|Iva Slonjsak was the driving force for Croatia on Monday night|
The evening game in Albena saw Croatia come out on top 55-44 in a thrilling Group E match with Latvia at the U16 European Championship Women.
Iva Slonjsak continued her impressive play in the tournament, scoring the first five points for her team and pushing the ball hard up court at every opportunity in the first half.
The shots stopped falling for Croatia after their good start though, and they went scoreless in the last six minutes of the opening period, but the roles reversed in the second period as Latvia could not get any penetration, enduring a run of five minutes without a score.
They built momentum behind the Strautmane sisters' high-low post game, but Slonjsak found Anita Kelava on a pretty feed as Croatia took a 24-20 half-time lead.
Defense remained on top in the third period, with Kristiana Rikveile's deep three-pointer keeping her side within four. The influential Paula Strautmane (seven points, seven rebounds and seven assists) picked up her fourth foul in the quarter, but stayed in and continued to feed younger sister Digna, who ended with 21 points and 11 rebounds.
The teams hit a succession of big shots in the final quarter, with Digna Strautmane and Slonjsak trading shots before Tihana Stojsavljevic made two hard drives. The score remained close until Kelava hit the back-breaker, a three-pointer from the corner putting Croatia seven up with 1:40 to play.
It was left to Slonjsak to ice the game at the free-throw line, a fitting finale to her wonderful performance (23 points, 12 rebounds and four assists). Kelava ended with 11 points and 17 rebounds.
Croatia will take on Russia next on Tuesday, while Latvia face a tough task to bounce back in their next game against defending champions Spain.