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Croatia Win Thriller To Reach Olympics

29 June 2012
OLYMPIC QUALIFYING TOURNAMENT

Jelena Ivezic (Croatia)
Ice-cool Jelena Ivezic stepped up in the stretch and led Croatia to victory over Canada and a place at the Olympic Games basketball tournament

Croatia wrote another famous chapter in their basketball history by defeating Canada 59-56 on Friday afternoon at the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament for Women (OQTW) in Ankara to earn a trip to the Olympics for the first time.

Trailing 46-41 heading to the last quarter, the Croatians shut out their opponents for the first 5:25 of the last frame and took the lead.

Natalie Achonwa's jumper knotted the Quarter-Final at 48-48 with 4:35 to go for Canada but Iva Ciglar, one of the leading players in the Croatian team at last year's EuroBasket Women, answered with a jumper in the paint 10 seconds later.

Canada pull level again, but Jelena Ivezic sank two free-throws with 3:40 to go to put Croatia in front to stay.

Ciglar, after stealing the ball from Krista Phillips, was fouled by Courtnay Pilypaitis and sank two free-throws.

Canada's captain Teresa Gabriele hit a jump shot to trim the deficit to two, but Croatia kept their noses in front and made five of six free-throws in the last 22 seconds to seal the win.

Croatia began last year's EuroBasket Women with an 86-40 drubbing at the hands of France yet rebounded from the setback and clinched fifth place with a 73-59 victory over Montenegro.

Now Stipe Bralic's side has remarkably sealed its place at the London Games.

Jelena Ivezic led a balanced Croatia attack with 12 points and Marija Vrsaljko, a newcomer to the side who didn't feature last year, added 10.

Other European teams that can qualify for the Olympics with Quarter-Final wins on Friday are the Czech Republic, Turkey and France.

The losers of the Quarter-Finals will battle it out for the fifth and final spot on offer at the OQTW to the London Games.

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