|Anna Cruz added 13 points for Rivas Ecopolis in a hard fought win over Taranto|
There is not a hotter team than Rivas Ecopolis right now in the EuroLeague Women.
The Spanish club won its fifth consecutive game in Group C in thrilling fashion on Thursday night, beating Cras Basket Taranto, 74-70.
Essence Carson had 15 points for Rivas while young duo Anna Cruz and Laura Nicholls, two players that figure to be lynchpins in the national team for years to come, had 13 apiece.
The visitors from Italy led 60-55 with 6:58 remaining after a jump shot by Megan Mahoney, who played for the Rest of the World at last season's All-Star Game.
Cruz hit a jumper, and both Carson and Vega Gimeno sank two free-throws to put Rivas in front.
Carson then followed with a three-ball for a 64-60 lead.
The game hung in the balance, though, when Taranto's Mahoney sank two from the charity stripe and Giorgia Sottana hit a jumper to cut the Rivas lead to 69-68 with 38 seconds to go.
Veteran guard Elisa Aguilar hit a jumper for Rivas and Gimeno followed with two more free-throws to make it 73-68 with seven seconds to play.
Angela Gianolla's two free-throws for Taranto reduced the arrears to three and Rivas coach Miguel Martinez Mendez decided to take no chances and called a timeout.
When play resumed, Taranto fouled Cruz and she split a pair of free-throws for the final score.
Nicholls led Rivas with eight rebounds.
Mahoney finished with a game-high 21 points for Taranto, who fell to 2-5.
Miguel Méndez (Rivas Ecópolis Coach):
"It's been a hard game against a very good team, it was a big win for us, that's my main lecture. It was hard because we did fail to set our rhythm into the game, thet brought a physical play to the game, and we struggle to play under such circumstances. But our virtue was to know where to find our options. This was an important game for the two teams, now we have an option to keep a good position in our group."
Vega Gimeno (Rivas Ecópolis Forward):
"We found the way to play when we lost our 11-point advangage, we knew how to stay calm, and that's where the key to this game was. We knew that the game wasn't already won, so we never lost our focus and were able to play well in the last minutes."
Ricardo Ricchini (Cras Basket Taranto Coach):
"This game had two faces. In the first half, we struggled to play, we faced many difficulties and Rivas Ecópolis got a good start. But then in the second half our team found its rhythm, we showed a better face. Unfortunately for us, they hit their shots in the final minutes to secure their win."
Megan Mahoney (Cras Basket Taranto Forward):
"We knew, comming to this game, that Rivas Ecópolis was a good squad with great chemistry. We fought hard to get to the final minutes with options, but they made great baskets on key plays, grabbed more rebounds, enough for them to secure the game."