|Jelena Ivezic fueled Gospic with 12 points and 7 rebounds before fouling out|
Gospic Croatia came from behind in the fourth quarter and ruined the opening night of the EuroLeague Women for Rivas Ecopolis in Spain.
Jelena Ivezic and Sandra Mandir, leading players for Croatia this summer in Poland when they clinched a fifth-place finish at the EuroBasket Women to seal a place in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament, combined for 24 points, 13 rebounds and five assists as Gospic prevailed, 74-69.
Point guard Julie McBride led Gospic in scoring with 15 points.
Early in the fourth quarter, Rivas had a 56-52 lead and they were still on top 60-58 midway through the final frame.
Mandir, a member of the all-tournament team at the EuroBasket Women in Poland, drove in for a lay-up to knot the game and then Ivana Jurcevic followed with a three-point play to silence the Rivas crowd.
The 34-year-old next fed Marija Vrsaljko, the team's 22-year-old center, and she scored to extend the lead to 65-60 with 3:15 to play.
Twice Rivas closed the gap to one, with Elisa Aguilar and Asjha Jones each making a pair of free-throws.
But with 55 second to go, McBride went in for a lay-up and after Carson missed from the arc, McBride was fouled by Aguilar and sank two more from the stripe for a 71-66 lead.
Gospic ended up with a five-point win.
Jones, having just finished a tour with the United States women's national team in Europe, had 19 points while Spain international Laura Nicholls had arguably her finest-ever game in the EuroLeague with 14 points and 13 rebounds.
Rivas missed all 11 of their shots from long range and Gospic weren't much better, hitting just four of 26.
Gospic CO Head Coach Stipe Bralic:
"I can say that I’m very happy because we won a very difficult game, Rivas is a very strong team with two excellent WNBA players, and four or five players in the Spanish national team. We didn’t play very well in offense in the first half, but on the second one we did better on the inside as well as on the outside, I think that’s where the key of the game was."
Gospic Guard Julie McBride:
"Well, we struggled a little bit offensively in the first half, but we played good defense. I had some troubles shooting oin the first half, but I could shoot well, which I needed, because I’ve been practicing a lot. So it’s a good break for us for the season, we have a good squad and we play well as a team, so It’s a good win for us to start the season."
Rivas Head Coach Miguel Méndez:
"We don’t have still our team the way we want to, it’s not an excuse, but we haven’t yet been able to practice with our complete squad, not even once. We lost Amaya today, we couldn’t play Sliskovic, and important players were suffering from minor injuries. We didn’t have good shots, but we have to find some other ways to win games."
Rivas Forward Vega Gimeno:
"We didn't play well for too many minutes. Our team was hurt by injuries, and the lack of practicing was clear when it came to set the tempo of the game. We didn’t also have any success with our shots. I don’t think Gospic is a better team than us, but we didn’t demonstrate it. We have to analyze in depth this game."