Asian League Start
A few competitions started in Asia this week. Kazakhstan has all ten teams playing in one site with five games for each team being played in a six day stretch. The biggest individual efforts came in the fourth games played on Sunday as Anastasia Knaub had 48 points and 16 rebounds for Astana Tigers in a 93-38 win over Barsy Atyrau while Ganna Rulyova, one of the Ukrainian players signed in the league, had 30 points in a win for Turan. Recent national team success from teams in this confederation is inspiring change in new regions. Men’s basketball in Southeast Asia has been growing in recent years, but connecting women’s leagues of various strengths has proven to be harder. A new competition called the Southeast Asia Women’s Basketball League started on Monday with teams from three different countries. The first round-robin was played in Korat, Thailand with the other two countries getting to host later in the year. Sniper, the home team, opened with a 60-46 win over ELITE from Indonesia. Harimau of Malaysia entered the fray on Tuesday, but lost to ELITE 60-58. Sniper completed the opening event with a 64-44 win over Harimau.
Two more spots were up for grabs in the twelve team field for the continental championship with the qualifiers in Yaounde, Cameroon. The original plan was for four teams to play, but Makomeno from the Democratic Republic of Congo withdrew right before the games started. That left CNSS, the team that defeated them in the national cup final 72-29 recently, as the only foreign team. OverDose, which has become a strong team in Cameroon since their founding, was joined by the University of Douala. CNSS edged Universite de Douala 68-66 in the first game. The two Cameroonian teams met on Thursday with OverDose winning 86-49 to eliminate their compatriots. Both teams had qualified already ahead of Friday’s game, but wanted to establish themselves before the main competition and it was OverDose that won the tournament by getting past CNSS 85-84.
Carolina avenged their opening day loss to Santurce on Monday with a 64-60 win. Santurce bounced back on Tuesday though by fending off Lares 64-62. The last two teams started their seasons as well. Morovis has a trio of Mikayla Pivec, Kat Tudor, and Jasmine Walker occupying their special roster spots and won 89-79. On the other side, Moca’s roster includes Roxy Barahman, Asia Taylor, and Ashanti Thomas. On Thursday, Carolina won 62-58 at Lares while Santurce used a comeback to win 82-76 over Morovis. The other two teams played on Friday with Manati rolling past Moca 94-65. Morovis got their revenge on Santurce by winning 76-65 on Saturday. Both teams had new players in some of their three allocated slots before Sunday’s game. Akilah Bethel and Adrienne Godbold replaced Joanne Allen-Taylor and Marie Benson for Carolina while Alexis Jennings took the place of Thomas for Moca, which was finally able to pick up their first win 76-68.
Cross-National Leagues in Europe
Besides the main FIBA-organized competitions, there are several cross-national leagues that also take place during the season. The Adriatic Basketball Association’s league has a strong history in their home region, but with more teams choosing to play in FIBA’s competitions, the field is not quite on the same level this season. Teams play midweek to allow them to play in domestic leagues on the weekends and the season opened with ten teams from six countries.
The Baltic league, featuring teams from Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, started play last week, but all teams have now been in action after this weekend. A league with a long tradition is the European league, which has widened from its original scope as the Eastern European league. With teams from Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine not available to participate this season, the exact format and teams have not been announced yet, but eight teams from six countries currently appear to be involved.
Nearly all major leagues have started now as Belgium, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Switzerland joined the party this week. Martina Bertane had a 35 point effort for Ventspils in Latvia’s opening week. The league in Kosovo has been known for ridiculous stat lines in the past as there were multiple quadruple-doubles last season. The big number from their opening weekend was Caitlin Jenkins grabbing 30 rebounds in Penza’s loss to Bashkimi. The league started in Germany with two full rounds on Friday and Sunday. The league has had a few issues getting the structure set in the past few years so there are eleven teams this season. Freiburg, the surprise defending champions, had a tough first pair of games.
The Chase for Promotion
Two weeks before the top division began to play, teams in the second division in France started the chase for the lone promotion place on Saturday. Alexa Middleton had a fantastic individual effort for newly promoted Feytiat as they opened with a win. Relegated Charnay opened with a win over a Monaco team looking to showcase some ambitions at this level too. The youngsters representing the federal academy also have their first team in this league and they usually struggle, but had a solid effort in a loss to Mondeville. The second division also started play in Greece, although not all teams played this weekend. Teams in this division compete for promotion without foreign players with the goal of reaching the top division where most squads are heavily reliant on foreign players.
In other prominent lower divisions, Tarsus is the only undefeated team left in Turkey’s second division after Elazig Il Ozel Idare lost to Fenerbahce’s reserve team and Izmit lost to Elazig, which got a 39 point outburst from Ameryst Alston. The biggest statistical output of the weekend was Angela Tompkins contributing 43 points and 12 rebounds for Alanya while Aliyah Mazyck ended the round with 42 points for Kirklareli. All the teams played in Italy’s second division for the first time this weekend and 31 points from Anna Kelly was not enough for Roseto in a 105-85 loss to Patti. Several teams in Spain’s third division have put together pretty solid rosters, like Barakaldo, which had a 30 point game from Enna Pehadzic in a narrow win.
Big scoring outputs were common in Iceland’s second division this week. Chloe Wannink surpassed the 30 point mark twice for Tindastoll, although both efforts came in losses. One of those was because Cheah Rael-Whitsitt had an impressive 30 point, 20 rebound, 6 assist, 7 steal performance for Snaefell. Emma Hakonardottir had a strong game for Hamar. The biggest point total came from Maddie Sutton, who added 14 rebounds to her 37 points for Thor. Stjarnan needed two great efforts as Riley Popplewell had 30 points and 15 rebounds and Dilja Larusdottir added 30 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, and 9 steals in their 87-79 win over KR, which got 33 points and 20 rebounds from Violet Morrow.
The most impressive performance of the week might have been Ostrava taking a six point lead after one quarter on USK Praha. The Czech powerhouse may still be waiting to assemble their full roster, but they usually still expect to roll in domestic league games. They were clearly angry to have trailed early, building a double-digit lead by halftime and then coming out of the break with a 26-0 margin in the third quarter.
There were a number of strong individual performances during the week. Megan Gustafson had yet another 30 point effort for Olympiacos as they returned to league play in Greece. Iva Tokic had a 30 point game for Croatian champions Ragusa in a finals rematch game at the age of 15. Hailey Leidel had a second consecutive 31 point outing for AEL Limassol in Cyprus. It was a busy week for teams in Luxembourg and Mikayla Ferenz delivered a pair of wins to Musel Pikes with 34 and 36 point games. Amanda Cahill also scored 31 points in a loss. An exciting game in Serbia went to overtime before 43 points from Dayzsha Rogan was enough for Spartak Subotica to edge Marija Todorovic and Vrsac 89-86. Brooke McCarty-Williams and Klara Lundquist each reached the 30 point mark in Sweden in big wins for Lulea and Sodertalje respectively. Maddi Utti had a triple-double in Finland, but Honka still lost. Ilmar’I Thomas had 36 points in a win while Elina Aarnisalo had 31 points in trying to lead the youngsters of HBA.