|31 July 2009|
Lithuania found their shooting touch late in the game to pull away and beat Croatia 74-55 in the quarter-finals at the U18 European Championship Men 2009 in Metz, France.
After three quarters, the Lithuanians led 49-47 but had made just 19 of their 66 field goal attempts.
They were a much improved nine for 19 (including three of four from three-point range) in the final quarter and they clamped down on defense to outscore Croatia 25-8.
|His team won but Marius Linartas was please only with the last quarter performance|
"The shots we were taking were not bad shots, we just couldn't make them," said head coach Marius Linartas afterwards.
"It is a bit worrying to see us play like this. We had this problem against Latvia when we had to have a strong fourth quarter to pull away. But we finished the game well so it is encouraging going into the semi-finals like this."
Lithuania's celebrations after the final whistle were fairly low-key, indicating that they expected to make it at least as far as the semi-finals.
"Yes we didn't have huge celebrations because this group can go very far in this tournament," added Linartas.
Croatia made just four of 15 field goal attempts in the final frame and didn't get to the free-throw line. Ivan Batur tied the game at 49 when he beat the shot clock early in the period but Saulius Kulvietus buried two three-pointers as part of a 12-2 run that handed Lithuania their first double-digit lead at 61-51 with just over five minutes remaining.
Ovidijus Varanauskas then made three lay-ups and a pair of free-throws over a two minute span for a 71-53 advantage and Gilvydas Biruta iced the game with a corner three in the closing seconds.
Lithuania were up 36-32 at the break despite a poor shooting first half, hitting on just 13 of 44 attempts from the field and not doing much better from the foul line (eight for 14).
Croatia took a 16-12 lead on a pair of free-throws by Tony Prostran late in the first quarter, but Lithuania then ran off 10 consecutive points - including six from Vytenis Cizauskas - to go up 22-16 with 7:57 left in the half.
The Croatians closed to win three, 23-20, on Dino Jakolis' lay-up but Cizauskas hit a pair of free-throws and Augustas Peciukevicius fed Giedrus Stanilius for an easy basket and Lithuania took their biggest lead of the first half, 27-20.
Dragan Sekelja converted a three-point play and Ivan Batur hit a three-pointer with about three minutes remaining before the break to cut the deficit to 29-28.
But Ovidijus Varanauskas hit a wing three and Cizauskas had a putback at the buzzer for the 36-32 advantage.
Hrvoje Vlasic's side scored the first four points of the third quarter to tie it at 36 before Cizauskas and Jonas Valanciunas pushed Lithuania back in front, 46-40.
Prostran and Batur scored the next five points to bring Croatia within one, 46-45, with about two minutes left and the period ended with incredible plays as Mantas Kadzevicius converted a three-point play after hitting an off-balance shot and at the other end Prostran made a nice wrap around pass for Domagoj Bubalo to dunk it and cut the deficit to two heading into the final quarter.
Valanciunas had team-highs of 16 points and 11 rebounds and Cizauskas added a double-double of his own with 15 and 10.
Prostran led Croatia with 14 points and nine rebounds.