|Balazs Simon did a good job distributing the ball, dishing out a game-high six assists|
Hosts Szolnoki Olaj trailed EuroChallenge debutants Rilski Sportist for most of the night during the opening clash of the season between the two teams on Tuesday, but finished strong to clinch a 73-66 win.
The scores were tied at 60 with less than four minutes remaining in the Group H encounter but Szolnoki guard Willie Warren scored seven of his game-high 20 points in that final stretch to lift his team to their opening night success.
The Bulgarian newcomers to the competition made their intentions known right from tip-off and led by as many as 12 points (14-2) in the first quarter, before a 10-0 Szolnoki run turned the clash into the tight affair that fans in Hungary would witness for the rest of the night.
Rilski led 34-31 at half-time and Evan Ravenel and Corin Henry capitalised on Szolnoki turnovers to score easy baskets in transition in quick succession and open up an eight-point gap for the guests, 44-36, midway through the third quarter.
Warren with five quick-fire points brought the hosts within a point's distance, 48-47, shortly before the end of the period, and the same player drilled a triple to finally give Szolnoki the lead, 52-51, with 7:50 remaining in the final frame.
Rilski would not give up so easily though and Auston Calhoun sunk a jumper 4:37 from the final buzzer to restore the guests into the driver's seat, 60-58.
Big man Peter Lorant however took it upon himself to restore order and scored twice from the low post and then split two free throws with 2:48 on the clock to give Szolnoki some breathing space, 63-60.
Zlatin Georgiev was fouled by Lorant on the other end but missed both free throws and a chance to reduce the gap.
On the next possession, Warren split the Bulgarian defence and scored with a lay-up to give Szolnoki a five-point lead for the first time in the game, 65-60, with just 2:16 left to play.
Henry replied on the other end but Tomislav Ivosev swiftly restored Szolnoki's five-point cushion with another lay-up and Warren made it 69-62 with only 54 seconds to the final buzzer to seal Szolnoki's victory.
Warren had seven rebounds and five assists to go with his 20 points, while Ivosev went a perfect 7-for-7 from the field and finished with 16 points and eight rebounds.
For Rilski, Henry and Sean Barnette scored 15 points apiece, the latter also adding eight rebounds and four assists in a losing effort.
Rilski Sportist Player Yordan Bozov
"We started the game very well and we surprised the home team with our zone defence. In the second period they came back into the game and we missed some open shots. At the end of the game we missed again some open shots then the home team could score three points. Congratulations to Szolnoki for the win."
Rilski Sportist Head Coach Rosen Barchovski
"I 100% agree with my players. We started the game well and our defence was good, but in the second quarter they came back and we let them score. The two reasons why we lost this game: 1. Willie Warren again played good in the second half. 2. This team is without experience, eight players left us since last season, so this is a new team and I'm sure with time we will be better and better."
Szolnoki player Akos Horvath
"We started the game very bad but in the second quarter we came back into the game and concentrated better. We had a lot of stupid mistakes in this game but we will work on it in the future."
Szolnoki Head Coach Nedeljko Asceric
"It was a hard game and we started the game very very badly. We missed a lot of open shots and the big problem was that these shoots were 2-3 metres from the basket. To be honest I was a little bit scared about this game because I have experienced that after one good and big win teams can play bad....I think this game was my mistake too, not because we had only one practice, it was because I could not prepare them mentally to concentrate and start the game with enough energy."