|Marius Grigonis gave his side 12 points and 8 rebounds as Lithuania rolled by Turkey in convincing fashion|
by Yarone Arbel
For the third year in a row Lithuania qualified to the title game of the U16 European Championship after beating Turkey 80-65 at Sports Hall Topolica in Bar, Montenegro on Saturday night.
Lithuania beat Czech Republic to take gold in 2008 and lost to Spain in 2009 and tomorrow will take on Croatia in the race for the top stop on the podium.
Croatia and Lithuania already met in the Qualifying Round and the Croats won 78-68, but were still behind with eight minutes to go before an 11-0 run decided the game in their favor.
Dario Saric scored his tournament low in that game with 15 points, but added 17 rebounds and six assists to perhaps tell on what is expected tomorrow.
Turkey will face Spain for the bronze medal game and will try to add one more medal to their cabin after grabbing one in five of the last nine competitions including three of Bronze.
Big guy Augustinas Jankaitis had 17 points and nine rebounds for the winners followed by Denis Krestinin added 14, Marius Grigonis finished with 12, all in the second half, and eight rebounds while the captain Tomas Dimsa had 11 all of them in the first half.
Turkey saw Point Guard Kenan Sipahi finish with 15 points, seven rebounds and six assists while big guy Burak Haciismail added 13 while Tayfun Erulku finished the game with only eight points.
"Stopping Erülkü was one of our main goals in this game side by side with aggressive defense and rebounding," said the winning coach Arunas Visockas.
"We're getting better game by game and other than the first game in the competition we play well, so I don't think we need to prove that we didn't steal the win yesterday."
"I have Saric in my head all the time, and we'll try to find a way to stop him.
"In the first game against us he scored 15 points, and if he finishes with that amount again I'll be happy."
Lithuania dominated the game from the start and held a double-digit lead from an early stage to take a 40-25 gap at the break.
Turkey were out of focus and whenever they did manage to make some comeback, came a Lithuanian three pointer that killed their momentum.
The winners enjoyed a great shooting day with 10 three pointers in 45.5% accuracy, and split them even between the first and the second half.
Erüklü scored the first three points of the game with a bucket and a foul, but that was deceiving, but saw Lithuania reply with a 15-0 run to make an early statement.
Dimsa hit his third three pointer to make it 20-8 at the bottom of the quarter, but Erülkü sealed the first 10 minutes with another bucket and set the score on 20-12.
Lithuania waited a few more minutes in the second quarter, before making a crucial 10-0 run and take a 35-16 gap that shocked the Turkish squad.
While Turkey struggled on the offensive side, and right before the half time break needed three offensive rebounds to scored a bucket, Jankaitis examplified how to get things done and set the first half score on 40-25.
Haciismail started the second half with a three pointer, but Turkey made turnover after turnover that didn't allow them to complete a come back.
Grigonis scored his first points with a crazy off-balance shot to write 44-32 half way in the third, and with the next ball he hit a three pointer to push the gap back to 15, enough to make it 55-39 at the end of the third.
"Maybe we were still celebrating yesterday's win," said the Turksih coach Erhan Toker.
"We weren't focused as before, and didn't have a good shooting day and that hurt us too much against a very good Lithuanian team."
For the last quarter Turkey tried everything in their arsenal but Lithuania had an answer ready for any situation.
With four minutes to go Türen hit a three pointer and walked to the line for the bonus shot, but missed and after Erülkü connected just half of his free throws attempts, Lekavicius scored from the arc and Grigonis added another to push the gap to 70-56.
Sipahi didn't give up and with five points closed the gap to nine again, but Tamulis scored from the arc once more, this time to seal the game once and for all, 76-65.
"We made a very long way together and we want to finish this journey with a medal, it's very important for our basketball and for this team.
"Tomorrow we'll do our best to win the bronze," added Coach Toker.