By Yarone Arbel
The two last champions of Europe from 2003 and 2005 met on Sunday evening in Palacio de Deportes in Madrid and when the smoke cleared Lithuania beat Greece 78-69.
Lithuania hit two birds with one stone.
By winning the game they'll get to wear the bronze medal on the EuroBasket 2007 podium later on tonight, and also earned the third European ticket to the Olympic games in 2008.
Greece wanted to win a third medal in a row, but saw a tough Lithuanian group who recovered in time from the surprising loss to Russia in the semi-finals last night.
|Theo Papaloukas had eight points in the loss.|
Ramunas Siskauskas continued his great form from the last games and downed a couple of three-pointers in crunch time to secure the win.
This time he was joined by Ksistof Lavrinovic and Linas Kleiza who shot very well both inside and outside the arc, to make sure Greece will stay behind for the vast majority of the game.
"It's not a gold medal but I'll take this," said Darius Songaila after the game. "For sure it's a great feeling. Now we're going to focus on the Olympics."
Sarunas Jasikevicius, who hammered the last nail in Greece's coffin, finished with 11 points and five assists despite a slow start.
Greece, once again, had only one player with a good shooting night, and this time it was Nikos Zisis.
He dropped in 23 points on 58% shooting from the field, but the total of the team was poor.
The team of coach Yannakis shot only 35%, and couldn't find the way to break the Lithuanian offense, despite forcing 13 turnovers.
Lavrinovic was in a zone in the first minutes, scoring seven points in a row for Lithuania, to make it 7-2 early in the game.
Greece didn't fall behind for long, played tougher on defense and with a 6-0 run got back into the game.
Sarunas Jasikevicius struggled in the first quarter, and for the last basket of the quarter
Dimitrios Diamantidis stole it from him going coast-to-coast for the lay up and making it 20-19 Lithuania after the first quarter.
|Ramunas Siskauskas had 13 points in leading Lithuania to the bronze medal.|
Both teams had already six players involved with points after ten minutes, and they continued to rely on them.
Greece collected some offensive boards to take the lead back, but that didn't scare Ksistof Lavrnovic who stepped up with four more points, and gave Lithuania the lead back.
The game went a little out of control as the referees called a double unsportsmanlike foul on Diamantidis and Darius Songaila, and then came a technical on Lazaros Papadopoulos, which was his third.
Lithuania used the mess to take a 39-30 lead with 2:32 left in the half, and cap a 13-1 run, on the way to a seven point lead at the end of the half, 41-34.
Greece kept fighting their way back to the game, and never allowed Lithuania to get too far ahead, but eight points in a row by Kleiza, including two hits from long range, made sure the former champs would not come back.
Ksistof Lavrinovic recorded his 15th, 16th and 17th point with a three point play, to offset a 6-0 Greek run and allow Lithuania enter the last quarter up 62-54.
Greece tried to go with Spanoulis time after time but earned only two points on that, while Siskauskas was hot on the other end to make it 70-58.
Darius Lavrinovic and then Siskauskas blocked Greek shots to keep the margin on double-digits.
When the later nailed two big ones in a row from long range Greece needed a miracle to take the game, down by 11 with 2:02 to play.
Lithuania earned their first ever bronze medal and fifth medal in total in a EuroBasket.
Greece finished fourth and lost the bronze medal game for the fourth time in their history.