Latvia clinched the 4th spot in Group A with a 2-3 record and made it to the quarter-finals. The wins over Croatia and Spain were crucial and gave Latvia the advantage in the tie-breakers, but last night against Greece the Latvian journey came to an end. For Gatis Jahovics, the leading star of the Latvian team, making it to the quarter-finals is considered a success for the Latvian team, especially with their big man, Kasparas Berzins, sitting out due to an injury in the last 3 games.
Andris Biedrins was supposed to be here with the team if he hadn’t been drafted for the NBA, but with the help of Jahovics, who posted 14.1 points, 7.7 rebounds and 2.7 assists, including a double-double of 20 points and 10 rebounds today vs. Serbia & Montenegro, Latvia reached the top 8.
Jahovics grew up in Skonto, but during the last year he was signed by one of the top teams in the Polish league – Anwil Wloclawek, where he will continue to play in the following season as well. Tomorrow he’ll play against the Czech Republic for the 7th place in the championship and from there take off to his first full season outside his home country.
You seemed very upset after today’s loss against Serbia & Montenegro, was there any special reason?
"I guess we just wanted to win very badly, despite the fact the 5th place isn’t good enough for a world championship ticket. We came back from behind, and got really close, but missed the last 2 shots and lost the game, so it was disappointing."
Are you happy with making it to the quarter-finals, or did you expect more?
"The quarter-finals is a good result for Latvia. Yesterday against Greece we could have played better, but we missed our center and without him the tallest player in our team is something like 2 meters so its very hard to play like that at this level."
Jahovics in action for Latvia
"When I came to Anwil there were already two Latvian players there, so it was easier to start like that. I left Skonto at the end of January, so I was away from home for only 3-4 months, and for a first time it was a good thing to help me adjust."
Who are your favorites to make it to the finals?
"Lithuanian play very good as a team, and I think they will win the first semi-finals. It’s a very tough call about the second semi-finals but I think Greece will win. Vasileiadis is one of the best players in this championship."
What can you tell us about basketball in Latvia? In Lithuania Basketball comes before Football, is it the same came in your country?
"You know Latvian team in football made it to Euro 04 in Portugal so obviously that got a lot of attention, and at the moment football is #1. But when the basketball national team played in Eurobasket 03 in Sweden, that was in the spotlight. In the Latvian league you can see 5,000 people come to the big games between Skonto and Ventsplis."