by Yarone Arbel
Latvia survived in the U16 European Championship Division A after beating Israel 65-62 in the closing game of the Classification Round at Osnovna Skola Jugoslavija in Bar, Montenegro on Sunday afternoon.
The happy camp held a 10 point gap with 76 seconds to play, and managed to maintain it despite the pressure from the Israeli side, in a game that both sides had to win in order to survive, but only one could.
Israel drop to Division B for the first time ever in with the U16 generation, but after last summer, when the U18 and U20 teams got relegated as well, all the youth national teams of Israel will play in the lower level of the championships next summer.
Ceslavs Mateikovics starred for Latvia with 23 points and nine rebounds as he set his tournament highs in both categories exactly when his team needed him. Sandis Ceplitis added 12 as another player who wrote his tournament high in crunch time.
Maxim Kikus led Israel with 18 points and Egor Koulechov collected 11 with seven rebounds.
Latvia won the rebounds battle 48-31 and pulled down no less than 17 offensive boards that eventually made the difference.
A balanced first half finished with Latvia up 33-28, and remaining on top after the half, but used the early minutes of the closing quarter to take a 50-40 lead with nine minutes to play.
Israel came back to minus six, but then saw Oskars Reinfelds cap a 7-0 run with a big three pointer to set the gap on 13, and made it too difficult for Israel to come back, and allow the 1995 generation of his country to participate in the top competition of their age group next summer.
In the second game Denmark beat Germany 77-72 to write their second and last win in Division A before moving back to the lower division. Denmark started the tournament with a win and finished with a win but in between lost all their games inbetween. The game had no influence on the finals standings of either of the teams as the Danish already were relegated and Germany secured their spot in Division A already yesterday.
Peter Moeller led the Danes with 18 points, Adam Holm-Weber added 14 with six assists and David Knudsen scored 14 as well. Mauricio Marin led Germany with 17 and Dominic Lockhart had 12 with eight rebounds.