|Nikola Zizic as well as his teammates and the biggest part of the 3,500 fans in the gym were left shocked after the upset against Lithuania|
by Yarone Arbel
Yet another big thriller in the U16 European Championship quarter-final round as Lithuania shocked the hosting team of Montenegro with a 56-55 win at Sports Hall Topolica in Bar, Montenegro on Friday night.
Lithuania will take on Turkey in the Semi-Finals tomorrow and will attempt to write another upset after making a big win today.
Montenegro's run was stopped before the medal games, and they will take on Serbia tomorrow in the 5-8 Classification Round.
The Lithuanians showed big fighting spirit to win this one and fix a so-so performance so far in the championship.
Lithuania made the Qualifying Round after winning just one game in the first round, there arrived to the last day without any wins, and needed to beat Italy by a specific margin to make it to the quarter-finals.
They will play the Semi-Finals after winning just three games, but proved that in these tournaments the key is to win the right games.
The teams were tight for almost the entire game, and other than a few minutes in the second quarter the gap didn't climb over seven.
Lithuania was down 46-53 with 6:45 minutes to go but ran 10-0 and allowed Montenegro to score only two points until the buzzer to complete the upset.
Justas Tamulis of Lithuania scored a big three pointer with 88 seconds to play to take a 56-53 lead, and despite not adding a single point until the end, Lithuania managed to stay on top with the tough defense that brought them to that point.
Nikola Ivanovic had a chance to win the game, but he missed the crucial shot with the buzzer.
Justas Tamulis hit 20 points, 17 of them in the second half, including five three pointers for the winning side and was helped by Simas Raupys with 13.
Ivanovic had another good performance but failed to execute in the last plays, yet he still finished with 14 points, nine rebounds, six assists and four steals. He was followed by Dusan Perovic with 11 and Milos Pajovic with 10 points and eight rebounds.
"We had some bad luck in this tournament and lost some games in the last seconds, so I believe the basketball gods turned the luck on our side now," said Lithuania's coach Arunas Visockas.
"The reason we made it here to the Semi-Finals was hard word and hard defense," he concluded.
Tamulis scored his first three pointer deep in the first quarter to cut Montenegro's lead to 10-12, and the gap remained stable until the early parts of the second quarter.
Three players scored in a 0-6 run that put Montenegro on top 12-20, and Marius Grigonis scored his first points just after 16:40 minutes to example how much Lithuania struggled on offense.
Pajovic connected four in a row to set the maximum gap of the night, 30-20, but quickly Lithuania cut six points off the difference and entered the half time break down 33-28.
The Lithuanian shooter started the second half with three pointer as well, and added another to set the game score on 39-36.
Ivanovic finished a fast break, to march his team into the last quarter with a seven point advantage, and when Vasilije Vusovic scored a lay up with 6:45 to go the score was 46-53 still in favour of Montenegro, just when Lithuania started their attack.
Raupys scored a drive and Tamulis hit another three ball to cut the margin to 52-53 with 4:12 to play in the Quarter-Finals.
A minute with no points passed until the same Tamulis went to the foul line and scored just one, enough to tie the score, and after Pajovic turned the ball over the Lithuanian shooter stepped up with the big bomb from distance.
Nikola Zizic missed a chance to tie, but in the following possession cut it back to one point, only to see Ivanovic force a turnover with a great defensive play, and give his team one last opportunity.
Lithuania used their fouls wisely and left Ivanovic just eight seconds to make his play, but another great defensive job by Lithuania forced him to a tough mid-range shot that went out and didn't leave time to fix.