Italy came back from a 14-point second half deficit to knock off Latvia 72-65 on Sunday and finish undefeated at 3-0 in Group D of the U20 European Championship Men.
Pietro Aradori made two foul shots and a three-pointer in the final 45 seconds to secure the victory for the co-hosts Italy, who were playing in Nova Gorica while fellow hosts Slovenia played in Gorizia.
Aradori scored 11 points and Luigi Da Tome scored 13 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for Pino Sacripanti's team, who forced Latvia into 22 turnovers but were given all they could handle by the Baltic nation.
"We just came into the game not focused and they're a pretty good team. So we just had to play to the end," said Italian guard Daniel Lorenzo Hackett, who had nine points, four rebounds, five assists and three steals.
|Pietro Aradori brought Italy out of trouble in the final minute|
Italy used a 12-2 start to pull ahead 20-12 after one period. The lead shrunk to 37-31 at half-time, and Latvia turned up their game in the third period, opening a 53-39 lead with a 22-2 run out of the locker-rooms.
Sacripanti called a time-out and the break worked with Italy ripping off a 15-2 surge to close the third quarter down just 55-54.
Latvia were down 60-59 with 3:12 to play and Latvia's top weapon Ronalds Zakis was sent to the free throw line for two foul shots. After missing the first one, he was given a technical and tossed from the game, leaving Raivo Otersons without his leading scorer - 25 points - and rebounder - 10 rebounds.
Kristaps Kanbergs made Zakis's second foul shot but Da Tome made both free throws from the technical foul and Alessandro Piazza drained a three-pointer for a 65-60 advantage. Da Tome's jumper made it a seven-point game and Reinis Strupovics hit a jumper for a 67-65 contest with 1:01 to play.
But Aradori finished off the Latvians, who lost all three games in Group D and will now face relegation to Division B in the Classification Games.
Italy move onto the Qualifying Round Group F along with Bulgaria and Georgia. The three teams will play Spain, Israel and Croatia in the next round.
In the other group game Ivan Lilov missed two free throws with no time remaining on the clock to give Georgia a 75-74 victory over Bulgaria in Group D of the U20 European Championship on Sunday.
Georgian player Mikhail Berishvili fouled Lilov after he grabbed an offensive rebound, sending Lilov to the charity stripe with no one else on the court.
Lilov had made two free throws to give Bulgaria a 74-73 lead with 56 seconds remaining. But he missed both foul shots in attempting at least to send the game to over-time.
Giorgi Gaprindashvili's two free throws with 13 seconds - to make it 75-74 - ended up being the difference.
Georgia led 22-12 after one period but only 36-35 at half-time.
It was 56-52 after three quarters for Georgia and they led 71-64 with four minutes to play before Bulgaria fought back.
Mikhail Chochua led the way for Georgia (2-1) with 22 points, Lasha Parghalava had 17 points and Giorgi Shermadini finished with 10 points and 13 rebounds.
Lilov and Chavdar Kostov each scored 16 points for Bulgaria (1-2) in a losing cause.