By Jeff Taylor
A EuroBasket Women that promised so much for Latvia and Slovakia has ultimately delivered no rewards on the court.
Both have given the competition some incredible rides, especially in their Qualifying Round meeting on June 13 when Pokey Chatman's team upset the Latvians.
That game seemed to confirm Slovakia's arrival to the elite of women's basketball, but three straight defeats since - two to Greece and an overtime setback to Belarus in the Quarter-Finals, have left the players bewildered and full of appreciation for how difficult it is to win games at the business end of a EuroBasket.
For Latvian basketball, it has been an emotional 48 hours.
If championships were decided by the amount of passion fans have for a national team, the Latvians would already be gold-medal winners.
After an overtime defeat to Russia late Thursday night in the Quarter-Finals, and Friday's 68-66 OT defeat to Italy, international basketball knows it will not have one of the best-supported national sides at next year's FIBA World Championship for Women in the Czech Republic.
Instead, Latvia's players and fans will take a deep breath, learn from the experience and get ready for the 2011 EuroBasket Women qualifying campaign.
It's hard to believe that it's come to this for the Baltic country.
Latvia had defending champions Russia on the ropes in the last eight, only to fall 69-64 in a game for the ages.
The battle for seventh place will be Ainars Zvirgzdins' last in charge of Latvia, with the coach confirming on Friday that he is stepping down at the end of the tournament.
Zvirgzdins led Latvia to a fourth-place finish at the 2007 EuroBasket Women and guided them to the Beijing Games via the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
It was the national team's first appearance at The Games.
The Slovakia clash is a must-win game for Latvia.
"We want to win that game for our fans," said Latvia's Gunta Basko.
"They deserve it for having supported us all the way and in winning, that will be one way to thank them."
Last Time Out: Slovakia beat Latvia 78-69 in the Qualifying Round.
Stats: Greece held Slovakia to 36% (24 of 66) shooting from the floor and also forced them to commit 19 turnovers. Latvia were just five of 24 (21%) from three-point range against Italy.
Key Match-Up: Latvia's Basko v Martina Gyurcsi
X-Factor: The Riga Arena crowd.
Sounding Off: "I'm so sorry for the girls, we did a good job during the preparation. I hope we will finish this tournament with a victory" - Slovakia's Gyurcsi