Miha Lapornik and his Slovenia team-mates tried everything but their three-point win was not enough
Slovenia delivered one of their best performances at the Sportland U20 European Championship on Wednesday, but their 75-72 win over Spain fell 13 points short of a ticket to the quarter-finals.
Spain finished on top of Russia and Slovenia in the three-way tie that occured as a result and advance to the last eight, together with Russia, while Slovenia were left kicking themselves for coming so close to securing the desired 16-point win margin.
Slovenia entered the encounter with a game plan that involved using zone defence to force the Spaniards to take most of their shots from outside.
It worked wonders as Spain took 16 of their 30 shots from behind the three-point arc in the first half and shot poorly.
Spain were 3-for-16 from down-town and Slovenia took their biggest lead, 30-16, midway through the second quarter, before Spain managed to reduce the gap somewhat before the interval, 41-30.
Guillem Vives had missed all of his three three-point attempts in the first half, but when he came back for the third quarter he took four triples and drilled all four of them.
His accuracy was the main factor behind Spain's remarkable recovery in that period, as they outscored Slovenia 21-10 and tied the scores at 51 just before the final frame. Spain kept on and went ahead 56-51 at the start of the fourth but their accuracy for the night run out and they reverted to type, commiting five turnovers and misfiring on six triples until the final buzzer.
Slovenia reclaimed the lead but they no longer had enough time to rebuild the 16-point gap they needed, having to content themselves with the satisfaction of simply emerging victorious from the clash.
Luka Rupnik finished with 20 points for Slovenia, Ziga Dimec added 17 points and four rebounds and Tomaz Bolcina collected a double-double of 13 points and 13 rebounds.
Vives led all scorers with 24 points and Daniel Diez had 21 points and nine rebounds for Spain in defeat.