Latvia broke into the U18 European Championship with a big boom following a 89-58 win over newcomer Sweden in the first game in Group B at Siemens Arena in Vilnius, Lithuania on Thursday afternoon.
Edmunds Dukulis led Latvia with 22 points and 7 rebounds, Davis Bertans added 19 and 9 boards while Andris Misters and Janis Timma scored 16 each.
|Edmunds Dukulis led all scorers with 22 points in the tournament opener|
Sweden saw double-digits only by Marcus Eriksson who reached 11.
"We didn't play many preparation games, so I didn't know what to expect of my players," said winning coach Ziedonis Jansons.
"It's my first European Championship as a coach and I was very excited, but the most important is the way my boys played - tough and aggressive on defense and that's what allowed us such a big margin win."
In their Division A debut Sweden didn't find the tools to stop the aggressiveness of Latvia who took over the game right from the start and held an 18 point lead at the break.
After the first 5 minutes it was already clear who's the boss on the court, as Latvia held a 15-3 lead and Sweden still looked for their 2nd field goal.
Jonathan Person finished a fast break to make it an 8 point game, but Timma was on fire early and piled up 11 points in the first 7:30 minutes that made the difference and put a comfortable 27-16 on the scoreboard at the end of the first quarter.
"Right from the start we allowed them too many easy baskets. We weren't mentally prepared for this game, as we should have." commented said Olle Lunden of the Swedish bench.
"I don't remember we ever played so soft. I asked my players to play tougher again and again but maybe the excitement of playing in such big arena in Division A had an effect."
Dukulis with a bucket and then an assist to a big dunk by Bertans pushed the gap to 44-20 and Sweden seemed lost with only 3 minutes to play in the 1st half, but then things started to connect.
Eriksson scored two times from the perimeter and Sweden was down just 44-28 after 20 minutes.
Latvia didn't let go and continued to break the soft Swedish defense, reaching the rim time after time for easy baskets, enough to take a 63-39 lead after 27 minutes.
Despite the big difference coach Jansons kept his best players on the court, not allowing Sweden a chance for damage control.