Niedola Leads Latvia Out On High Note

20.06.2009

Struggling Latvia finished their EuroBasket Women campaign with a 67-59 victory over Slovakia on Saturday to capture seventh place.

After four straight losses, including narrow defeats to Russia in the Quarter-Finals and Italy in Friday's Classification Round game, the tournament hosts signed off with a win. 

Rising teenage star Sabine Niedola had a game-high 16 points and 11 rebounds in 24 mintues.

"Our aim going into the tournament was to fight for the medals," said Latvia's Anete Jekabsone-Zogota, who contributed 14 points.

"We are sad and disappointed to have finished seventh.

"But having given away a 22-point lead against Italy yesterday which I still don't know how that happened, today I am proud of my team because we showed that we are fighters."

The game was the last in charge for coach Ainars Zvirgzdins, who announced after the setback to Italy that he would step down after four years in charge.

Jekabsone-Zogota praised Zvirgzdins, who had led Latvia to a fourth-place finish at the 2007 EuroBasket Women and guided them to an historic first appearance at the Beijing Games via the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament.

"He is one of the best coach in Latvia and one of the best that I've had," said Jekabsone-Zogota.

"I'm sad for him.

"I want to thank him for his help and for teaching me all the things that he did."

Slovakia led 17-13 after the first quarter with Zane Tamane's nine points keeping Latvia close.

The hosts outscored the Slovaks 18-10 over the next 10 minutes, though, to take a 31-27 lead at the break with Jekabasone-Zogota scoring seven points in that quarter.

Zuzana Zirkova hit her first three of the game to put Slovakia on top at 39-38 with less than six minutes to play in the third.

With the contest tied at 43-43 after 37 minutes played, Latvia went on a 9-2 run with four different players contributing points.

Niedola's jumper with two minutes to go gave Latvia their biggest lead at 65-54 as the hosts held on for the win.

Despite Latvia's failure to qualify for next year's FIBA World Championship for Women in the Czech Republic, Jekabsone-Zogota remains optimistic about the future.

"I hope we will remain competitive," she said.

"We have young players that are stepping up like Niedola, who had a great game today.

"We hope we can get 10 Niedolas in the future.

"As for me, I'm a patriot. I love my country so I will continue to play for Latvia."

Lucia Kupcikova led Slovakia in scoring with 13 points.

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