The second leg of Qualifiers for the 2023-24 EuroLeague took place on Wednesday, Sep. 27.
In the first leg, held Sep. 20, BC Polkowice beat Besiktas JK by one point, Sepsi-SIC beat TTT Riga by five points and DVTK HUN-Therm bettered the London Lions by 15 points.
Combining the results from both qualifying games, Polkowice, Sepsi and DVTK punched their tickets to the EuroLeague. Here’s how it happened:
Nika Barič is one bad lady
BC Polkowice 78, Besiktas JK 64
The game that was supposed to be the most competitive of the three turned out to be the opposite. Polkowice performed their game plan to perfection, gradually building up their lead quarter after quarter while keeping Besiktas at a distance to extended the one-point lead acquired in Game One in Istanbul.
And that was possible in large part thanks to Polkowice’s point guard Nika Barič, who was the extension of the coach on the court. She scored 12 points and dished out seven assists while not committing a single turnover in her 32 minutes on the court. Despite joining the team prior to this season, she has enormous experience at the highest level, confirmed by her three EuroLeague Women championships with UMMC Ekaterinburg. And with her at the point, Polkowice will be in good hands as they compete in EuroLeague.
Sometimes you just need a hand
ACS Sepsi-SIC 63, TTT Riga 62
Morgan Green got an invitation to the New York Liberty training camp prior to this season, but she did not make the roster and had to return to Europe. No one disputes her ability to influence the game of basketball with the things that pure point guards do best—assists and tough defense. Even as she struggled with her shot (3-for-10) and committed eight turnovers, she was able to overcome her difficulties and still deliver a solid performance.
Despite being 5-foot-9, Green got two blocks and five rebounds, plus stole the ball twice. Most importantly, she got 15 assists. And with the aid of Swedish veteran Ellen Nystrom, who was perfect from long distance, going 4-for-4 from 3 and finishing the game with 21 points, the Romanian champions were able to hold off the Latvian champions and progress to the group stage of EuroLeague for the first time.
TTT Riga was aggressive, getting 17 offensive rebounds and taking 10 more shots. But their target was off, as making a bit over one-third of their attempts simply was not enough to eliminate the Romanians.
London Lions 73, DVTK HUN-Therm 72
Yes, the Lions only had a puncher’s chance at progressing to the next round, but that didn’t mean that they weren’t going to give it their all in a rematch against DVTK Hun-Therm in the Hungarian city of Miskolc. Leading the charge was Holly Winterburn, a 5-foot-11 guard out of Northampton. If that name sounds familiar, Winterburn spent a year at Oregon, playing around 11 minutes per game for the Ducks as she backed up WNBA superstar Sabrina Ionescu.
In the first game, Winterburn struggled much like the rest of her team, making just one of 13 shot attempts. On Wednesday, though, she delivered a performance that was Ionescu-esque, scoring 27 points as she went 7-for-12 from 3. Add to that five rebounds, four assists and three steals, and you’ve got yourself more proof that the 22-year-old can ball with the best of them. She’s been gradually building up her position on the British national team, rising through the ranks after playing successfully at almost every youth level. With more games like that, she may become one of the best playmakers in Europe for years to come.
And remember our “bold” prediction about Megan Gustafson getting better once she got to spend more time with her teammates? Well, she had 20 points on 75 percent shooting and seven rebounds as a starter for the Lions. In the US she may be known as Mercury Megs, but the people in London will soon come up with a new nickname for her.