|31 July 2008|
Kristers Zeidaks hit a lay-up at the final buzzer to hand Latvia a 79-75 victory over Russia, bouncing the Russians from the semi-finals of the U18 European Championship Men and giving Croatia a spot.
Zeidaks finished with 17 points while Kalvis Krumins poured in 30 and Armandis Osins added 12 for Varis Krumins's side, which finished 3-2 in Group F.
Latvia came into the game with a tough task ahead, knowing that they need a 26 point victory to overtake both Russia and Croatia to reach the semis.
Russia could have afforded a loss by one point and still reach the semi-finals. They were trailing 76-75 when Sergey Palkin took a jumper with nine seconds remaining. Latvia grabbed the rebound and called a time-out. Zeidaks drove to the basket, scored and was fouled by Kirill Slepukha and made the final free throw to end the game.
Pavel Antipov led the way for Alexey Vadeev's Russia team with 25 points while Palkin and Maxim Grigoryev both scored 13 and Teymuraz Babunashvili had 10. Russia finished the group with a 3-2 record and will now play in the 5th-8th place Semi-Final Round.
The first quarter was a real back-and-forth affair with 11 lead changes and the game was tied five times early. Russia's main weapon was Babunashvili, who collected 10 points as Russia lead 22-20 after one period.
Krumins opened the second with a three-pointer and Kristers Zeidaks basket made it 25-22 for Latvia. But the Russians buckled down defensively and Antipov and Grigoryev combined for 15 points in a 19-6 run to take control of the game at 41-29. The lead was 43-33 at half-time.
Latvia fought their way back into the game and were led by Krumins, who hit 11 points in helping Latvia knot the game at 54-54. Antipov scored a basket and then drained a three-ball for a 61-57 Russia lead after three periods.
Martins Laksa opened the fourth and Zeidaks's two free throws gave Latvia the lead 64-61. Antipov answered with a three-pointer but Krumins hit right back from long range. The game was even 74-74 when Grigoryev made jsut one of two foul shots for a 75-74 advantage. Zeidaks hit a driving lay-up to make it 76-75 with 43 seconds to play.
Russia turned the ball over with 26 seconds but Zeidaks was ruled for a back-court violation, giving Russia the ball back and setting up the final seconds.