Slovenia sprang an upset with a huge 76-74 win over Latvia in the opening game of Group E of the OMNITEL U18 European Championship at Siemens Arena in Vilnius, Lithuania on a Monday evening.
Coming from behind as the clear underdog, Slovenia displayed a great defensive effort and limited Latvia from their favorite targets.
This was the first loss of Latvia in the championship and they fell to 2-1, while Slovenia carried two losses coming to this Qualifying Round and now stand on a 1-2 balance.
Alen Omic played a great game inside the paint and finished with 19 points and 9 rebounds while Klemen Prepelic wrote his tournament high with 14 points.
Edmunds Dukulis was the best scorer of Latvia with 16 points, Janis Timma added 15 and Andris Misters finished with 14.
Latvia suffered from the worst performance of Davis Bertans who hit only 2 of his 13 attempts from the field.
"We were mentally prepared very well from this game," analyzed the winner coach Aleksander Sekulic.
"Latvia is a very strong and physical team and we knew that's how they are going to play against us as well.
"It was very important to be ready for that and I think we did a good job in that aspect," he summarized.
Latvia seemed to be on top of the game in the first minutes, as Slovenia scored their 3rd basket only after 7 minutes, but Omic started to show his presence under the basket and after 10 minutes his team held a 14-13 lead.
Kaspars Vecvagars dished a great alley-hoop pass to Bertans for his first points, and Latvia regained a 22-28 lead, but a great defensive effort by Slovenia ignited a 16-4 run until the break and showed who's on top.
"The fact we came into the game as underdogs helped us I think," added Sekulic.
"The defense we played made a big difference and helped us gain more confidence, with easy points in transition."
Latvia never gave up and Timma connected plays to lay his team on top, as the teams went neck-to-neck until the 32nd minute.
Five players scored in a 14-2 run gave Slovenia a lead that they didn't drop until the buzzer, even when Latvia cut it down to 1, 72-71 inside the last minute.
In the final minbute the players of Sekulic showed great character and scored 5 free throws in 6 attempts before celebrating in their big win at half court.
Tomorrow Slovenia will take on France as Latvia is matched up against Poland.