Sopron and Aix-en-Provence both went into today’s EuroLeague Women game knowing that the winner would take a significant step towards the play-offs.
Both clubs had identical 6-4 records before the game and as it turned out, 2 overtimes were needed before a winner could be found.
The stakes were definitely high for all the players and it showed early on, as both teams struggled to find their rhythm. Gordana Kovacevic opened Sopron’s account with 6 points, but Aix quickly replied with two 3-pointers of their own.
Aix made the first mini-break and led by up to 8 points in the 1st quarter, but Sopron soon countered and came back to within 3. Both teams also faced other problems as Oxana Zakalyuzhnaya and Iveta Bielikova picked up 4 early fouls, while Aix center Sonja Kireta was forced to the bench with an injury.
Led by Serbia and Montenegrin national team captain Lara Mandic, Aix kept up the pressure on Sopron, and they led 40:33 in the 3rd quarter. Sopron again fought back, to set up an intriguing 4th quarter.
The advantage see-sawed in the last period of regulation and neither side could establish control. It was Aix though who had the clearest chance, when forward Magali Lacroix found herself on the free throw line with 3 seconds to go and her team down by 1-point. The pressure told though, and she made 1/2, not enough for the win but enough to send the game into overtime.
For the fans in attendance, the excitement was only just beginning. With 90 seconds to go Sopron led by 3-points, but a scoring flurry from Aix saw them take a 3-point lead with the clock showing just 10 seconds remaining.
Gordana Kovacevic responded immediately. She stepped up for the home team and nailed a 3-pointer (she hit 3/3 on the night) and the game was headed into a 2nd overtime.
With momentum further in their favour, as well as the homecourt advantage, Sopron just refused to lose. Although 5 of their players were on the bench with 5 fouls, they outscored Aix 15:11 in the second OT to earn what must have been their toughest win of the season.
As well as hitting the game-tying 3-pointer, Kovacevic scored a game high 32 points to earn MVP honours.
Mandic put up a heroic effort for Aix, contributing 28 points, 12 rebounds and 5 assists in the losing effort. French national team center Natalie Lesdema had 12 points, 13 rebounds, 5 steals and 4 blocks.
Abdou N'Diaye, Head Coach, Pays d’Aix:
“Congratulations to Sopron! I’m sad, because we lost a game, which we could have won. But I’m happy that we played a very good game. I think we can learn from it for the future and how to win a game like this.”
Natalia Hejkova, Head Coach of Euroleasing-Orsi Sopron:
“I’m very proud of my team! We knew this would be an important game for us. So we had to fight not only with Aix but with our nerves too. We played nervously in the first quarter. But we didn’t give up! I have never had a game in my career, which we won with only five players. But today we did it! So we could be very proud.”
Gordana Kovacevic, Euroleasing-Orsi Sopron:
“Both teams had the chance to win today. We made it, what makes me very happy. I think, someone who has never seen a basketball game so far, and this game here was his first, will from now on go to watch basketball games! I’m very proud for our fans! With their help, we couldn’t lose this game. We had to win it! Thank you!”