Streimikyte and Hoosier Native In EuroLeague Final Four
A week ago, Jurgita Streimikyte and Katie Douglas completed their European season as teammates with Lietuvos Telekomus (Lithuania) by finishing third in the EuroLeague Final Four. Next, they’ll both return to the United States to partake in the 2005 season of the Women’s National Basketball Association – Douglas with the Connecticut Sun and Streimikyte in Douglas’ hometown with the Indiana Fever.
Streimikyte played 54 games with the Fever during the 2000 and 2001 seasons before returning to her native Lithuania to give birth to her son, Tomas, prior to the 2002 season. In May, she returns to Indiana for her third season with the WNBA’s Fever. She will make Indiana her summer home while her EuroLeague teammate Douglas plies her trade with the Fever’s Eastern Conference rival.
It will be Streimikyte’s first WNBA summer in three years. And she’ll have an entire team of new teammates as only two players – Tamika Catchings and Kelly Schumacher – were members of the Fever the last time Streimikyte donned an Indiana uniform. Catchings and Schumacher both were rookies during the summer of 2001 and Catchings, injured late during her final college season, never played a game that season.
The Fever’s Lithuanian star agreed to contract terms with Indiana COO and General Manager Kelly Krauskopf in February, but that was with work still to do in her current European season.
Streimikyte averaged 15.9 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.7 assists during 17 EuroLeague contests. Douglas, her Hoosier native teammate who prepped at Perry Meridian High School and later starred at Purdue University, led all EuroLeague scorers in 2004-05 with 20.4 points per game. Douglas also paced Lietuvos with 7.2 rebounds and 3.3 assists, leading Streimikyte in each category.
Between November and March each year, each European team plays a domestic and regional schedule separate from the EuroLeague that pits Europe’s best teams head-to-head, mostly on weekends. Upon conclusion of each team’s national and regional schedules, the EuroLeague playoffs take center stage. This year, the Streimikyte and Douglas-led Lithuanians surged past most of Europe’s best women’s teams to reach the Final Four.
The Streimikyte-Douglas combination proved a successful one as they guided Lietuvos to its most decorated season in history. With Douglas playing her first season in Streimikyte’s hometown of Vilnius, Lietuvos won its Lithuanian championship, and won the Baltic Basketball League title for a sixth straight season. It advanced to the EuroLeague Final Four for the first time in franchise history when Lietuvos defeated Moscow Dynamo, 2-1, in a best-of-three game quarterfinal series.
In fact, it was Streimikyte and Douglas who led the dramatic surge in the final game against Dynamo, combining to score the final eight points of the game and leading Lietuvos from an eight-point deficit. Douglas finished the game with 15 points and eight rebounds. Streimikyte added 11 points and seven boards. Key WNBA stars playing for Dynamo included Elena Baranova (New York), Sue Bird (Seattle), Mwadi Mabika (Los Angeles) and Kamila Vodichkova (Phoenix).
On April 22, Lietuvos fell 66-58 to tournament-host Samara, Russia, in the semifinals, losing to the eventual champions who became the first EuroLeague team since 1995 to finish an entire season undefeated. Samara won 18 consecutive games en route to the title, and jumped to a 19-9 lead in the semis. Lietuvos fought within four points late in the game, but never got closer. Douglas led Lietuvos with 17 points, eight rebounds and six steals. Streimikyte added 12 points and four rebounds.
In a third-place game on April 24, Lietuvos overcame a sluggish first quarter to defeat MiZo Pecs of Hungary. After trailing 34-27 at the intermission, the third quarter belonged to the Lithuanians. Streimikyte tied the game at 42-42, and a third 3-pointer by Rima Valentiene gave Lietuvos its first lead of the game. Lietuvos surged ahead to a 10-point advantage in the final quarter, and won the game 66-58. Douglas again led Lietuvos with 19 points. After a poor first half, Streimikyte scored 12 second-half points to finish with 16.
Just more than two weeks after joining forces to claim the greatest finish in the Lithuanian franchise’s history, Streimikyte and Douglas each will have entered their next training camp, this time on opposing sides in the WNBA – with Streimikyte now playing in Douglas’ hometown of Indianapolis.