EKATERINBURG (EuroLeague Women) - There have been great expectations for UMMC Ekaterinburg in the EuroLeague Women for several years.
In 2003, the outfit claimed first place but winning a second championship in the competition proved to be a lot harder than anyone could have dreamed of, especially considering the star-studded cast that has suited up for Ekat from year to year.
From 2008 through 2012, UMMC made it to the season-ending showpiece event in the EuroLeague Women and finished no higher than third.
UMMC stopped the rot on Sunday by blowing out Fenerbahce, 82-56.
The Russians flattened every opponent in their path at the Final Eight, and USA international Candace Parker was named the MVP.
The two-time Olympic champion shot 63.15% (36 of 57) from the floor in the five games and averaged 17.4 points, 12 rebounds and 1.8 blocks.
UMMC, who also have USA internationals Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird, the latter who didn't play at the Final Eight, won by an average margin of 27.4 points.
The team that came closest to beating UMMC?
That was CCC Polkowice on the opening day, and the Polish team still lost by 23 points.
For first-year coach Olaf Lange, the title win was going to be the only acceptable result because his roster of talented players was second to none.
The German coach didn't put a foot wrong.
"I'm very happy, especially for our fans and for our club," he said.
"They have been waiting a long time for this victory after a series of disappointments.
"The club has invested a lot of money in the development of women's basketball in Europe.
"I am proud of my team.”
Taurasi and Bird, lynchpins in the Sparta&K Moscow Region side that won four titles in a row from 2007-10, clinched their fifth as members of UMMC.
Silvia Dominguez of Spain became the first player to win the EuroLeague crown for three straight years with different teams.
She was a leading player the previous two seasons with Perfumerias Avenida and Ros Casares.
There was also the feel-good story of Maria Stepanova, who battled back from the serious knee injury she suffered one year ago at the Final Eight in Istanbul.
By getting hurt 12 months ago, Stepanova missed out on a chance to play at her fifth consecutive Olympics with Russia.
She has begun to resemble one of the top centers on the old continent again and appears set to feature in the national team set-up again at EuroBasket Women 2013, a qualifying tournament for the 2014 FIBA World Championship for Women.
If the USA internationals have been the dominant players in the EuroLeague Women over the years, with this season no exception, Europeans like France's Sandrine Gruda have also stood tall for UMMC.
"This win means a lot to us," Gruda said.
"This is what we wanted all year. We really feel we deserved this victory."
Lange was especially happy about the approach of his players when they did not have the ball.
"I am very proud of how the team worked on defense, not only today, but throughout the whole tournament,” he said.
"Our team is well known for how many strong offensive players it has, but we work hard on defense and look at the results."
Lange highlighted the work of Deanna Nolan, an American who could play at the EuroBasket since she holds a Russian passport.
"Deanna Nolan scored only eight points (in the Final), but she did an amazing job on defense,” he said.
"She managed to restrict (former UMMC point guard) Cappie Pondexter so that she scored only one point."