NEWBERRY – Current and former Newberry student-athletes have played pivotal roles in their basketball teams’ successes as four Wolves have taken to the court in Europe.
Nicola Handreck will return to Newberry for her senior season with significant hardware in tow. The rising senior sparked a fourth-quarter comeback for Malta in a 52-50 win over Luxembourg to win gold in the 2017 Games of the Small States of Europe. Handreck holds dual citizenship in Malta and Australia—her grandparents emigrated to Australia, where Handreck resides, after growing up on the small island nation.
Playing in the host nation of the Most Serene Republic of San Marino, an enclave of Italy and the world’s fifth-smallest country at 24 square miles, Handreck and her Maltese teammates trailed Luxembourg 40-38 early in the fourth quarter of the gold medal game.
As the clock ticked below seven minutes to play, Handreck dribbled the ball to the left wing and found a cutting teammate for a pull-up 10-footer on the left side of the lane, knotting the score for the first time since the first period and forcing a Luxembourg timeout.
Luxembourg took a brief 42-40 lead before a Handreck bucket retied the score moments later. After a Malta defensive rebound, Handreck was lost in transition by the Luxembourg defense. She slid into the corner and buried an open triple to give Malta a lead it would not relinquish with just over five minutes remaining.
Her impressive run continued two possessions later, as a pass in transition was too long for a sprinting Luxembourg guard. Handreck dove toward the baseline and tapped the ball back in bounds for a steal. She then found an open teammate who connected on a three that stretched Malta’s lead to 48-42 with 4:12 to play and completed a 16-2 run spanning the first six minutes of the final period.
In all, the Maltese team outscored Luxembourg 20-10 in the fourth period, staving off a late rally to take a 52-50 win and earn the nation’s third gold medal after victories in the 2003 and 2011 editions.
Teammate Courtney Lyons is competing this summer for Scotland. Lyons is set to begin qualifying next week for the 2018 Commonwealth Games, a quadrennial competition of members of the Commonwealth of Nations (primarily comprised of countries in the former British Empire).
With the 2018 Commonwealth Games set to take place in Gold Coast, a city in Queensland that is Australia’s sixth-largest, Lyons and Handreck could potentially square off in their home country while representing different nations.
Dragana Petkovska, a product of Macedonia, redshirted this season following her arrival in Newberry for the spring semester. She is representing Macedonia as the team attempts to qualify for the 2019 European Championships. Competition begins June 26 in Skopje, the Macedonian capital.
Alumnus Aegir Steinarsson has averaged 5.3 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 3.9 assists per game this season for second-division Spanish team Club Baloncesto Miraflores. The club is currently up 2-0 in a best-of-five championship series, with the winner set to be promoted from LEB Oro, its current league, into the top division of Spanish basketball known as Liga ACB.
With a promotion into Liga ACB, Steinarsson and his CB Miraflores teammates would earn the opportunity to play against European powerhouses such as Real Madrid (33 league titles and nine EuroLeague championships) and Barcelona (18 league titles and two EuroLeague championships).
Steinarsson, who was a Newberry point guard from 2011-13, helped CB Miraflores to a 24-10 record in the regular season and an 8-0 mark thus far in the LEB Oro playoffs. He remains a member of the national team in his native Iceland and will join them after the playoffs conclude.
“We are extremely proud of Aegir and happy for him,” said Newberry coach Dave Davis. “He is one of the hardest workers I have coached at Newberry and he continues to get better and better due to his dedication and work ethic.”
When Steinarsson rejoins his Icelandic teammates, he will quickly begin competition in FIBA EuroBasket. Twenty-four teams will compete in this championship tournament hosted in four European countries and organized by FIBA Europe. The tournament begins with group stage competition on Aug. 31, with teams organized into four six-team groups. The four champions advance to a single-elimination tournament that will crown a champion on Sept. 17.