|Ingus Jakovics torched Slovenia for 20 points, four of them coming when it mattered most in the lastseconds of the game|
Latvia held on to clinch a 78-72 win over Slovenia on Monday, their fifth in a row at the Sportland U20 European Championship, and place one foot in the quarter-finals of the tournament in Tallinn.
The Latvians, who had carried over two of their victories from the First Round, now lead Second Round Group G with a 3-0 record while Slovenia dropped to 1-2.
What begun as a tight encounter, with the two sides effectively exchanging the lead to reach the first buzzer tied at 20, took a sudden turn in Latvia's direction when the Baltic side used a 15-2 run at the start of the second quarter to take a firm grip on proceedings.
Slovenia reduced the gap and were only trailing 40-31 at the half-time interval, but they were now forced to play catch-up for the rest of the night.
They decided to launch their attack immediately with the start of the second half and employed a full-court press to make life difficult for their opponents.
Latvia turned the ball over 22 times as a result of the pressure but whenever they reached the Slovenian basket they shot the ball with 50% accuracy, while Slovenia went 39% from the floor.
They remained however within striking distance thanks to their offensive rebounds (21 to Latvia's 11) and Matej Rojc collected the ball off a missed shot to bring Slovenia within just one point, 71-70, with 1:08 left on the clock.
Latvia maintained their composure and Janis Berzins, totally unaffected by the fact he had missed both his shots from long range up until that point, drilled the most crucial shot in the game from the corner, a triple that gave his team a 74-70 cushion with 52 seconds left to play.
Lapornik gave a last hope to Slovenia with a jumper 37 seconds from time but Ingus Jakovics kept his calm from the free throw line and then capitalised on a turnover to score again and give Latvia their six-point victory.
Jakovics led all scorers with 20 points and added four assists, Ojars Silins sunk five of his six three-point attempts and collected 16 points and five rebounds, while Andrejs Grazulis registered a 14-point, 10-rebound double-double.
For Slovenia, who missed enormously the sharp-shooting skills of the injured Gregor Hrovat, Tomaz Bolcina had 14 points and 11 rebounds while Ziga Dimec finished with 13 points and six boards.