The 14-year career of this lady has come to an end. Today, for the first time since 1998/99 Euroleague Women will kick off its season without a team from Gdynia. That has been one hell of a career. Twice a runner-up may sound as not that big of a deal for such a stretch of time. But that’s not the case, during that time half of bball world has played for Gdynia, the other half played against us, and for that I truly feel I have seen it all. It’s a shame we never got the cup to raise, but hey, who says we’re done for good? Who knows, maybe some day we’ll come back a try once more?
The debut wasn’t explosive. We lost the very first game to Bourges and finished the season 3-11. But that new quality of play needed to participate in ELW brought a very first American to Polish soil – Chantel Tremitiere. Expected to be stunning good she never was, and went home early. But the seed was planted and soon more and more overseas players appeared in Poland. That season also brought back Margo Dydek from Spain and she stayed put until 2004 – the times Lotos shined most.
As for 1998/99 the title has been snatched by SCP Ruzomberok a team form a small Slovakian city, which also has a great history behind, shame they dissapeared once as we did this year. What’s more impressive they made it back-to-back titles after a probably most epic grand final games ever – beating Bourges after a double overtime. Iveta Belikova, Alena Kovacova and the young Zuzana Zirkova beat the likes of Cathy Melain, Yannick Souvre and Audrey Sauret-Gillespie. You have to remember – those were not the times, when all you had to do was grab Diana Taurasi, sit back and enjoy, the only way you strenghtened your team was grabbing an overproducted Russian-class players or (rarely) taking someone from other european country.
1999/00 was also the first time Lotos and Gambrinus Brno met in a match. Not known then, they have been our nemesis right to the end. Even in our best times playing against Brno was our worst nightmare. The likes of Romana Hamzova, Hana Horakova or Kamila Vodickova are remembered to this day as probably the most hated players on the planet if you ask a Lotos fan. That was a better season for us – went up to 7-7 and missed the playoffs by just one victory, but the real fun part was bringing in a Monarch duo – a point guard, who basically changed the meaning of that position globally and a shooting guard, who becamee famous because of her off-court life story. That was the first year of three with Patricia Nunes Penicheiro onboard, who made it with Lotos to our first runner-up season. Another familiar person playing that time was Edna Campbell, who also was supposed to return in 2002 if it wasn’t for the cancer treatment.
For 2000/01 the core stayed and we added Nicky McCrimmon to the roster. All went good – preliminary round with a record 4-2, then the group stage, where we really hit it off (4-0), then came the game that astonishes me to this moment, and never will stop: the only ELW 100+ win ever (146-39) over Sporting Athens (the time financial crisis stroke first and they sent a team of junior players to compete in that match) That team was good enough for a quarterfinal, but wasn’t good enough for… Brno. After winning game one and loosing on the road, we had game 3 on our court and were pretty much demolished. The dreams of F4 had to be pospoted once again… But not for long…