Euro queen Galatasaray receives hero’s welcome

ISTANBUL (CIHAN)- After landing in Istanbul in the very early hours of Monday morning, Galatasaray Odeabank received a hero’s welcome for claiming the EuroLeague Women title with a 69-58 win over archrivals Fenerbahçe in the all-Turkish final of the competition in Ekaterinburg, Russia on Sunday.

A large group of fans with flags cheered for their team and celebrated their EuroLeague trophy.

Galatasaray is the only Turkish team that has clinched Europe’s top and second-tier women’s basketball crowns. Before Sunday’s EuroLeague triumph, the Istanbul club had won EuroCup Women in 2009.

The cup would fly to Istanbul regardless of Sunday’s winner, as two Turkish powerhouses were up for the coveted title. Fenerbahçe seemed to have a slightly better chance of winning because they were the undefeated finalist. They had earlier edged Galatasaray 68-66 in the Final Eight. However, Ekrem Memnun’s Galatasaray was too good to allow the only missing trophy in their illustrious history to slip by.

“It has been my dream for 25 years,” Memnun told NTVSpor after the game. “I respect the players greatly. They accepted my leadership. They tried to do everything I told them. Everything is theirs.”

He praised the performance of his team, saying what they achieved is remarkable. “We played amazing basketball. We made progress in each match. We defeated the only undefeated team in the EuroLeague.”

The architect of Galatasaray’s impressive story, Memnun started his coaching career with the Galatasaray youth team in 1988. He went back and forth between the club’s male and female basketball teams. Under his helm, the Galatasaray women’s team won third place in the EuroLeague in 1999. After several stints with different teams, including as assistant coach for Anadolu Efes and the Galatasaray men’s team, Memnun returned to his current position in 2012 and finished what he started on Sunday when he led his side to the EuroLeague title.

The gold-medal game in Ekaterinburg was breathtaking. Even though Galatasaray extended the margin up to 21, Fenerbahçe made a stunning comeback and reduced the deficit to two in the final quarter. But it was too little too late, as Iebnem KimyacIoIlu came from the bench with four minutes left to the final buzzer to net triples and save the day. Sancho Lyttle scored 19 points for Galatasaray and playmaker IIIl Alben impressed with nine points and eight assists. Cappie Pondexter’s 18 points were not enough to save Fenerbahçe.

Galatasaray’s Spanish star Alba Torrens was named Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the EuroLeague Final Eight. She led her side to a spectacular win against UMMC Ekaterinburg in the semifinals of the competition. C