FIBA World Cup: Latvia edges Simone Fontecchio-less Italy in classification game

Andrejs Grazulis set Latvian basketball history with his 27-point explosion. Kennelf Monteza
By Ivan Saldajeno

PASAY--Barely 24 hours removed from a heartbreaking loss to Germany, Latvia bounced back by shocking Italy, 87-82, in their FIBA World Cup classification game on Thursday night at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.

Latvia needed to hold off Italy, which played without Simone Fontecchio, down the stretch as the former has a chance to have a solid finish to the tournament in only their maiden journey.

Arturs Zagars made Latvia's chance to break away early in the fourth quarter possible by scoring on a layup and assisting Davis Bertans' three to put their team up, 72-62, with 7:14 remaining.

Aigars Skele added a putback, Latvia's lead increased to 12, 74-62, with 6:16 to play.

Italy slowly crawled back to the game and cut the lead to just two, 84-82, with 41 seconds remaining, but Andrejs Grazulis scored a dagger three for Latvia with 24 seconds remaining.

Stefano Tonut tried to keep Italy in the game but missed a three-pointer that sealed his team's fate.

Grazulis finished with 28 points on 12-of-13 shooting including 3-for-3 from deep, six rebounds, one assist, one steal, and one block for Latvia, which moves on to the fifth-place game on Saturday night.

He made history as he scored the most points by a Latvian in a single FIBA World Cup game.

Skele added 12 points, four rebounds, nine assists, one steal, and one block.

In what could be the penultimate game of his illustrious basketball career, Gigi Datome finished with a FIBA World Cup career-high 20 points on four triples and one assist for Italy, which fell to the seventh-place game also on Saturday night.

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