A Surprise League Start
After the way that the league had to abruptly end in February, there was no expectation that basketball would be played in Ukraine anytime soon. The federation worked hard all summer to make sure that national teams could be formed to play all of their games and then efforts started in the fall to create some kind of organized competition. While it will be nothing like a traditional season, they were able to actually increase the number of teams participating to thirteen. The league had been at its strongest in years last season with reputable foreigners joining a number of local players who had returned from playing elsewhere. This season will not feature foreigners, or even fans in the stands, and many of the top local players signed in other countries not knowing that this competition would definitely played, but the remaining players will have the chance to keep participating in basketball.
On the other side of this situation, FIBA confirmed this week that Belarus and Russia have been removed from the EuroBasket 2023 qualification process. The two games that each teams has played have been stricken from the record, leaving three teams in those groups. After starting last November, the next two windows of play are this November and next February. Club play continues in each country and more foreign players have signed in Russia since the opening two games.
The Latest from Asia
The first pod of play concluded in Kazakhstan on Monday with teams playing their fifth game with only one day of rest. Turan is the only undefeated team while Barsy Atyrau remains winless. Another major league in Asia started play this week as the fourteen teams in Japan played the traditional format of two games with the same opponents and venues on consecutive days. The Red Wave, the Sunshine Rabbits, and the Iris swept their games while the other four matchups ended in splits. The biggest scoring output came from Minami Shirasaki with 34 points for the league newcomer Egrets in their first ever win over the lowest placing remaining team, the Rabbits.
In the early going, the only thing that has been stopping Kaela Davis is her team getting a big enough lead that she could rest. Manati stayed undefeated on Monday with a 90-64 win over Santurce and she did play enough to score 35 points. At the other end of the standings, Lares was looking for their first win and they took advance of a Morovis team playing their fourth game in seven days to prevail 71-66. On Tuesday, Santurce avoided running out of steam in finishing out another three games in four days stretch, edging Moca 69-67. Wednesday’s game saw Lares win 69-64 at Carolina. Santurce had a roster switch with Ariana Moorer replacing KK Houser on Thursday and they were forced into overtime before winning 87-84 over Moca. The extra minutes ended their difficult start of the season that was eight games in thirteen days before they get a fairly long rest. It was Lares’s turn for a roster change on Friday with Danielle McCray replacing Mykea Gray and they lost to Moca 73-69. The two teams with the fewest number of games under their belts met on Saturday and being down a player made it harder for Morovis as they lost to undefeated Manati 89-74. The last game of the week was Moca’s 75-71 win over Carolina.
The Chase for Promotion
There was a midweek round in addition to the main round over the weekend in the second division in Turkey. Sasha Goodlett delivered 38 points and 13 rebounds to Tarsus on Wednesday as they won two games to remain the only undefeated squad. Davion Wingate had the strongest individual week, following up a 43 point outing for Yalova with a 39 point, 7 steal performance, but they were only able to split their games. Karsiyaka was able to bring in a foreign player to be on more even footing with the rest of the league, but it was Sila Dikmenogullari who had 31 points against Alanya, which got 30 points from Sevgi Gulec, and the team remains the only winless team. Other players to reach the 30 point mark were Channon Fluker for Elazig Il Ozel Idare on Wednesday, Aliyah Mazyck for Kirklareli on Sunday, and Olena Stashchuk, who had 42 points and 13 rebounds to close the weekend.
The second division in Iceland continues to be a place to look for impressive statlines. Cheah Rael-Whitsitt had 23 rebounds to go along with 25 points in a Snaefell win. Chloe Wannink had 40 points, but that was not enough for Tindastoll to win. Dilja Larusdottir had 7 steals while scoring 34 points for Stjarnan.
Notable Individual Performances
The week delivered another set of big efforts. Arbnore Perquku had a triple-double for Bashkimi in Kosovo. In Croatia, Ragusa is looking forward to proving themselves on the continental level, but first they had to withstand a 36 point effort from Lana Packovski to prevail 80-79 over Tresnjevka in overtime. The league in general is a little stronger this season as Khiana Johnson had 34 points in a comeback win for Sibenik. Carmen Tyson-Thomas had 37 points for Espoo in a loss in Finland. A battle of the top two teams in Albania saw the youngster Liliane Ikete grab 21 rebounds for the winners Flamurtari. Sonja Andjelkovic was the first player in Austria to hit the 30 point mark this season. Two players nearly outscored their opponents in Cyprus as Hailey Leidel had 30 points while the other team managed 33 and Cassidy Mihalko had 32 points in only 21 minutes compared to 33 for the other team. NaJai Pollard had the strongest individual week in the Czech Republic, including 31 points in Chomutov’s first game on Wednesday. In Luxembourg, Kierra Anthony had 35 points to outduel Tatsiana Likhtarovich, who had 30, but the big effort ended up coming from an overtime game that saw Jaiamoni Welch-Coleman score 41 points and Isis Lane grab 27 rebounds for the victors. Milica Matic had 33 points in Montenegro as a fast start for the team nearly ended with a loss. In the Adriatic, Aaliyah Dunham had 33 points in a loss while Monique Reid and Lea Miletic reached that mark too in a battle against each other. Raquel Laneiro had the most points of anyone during the two rounds of play in Iceland’s top division this week with 34 in a Njardvik win.