Sell out crowd sees Latvia light it up on opening night

Latvia loving home comforts as they blast past Georgia

Luca Banchi’s national team power past Georgia in front of a packed house

RIGA (Latvia) – Anticipation was sky high for the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament 2024 in Latvia as the tickets for the home side’s games disappeared in just a matter of hours.

The answer to such passionate support came resoundingly from head coach Luca Banchi and his players as they cruised past Georgia 88-53 on opening night.

Turning Point

In the first ten minutes of the game, Georgia roughly managed to remain in contention, coming back only to a one-point deficit at 14-13 when the buzzer was about to sound.

However, Rihards Lomazs decided to push Latvia a little further with a pull-up three-pointer to keep his team’s advantage even higher at the end of the first period.

That initiated an enthusiastic three-point deluge by the home-crowd favorites as they scored five consecutive deep shots. Davis Bertans had three in a row to fire up the sold out Arena Riga.

TCL Player of the Game

Mareks Mejeris didn’t capture everybody’s attention as the sole standout player for Latvia’s opening victory in Riga. However, his effort was undeniable.

Second in scoring only to Arturs Strautins, who had 16 points over a perfect shooting night, he provided 11 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists to take TCL Player of the Game honors.

Stats don’t lie

Georgia had a chance in the first quarter, but things entered a dark route for Aleksandar Dzikic’s team once entering the second. As the two national squads headed to half-time, only 24 points were conceded by Luca Banchi’s team, managing to limit their opponents in all aspects.

That was only the preview to what became a happy ending for Latvian hearts as their team handed out twice as many assists as their opponents with 20.

Bottom line

Victory wasn’t the only reason to celebrate. Everybody was waiting to see on which physical and performing level Arturs Zagars would actually be at. Well, last year’s playmaking factor at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 responded well enough, turning out to be the cornerstone of his team’s offensive flow with six assists.

Then, as had already happened often during this three-year span, it was a team-orientated victory, since excluding Arturs Strautins, nobody scored more than 11 points.

This defeat shouldn’t blow Georgia’s ambitions away.

First off, because they didn’t have Tornike Shengelia on board, forced to miss the encounter due to muscle fatigue suffered before coming to Riga.

Secondly, they showed up in the fourth quarter by reducing the gap to 13 points (60-47). Sandro Mamukelashvili also wore the Georgian leader’s label with 14 points and 4 boards.

What They Said

“We are very happy for the way we entered the tournament after long seasons for everybody. The guys responded very well, starting from the defensive approach, bringing energy and good rhythm. We kept a good level of intensity all throughout the game.

Banchi reflected on Latvia’s opening win

“It’s good that tonight Toko wasn’t playing. He’s a game-changer, and tonight Georgia struggled to compete with out energy. With Toko it is a different story, a different team and a different style.” Latvia head coach, Luca Banchi “It was a great game. We started really aggressively on defense and from that, we got the energy on offense. It was great, tomorrow we will need to do the same thing.” Latvia ace, Arturs Strautins

“We are really disappointed the score isn’t what we worked for. From the bottom of my heart, I wanna say sorry. That’s not really us. We’re still alive and we’re gonna do everything to move to the next round. We have still a lot of work to do.” Georgia guard, Duda Sanadze “They played well, they played in the way they were expecting them to play. They play for each other. We didn’t respond well and long enough. The result is quite embarrassing. The efforts of the medical team and Toko personally to get himself in a position to help us are unmatched in my career, and I’ve been working for 33 years. We were really trying hard, but to be honest I didn’t want him to play today in this game. Now we have to figure out why they didn’t perform the way they were supposed to perform.” Georgia head coach, Aleksandar Dzikic


For more information about J9, visit

J9 accounts on FacebookInstagram Twitter,  YouTube


您的电子邮箱地址不会被公开。 必填项已用 * 标注