|On fire - Anton Gavel had 35 points and dished out six assists to propel the Slovak Republic to their first victory|
Stellar displays by Anton Gavel and Dusan Pandula paved the way for the Slovak Republic to claim their first success of the EuroBasket Qualification Round after the duo combined for 52 points in a thrilling 86-84 win in Iceland.
Gavel in particular really tormented the hosts, lighting it up with a game-high 35 points, including four triples to go with his six rebounds and six assists.
He also played an instrumental role in a dramatic finale when the Slovak Republic clung on to finally end their dreadful run of six straight defeats and also avenge their bitterly disappointing 81-75 home loss to their opponent earlier in the campaign.
It was an intense battle between two teams who have struggled to make any impression during the summer but with pride most definitely on the line, there was no let up as Iceland almost forced overtime right at the death.
But, Jon Stefansson couldn't make the play and a relieved Michal Batka was grateful to be able to cling on to the all-important rebound.
For the first thirty six minutes or so, both teams tried to make decisive runs to break the game open but it just didn't happen.
When Gavel fired back-to-back triples to put his team 82-76 ahead with just over two minutes left on the game clock, it looked like Slovak Republic would be easing away to victory.
Led by Hlynur Baeringsson, who finished with 21 points and 12 rebounds, Iceland fought back but just couldn't manage to get the pendulum to swing their way in the closing moments.
Pandula added 17 points for Slovak Republic.
Iceland head coach Peter Öqvist
"Defense in the first half is the major thing that went wrong. We made too many mistakes on defence and we didn't have the aggressiveness needed. Also, when you're one step late it translates into our defensive position and defensive rebounding and they stepped off the court at half-time with 13 offensive rebounds and 49 points, that's too much. I think if we had played to our best ability on defence we could have gone into half-time with a lead and that would have changed the momentum of the game. Instead we had a real tight one the whole time and today wasn't our day."
Slovak Republic head coach Peter Balint
"We didn't start very well. We didn't play defence in the first quarter. As the game progressed, our game got better, especially our defence. Anton Gavel scored an important three and got us up by 7 with little left and that's when we knew we would win the game. We have three tough away games left and we will play without Anton Gavel. We hope to play close games against them, it will be very very hard."
Slovak Republic player Anton Gavel
"We got our first win and we are very happy about that. Now we can finish the competition with a win. It was a tough game, it was close until the end and Jon [Arnor Stefansson] had the last shot and luckily for us he missed it. Now we go on to play Serbia, Israel and Montenegro away from home and these places are tough, probably not games that we can think about winning. We know the qualities of these teams and we are probably not going to be able to win, with or without me."
Iceland player Hlynur Baeringsson
"They got 13 offensive boards in the first half and some easy baskets from that. Then Anton Gavel had a great game for them and killed us time and time again. It hurts that we can't play better than we did today and get a win."