Illustration photo – Match of the final 14th round of Group A of the European Basketball League USK Prague – Bologna. March 1, 2023, Prague. From left, Alyssa Thomasová from USK Prague, Francesca Pasaová from Bologna and Tereza Vyoralová from USK Prague.
Prague – The basketball players of USK Prague will enter the elimination phase of the European League on Tuesday. In the opening quarter-final, they will welcome Spain's Salamanca, where Czech national team pivot Julia Reisingerová is active. The series is played on a winner-takes-all basis. The first duel will start in the Královka hall at 19:00.
“The peak part of the season is coming, according to which we will evaluate the entire season. The play-off is always mentally demanding. The first match in the two-win system will also be difficult. We must be perfectly prepared so that the pressure is minimal,” coach Natália Hejková told ČTK.< /p>
The Czech champions advanced to the quarterfinals from second place in Group A. In the regular season, they had a record of ten wins and four defeats. Salamanca secured participation among the top eight teams thanks to third place in Group B (9-5 record). USK will try to avenge last year's defeat to the Spanish opponent in the fight for third place in the Final Four (59:71).
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“Salamanca is a very tenacious team. They will come with a very tough defense and will try to eliminate our strengths. They will want to slow down our game,” described Hejková. “They play very collectively. It cannot be said that they have a central star among them, but it is a team that works hard and does not give baskets for free,” added the five-time winner of the Euroleague.
Twenty-four-year-old Reisingerová is also in her first year in the opposing team. The last winner of the domestic poll for the best female basketball player of the year, who worked in Girona last season, has so far averaged 7.5 points and 4.4 rebounds per game in the Euroleague. “She is the only Czech player we can meet in foreign teams now. In addition, she came from our youth and that makes it all the more interesting. We will see how she will do against us,” said Hejková.
The best Salamanca's leading scorer is Greek center Mariella Fasula with an average of 12.1 points per game. Canadian Bridget Carleton (11.4) and American Michaela Onyenwere (10) also scored double-digit points in the competition.
The Czech champions are aiming for their sixth participation in the Euroleague Final Four and their second in a row. The women from Prague achieved their greatest success eight years ago, when they won the competition. They have a record of five wins and six defeats against Salamanca. However, they succeeded against her in the last three home duels.
USK will traditionally rely on the basket trio of Brionna Jonesová, Alyssa Thomasová, Valériane Vukosavljevičová. All three players are in the top ten best scorers of the competition. Jones is fifth with an average of 16.7 points, eighth Thomas has a balance of 16.4 and ninth Vukosavljevic 16.3. The women from Prague are the second most productive team in the Euroleague (79.9), they even rule it in rebounds (43.5) and assists (24.4).
Thirty-year-old Thomasová will start despite problems with her ankle. “She hasn't trained in the past few days, but she will play. She has learned from America that a playoff is a playoff, and she would play even with a broken arm,” Hejková pointed out with a smile.
The first match is followed by March 17 rematch on opponent's field. The eventual decisive third match will take place on March 22 again in Prague. “It is very important that we manage this first duel. We are ready, but psychology will also play a role,” added Hejková.