 3.3 steals per game) continues to make a case for group phase MVP. Whether Szekszárd gives Praha a game depends on which version of the team shows up; Szekszárd has yet to either win or lose more than one game in a row thus far, and while it’s fully capable of hanging with Praha (82-71 loss in Week 1), the potential for a blowout loss (such as Week 7’s 89-56 disaster against Polkowice) is also there.

Spar Girona (4-3) vs. Basket Landes (1-6)

When: 1:15 p.m. ET

Where: Pavelló Fontajau, Girona

How to watch: FIBA YouTube live stream

Notable players: Brittney Sykes, Rebekah Gardner, Marianna Tolo, Shay Murphy (Spar Girona); Marine Fauthoux, Regan Magarity, Celine Dumerc (Basket Landes)

Matchup details: Girona seems to be headed in the right direction again after a surprising Week 7 upset of rival club Avenida, and will finally have Sykes available after a complicated transfer from Sopron left her unable to play for a few weeks. Landes was able to keep Week 1’s game against Girona close, eventually falling 58-53, but hasn’t done much around the competition since then; the French club is averaging a competition-low 59 points per game, which, when matched up against Girona’s 61.3 points allowed per game, does not bode particularly well.

Virtus Segafredo Bologna (2-5) vs. Valencia Basket Club (4-3)

When: 2:30 p.m. ET

Where: PalaDozza, Bologna

How to watch: FIBA YouTube live stream

Notable players: Cheyenne Parker, Iliana Rupert, Cecilia Zandalasini, Kitija Laksa (Virtus Segafredo Bologna); Lauren Cox, Marie Gülich, Raquel Carrera, Leticia Romero, Alba Torrens (Valencia Basket Club)

Matchup details: The back-and-forth affair between Bologna and Valencia was one of Week 1’s highlights, and it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect another close one in their rematch. It’s a game that, at this juncture, Bologna probably needs to win more; the Italian club is currently in seventh place in Group A, while its opponent Valencia is in fourth and would advance to the EuroLeague Women playoffs if they started today. Bologna hasn’t shot the ball particularly well in group play, which is a bit of a surprise given how adept players like Zandalasini and Laksa are from behind the arc. If there was a time for them to get going, it’s now against Valencia’s stout defense (10.4 steals per game).

Thursday, January 5

Sopron Basket (5-2) vs. Kangoeroes Mechelen (1-6)

When: 12 p.m. ET

Where: Novomatic Aréna, Sopron

How to watch: FIBA YouTube live stream

Notable players: Ezi Magbegor, Yvonne Turner, Jelena Brooks (Sopron Basket); Morgan Bertsch, Lisa Berkani, Ziomara Morrison (Kangoeroes Mechelen)

Matchup details: It hasn’t been the smoothest of sailing for the defending EuroLeague Women champs, but Sopron has managed to stay relevant in Group B thanks to ball security and its trademark defense (60.9 points allowed per game). It was certainly a recipe for success back in Week 1 when Sopron defeated Mechelen by nearly 30 points. We’ll see if the young Belgian club can leverage better efforts from Bertsch (16.4 points per game) and Morrison (16 points per game) into a more competitive effort this time around.

DVTK HUN-Therm (3-4) vs. Beretta Famila Schio (5-2)

When: 12 p.m. ET

Where: DVTK Aréna, Miskolc

How to watch: FIBA YouTube live stream

Notable players: Arella Guirantes, Cheridene Green (DVTK HUN-Therm); Rhyne Howard, Marina Mabrey, Amanda Zahui B., Astou Ndour-Fall, Kim Mestdagh (Beretta Famila Schio)

Matchup details: Schio had a four-game winning streak snapped last week against Sopron, so you can bet the Italian club is looking at DVTK as a prime opportunity to get back on track. The two teams played a high-scoring game in Week 1 that went to overtime, with Schio eventually prevailing; while Schio is the more talented team on paper, don’t sleep on DVTK, which has been on the right side of several close games thus far in group play.