by Yarone Arbel
Bulgaria made it to the Qualifying Round after a 69-66 victory over Latvia in a Group C game in the U16 European Championship at Osnovna Skola Jugoslavija in Bar, Montenegro on Saturday afternoon.
Bulgaria finish the group with a 2-1 record while Latvia dropped to 0-3 and will seek their debut win in the Classification Round.
Deyan Karamfilov led Bulgaria with 20 points and added five assists with six steals, Anton Dikov scored 17 while Nikolay Stoyanov had 15 points and eight rebounds.
Roberts Krastins and Toms Leimanis had 16 points each for Latvia while Ceslavs Mateikovics added 13 with seven rebounds.
Bulgaria had a terrible shooting day around the rim and hit less than 30% of their shots, but enjoyed a great day on the perimeter and collected 10 three pointers at 47.6%.
Latvia was strong in the game thanks to their domination on the boards where they pulled 46 rebounds against 33 by their rivals, but missed the final touch to write the upset and shock Bulgaria.
Leimanis hit twice from long distance to make it 11-12 early in the game, but Stoyanov was the main man of Bulgaria in this period and set a 17-12 game at the end of the first quarter.
The Bulgarians doubled the gap with the first two buckets of the second quarter, yet Krastins answered with the same coins, and inside the last three minutes of the first half Latvia was behind by a single point, 26-25.
The new situation in the game required reaction, and the first to do it was Bulgaria with the last five points of the half, and a 31-25 gap after 20 minutes.
Krastins started the second half with five quick points to make it a one point game again, but saw Bulgaria answer with two big hits from long range, and with Karamfilov scoring seven in a row it was already a 47-35 game 27 minutes in the game.
Before it was too late big guy Andris Kehris scored six points in a row, and carried his team back and when Ceslavs Mateikovics scored five in a row we had a tight game, 62-61 inside the last three minutes.
The tension built up before Vassil Mihaylov silenced the Latvians with a three pointer, Dikov added another two and Latvia were again too far behind.
Still down by just three the underdog had a chance to force overtime, but couldn't score in the last 40 seconds which allowed Bulgaria to complete the task and relax for a day before the next big games.