By Yarone Arbel
In the last game of Group E on Sunday night Latvia secured their spot in the final round and become the first team in EuroBasket 2007 to beat Belgium after a huge thriller.
Latvia used a key steal by Gunta Basko with 11 seconds left to seal a 69-66 win, and clinch their spot among the top eight of Europe.
"In the end we made some mistakes because we were tired from catching up," said Belgium's Ann Wauters who was on fire tonight.
She had 30 points and nine rebounds and for a long stretch single-handedly kept Belgium in the game.
|For Ann Wauters it was a heroic performance that ended in a loss.|
Her three-point shot at the buzzer bounced on the rim and went out, but shouldn't take a thing from her heroic performance tonight.
After scoring only 26 points in the first two quarters the winners used the hot hand of Anete Jekabsone-Zogota and Gunta Basko to score 28 points in the third and take a 10 point lead.
"This was an exciting game for everyone," said Jekabsone-Zogota who had 27 points, seven rebounds and four assists tonight.
"We played very good defense, which was very difficult considering Belgium have a great player like Wauters, who had a fantastic game," concluded Jekabsone-Zogota who also nailed the last two free throws in the game after Basko's steal, finishing a perfect night from the line.
Wauters dominated the paint in the first quarter and with eight points carried Belgium to an 18-11 lead.
Wauters continued to score at will and by half-time had collected 14 points, half of her team's total and just enough to stay on top 28-26.
Two minutes inside the second half Wauters was still on fire, banking her 18th point and
giving Belgium a 34-29 lead, but that's when Latvia had enough.
|Gunta Basko recorded a key steal for Latvia as time wound down.|
On defense it was team work to limit the intimidating Belgium star, while at the other end Jekabsone-Zogota and Basko stepped up.
Latvia took off on a 14-2 run in the next five minutes of which Jekabsone-Zogota had seven.
Even when Wauters added five more points, it was too little to offset the Latvian push.
Basko stepped up with 10 points in the quarter after making none in the first half, the last five of them made it 54-44 with a single quarter to play.
"We let them score too easy four three-pointers in a row in the third quarter and that really hurt us," said a disappointed Wauters after the game, but her team wasn't ready to give up yet.
Down by nine with less than five minutes to play Belgium gave one last effort to win, and finally realized Wauters won't be enough by herself.
Belgium managed an 11-2 run in the following three minutes, of which Wauters scored only three, to tie the game at 63-63 and make things interesting.
Basko and Jekabsone-Zogota made it a four point game again, but it still wasn't over.
With 45 seconds on the clock and her team down by four Wauters showed she's made of star material.
Double-teamed by Latvia she dished out a big pass to Irina Medvedeva who nailed a huge three-pointer and made it just 67-66, but in the next possession Belgium woke up from the comeback dream.
Jekabsone-Zogota hit twice from the line to make it a three point game, before the rim stopped Wauters' last chance attempt.
Latvia will take on Germany tomorrow, while Belgium will fight for a better position against the Czech Republic.