A declaration of intent by the Latvian team was written in Group B following a 75-70 win over Spain in the OMNITEL U18 European Championship at the Siemens Arena in Vilnius, Lithuania on Saturday evening.
With the victory Latvia finish Group B in the top spot with 3-0 while Spain reached the 2nd place after suffering their debut loss.
|Edmunds Dukulis stepped up in great fashion to help Latvia spring a major upset of Spain|
Edmunds Dukulis and Davis Bertans were the top scorers of Latvia with 17 points each followed by 3 players with 11 points each - Arturs Bremers, Janis Timma and Andris Misters.
Alejandro Barrera scored 14 for Spain and Joan Tomas added 11.
Latvia stormed the court from the tip off and left little doubts on who's the boss of the court, but Spain kept coming back again and again forcing the eventual winner to step up in the closing minutes.
"We didn't expect to have 3 wins already in the Preliminary Round," said Ziedonis Jansons, the winning coach.
"Before the championship I thought of this option only in my dreams, but we play as a team and we play hard in every game, and that what brought us to this position."
After a 5-5 tie in the first minutes Spain disappeared from the court, leaving the stage to their opponent behind a 21-4 run.
Dukulis, Kaspars Vecvagars and Bertans tortured the Spanish side and the later capped the run with 5 points in a row, to stun their rival.
"It was a roller coaster game, but that's how junior games are," explained coach Jansons.
"The players are inexperienced and the level isn't the same for 40 minutes."
Michel Acosta combined 5 in a row to lead Spain back within touch distance, just 29-20 after 14 minutes, but Misters with a great drive kept his team far enough.
Joan Crues stepped up in a key possession to make it 41-34 at the end of the 1st half, and added a pair from the foul line to create a 3 point game early in the 3rd quarter.
Albert Ventura hit a big jumper to complete the comeback and now Spain already held a 46-49 lead, but Dukulis was focused on the line and Bremers with a big corner three pointer reveresed the score in favor of Latvia, 55-53.
Misters and Bertans stepped up with downtown bombs themselves, and before the Spaniards noticed it was a double-digit game again, 66-55 with 9 minutes on the game clock.
Yet Spain proved to be made of a tough material, and one last push put the locals under pressure.
Barrera converted the extra pass to a three pointer and with 87 ticks to play Latvia's lead narrowed to 70-66.
With the momentum on the other side Latvia looked for a saver and found it in Bertans, who, with big confidence released a huge off dribble three pointer and made it a 7 point game again.
Spain answered with 4 quick points and after a Bertans turnover had the chance to tie, but Jaime Fernandez missed the chance, and Latvia took advantage of it, to lock the win.