Day 1 Women: ESP 80 - CZE 78
Spain edge thriller with Czechs
ATHENS (Olympics) - It took an entire day's play but the women's basketball tournament at the Olympics finally got a nail-biting finish as Spain edged the Czech Republic 80-78 in overtime.
In a battle between two of Europe's finest sides, a three-pointer at the buzzer by Laia Palau saved Spain and sent the game to overtime.
The Spanish then did just enough in the extra period to win, leaving the Czechs in disarray with their next game up against gold medal favourites Team USA.
Spain, who came from behind by 18 points to stun Poland and win the bronze medal at the European Championships to qualify for the Games, were elated after the contest.
"We have good players under pressure," said Spanish star Amaya Valdemoro to PA International. "Laia Palau hit that incredible shot."
In the final minute of regulation, things looked bleak for Spain.
Trailing 65-64, Valdemoro misfired in close with 20 seconds remaining.
Valdemoro then fouled Hana Machova with eight seconds left, and the Czech guard made both free throws.
But Spain inbounded the ball to Palau and she dribbled up court before letting one fly from the right behind the arc to tie the game at 67-67.
In the extra period, the both teams led, but it was Spain who moved in front for good with 2:01 left when Rosi Sanchez made a three-pointer for a 79-76 Spanish advantage.
The Czechs went to the other end and first Machova missed in close and then Eva Viteckova.
Spain were unable to extend the lead and the Czechs pulled to within one when Ivana Vecerova scored in the lane with 46 seconds remaining.
Sanchez missed again for Spain, giving the ball back to the eastern Europeans, but Jan Bobrovsky's side was left wanting as Vecerova was off target with five seconds left in the game.
After a timeout, Zuzana Klimesova fouled Valdemoro and the Spanish talisman made the first but missed the second.
Machova grabbed the rebounded, dribbled up the court and released her shot inside the arc but it was off target and time expired.
"I'm extremely disappointed," Klimesova said to PA International. "However, this is the Olympics and I think it's excellent that there are such tough games. It's better to play in a game that is so close to the end."
Contemplating the next game against the United States, Klimesova added: "I think as soon as we saw they were in our bracket, we realised we had the most difficult game to play.
"But what can we hope for other than to play against the best to allow us to see how good we really are."
|Press conference quotes:|
Laia PALAU (ESP) - Forward
On her tying three-pointer at the end of the regular time:
"If it wasn't me, I am sure that someone esle would have done it. I don't care about being the best scorer, the only thing to care about is winning the game."
Madariaga VALDEMORO (ESP) - Forward
"We did a great job. We didn't give up and we fought until the last minute. It is a big step to the quarterfinals."
Hana MACHOVA (CZE) - Guard
"When the game goes to overtime, sometimes the winner is not the best team. I would say that the details are those who judge a game and we had bad luck at the end. We need to step up trying to win the next game against USA."
Lubor BLAZEK - assistant coach (CZE)
On the game:
"It's very hard to talk about a game like this, since we lost it in the end. It's very sad we started this way, but we still believe that the end will be happier for us. We played nervously, we made many mistakes and we paid for them."
On the absence of Lucie BLAHUSKOVA (CZE):
"She is a very good player, but since she's injured we must try to play in a different way. We don't look back as far as our roster is concerned, we believe we picked the best team possible."
Michaela PAVLICKOVA (CZE) - player
On the match:
"We were nervous in the beginning, and Spain got ahead, but we stayed together as a team and came back into the game. Our biggest mistake was to allow that three-pointer (on which Laia PALAU tied the game in regulation time)."
Rosa SANCHEZ (ESP) - player
On the result:
"It was a game both teams could have won. As a team, the Czech Republic is taller than us, so we made a big effort trying to overcome the height disadvantage. We won the game because we were determined to win it. The next one against China will be one more difficult game for us."
Vicente RODRIGUEZ - Head coach (ESP)
On the game:
"It was a marvelous game to watch, although if I coach another five games like this one it will be the end of my career. It is very important to win in your first game, even if you don't play well, because it's good for psychology to have three teams behind you. Moreover, the Czech Republic is one of our biggest rivals on the way to the top four."
On the upcoming game against China:
"China has developed tremendously compared to the last World Championships. They are a young team, but they play very physically, they have a strong inside game, they are quick in offence and have great outside players. They are a really dangerous team."
On the contribution of Amaya VALDEMORO (ESP) in the end:
"She has fully recovered physically, but has been away from competition for quite a while and started training regularly just five days ago. But she is a very competitive player and helped us a lot in the end, when we needed her against the tall Czech forwards."
From Jeff Taylor, PA International, Athens