Defending champions Spain were given a fight but eventually wore down the inspired hosts Latvia 93-65 to grab first place in Group C of the Termosteps U16 European Championship Women.
Latvia - finalists in last year's Division B - trailed only 49-47 with four minutes left in the third quarter. But the three-time reigning champions scored the next 12 points on their way to showing they are a class above.
Cristina Pedrals Barrios (pictured) led the way with 26 points and 11 steals, while Vega Gimeno Martinez added 19 points, Amaya Gastaminza Ganuza had 13 points and Elena Diaz Blanco collected 10 points and nine rebounds for the Iberians.
|Noemie Mayombo's 17 points paced the Belgian team|
Ilze Gotfrida paced the hosts with 14 points and Sabine Niedola added 10 points and 14 rebounds in a losing effort. Latvia out-rebounded Spain 49-37 but committed 35 turnovers.
Latvia, playing in front of a packed crowd in Valmiera, led as late as 44-43 with six minutes left in the third quarter. But trailing 49-47, the inexperienced Latvians turned the ball over five times in the final four minutes of the third period to see Spain pull away. The champs refused to let up and the lead ballooned to 28 points late in the game.
In the other Group C match on Friday, Noemie Mayombo made three free throws in the final 17 seconds to give Belgium a 78-74 over Turkey.
Mayombo paced the Belgians with 15 points, including 11 of 13 free throws, five rebounds and four assists. Shamira Linskens and Julie Vanloo each hit 11 points off the bench and Jana Raman chipped in eight points and 10 rebounds.
Turkey were ahead most of the first half, but Belgium used a 19-5 run to go up 53-39 with four minutes left in the third. The Turks fought back and Gamze Takmaz's three-point play made it 75-71 with 48 seconds left.
Takmaz split two free throws to make it a three-point game and Turkey send Mayombo to the foul stripe, where she made three of four to off-set Rana Derin's jumper and finish off the game.
Takmaz led all scorers with 19 points and Safiye Simay Karaman hit for 17 points and seven rebounds but missed 11 of her 13 three-point attempts.
In Saturday's second day action, Spain tussle with Turkey while hosts Latvia battle Belgium.