The closing of the tournament marked a game to determine the final participants in the European Championships in Spain. Croatia and Latvia met in front of a packed auditorium to the delight of the organizers.
Both teams went into the game cautiously, testing the opponent. "Don't set the pace" decided Andris Biedrins, the man the Croatian team feared.
The Latvian center, without mistakes led his team to a 24:17 lead. In only eight minutes he forced the opponent's center (Jure Lalic) with personal fouls while at the same time managed 12 points.
Quickly the home team decided to double guard the first string of the Latvian orchestra.
nfortunately nothing significant was gained by this tactic by the Croatians because Biedrins answered by assisting to free team members.
In the locker room Damjan Rudez bravely decided to disregard yesterday's injured knee. Croatia finally had an able and energetic forward on the court, and the results were quickly evident.
Led by a loud and supportive audience, the newly animated Croatian team went to lead 54:49, made possible by phenomenal series of 15:2. In those moments Rudez and Hrvoje Kovacevic dominated, while Milan Kolovrat played a significant role in the paint.
Into the fourth quarter Biedrins, with a resurgence of energy, managed to block Croatian tries, while guards Raimonds Elbakjans and Edgars Jeromanovs managed to initiate a 15:3 series which the Croatian team could not match.
When Agnis Cavars made a three-pointer and in the deciding moments managed two offensive rebounds, Latvia's celebration could begin. The final score was 75:67 (25:22, 38:30, 47:50).
At 19 points and 12 rebounds was Biedrins, Cavars stood at 12 rebounds and 10 baskets, while Jeromanovs (3/13) had 16 hits. The European Champions who will not have an opportunity to defend their title were led by Kovacevic with 19 points (8/18 shots) as well as Kolovrat, who in 20 minutes of play tallied 14 points and 8 rebounds.
"We were strong when we needed to be. We knew that Croatia was a strong opponent and we prepared for a hard game. For the win, and for advancing further, we played our best game of the tournament today!" declared Andris Biedrins.