Ziga Fifolt and Slovenia recorded an important win over the Czech Republic in an intense encounter
Slovenia had to push back a gutsy Czech Republic time and time again but eventually secured a precious 78-72 victory on the third day of Group C action at the Sportland U20 European Championship.
The Slovenians are now in an excellent position for a top-three finish in the group with a 2-1 record, while the Czechs are yet to taste success after two encounters.
The Czech Republic entered the clash looking more focused but once Slovenia discovered a simple solution on the offensive end, they put it to good use to gain some control over proceedings.
They kept feeding big man Ziga Dimec in the low post and he scored 14 points on 6-for-7 shooting from the field in the first half to send his team to the locker rooms with a 38-34 advantage.
Slovenia kicked off proceedings in the third quarter by claiming their biggest lead in the game, eight points, but the Czechs changed their approach with Tomás Kyzlink and Samuel Faifr repeatedly driving to the basket and splitting Slovenian defence to bring their team back up, 58-55 at the end of the period.
Three turnovers on consecutive possessions by the Czechs though enabled a 9-0 Slovenian run that was capped by a Gregor Hrovat lay-up in transition with 5:54 on the clock.
The Czechs fought until the final seconds but Slovenia kept their calm at the free throw line to hold off the assault and celebrate victory.
Dimec finished with a game-high 24 points and added seven rebounds, Hrovat added 11 points while Miha Lapornik and Luka Rupnik chipped in with 10 points apiece.
Kyzlink, Faifr and Martin Kríz combined for 55 of Czech Republic's points, with the latter also grabbing a game-high eight rebounds.