Lithuania Maul France

23 August 2008

After a thriller in the first semi-final Lithuania made it easier in their meeting with France behind a 73-47 win to qualify to the finals of the Termostep U16 European Championship Men.

The domination of the Lithuanian team was spotted early, but only in the second half they managed to leave France far behind and climb to a double-digit margin, from which there was only one direction.

Lithuania remains the only undefeated team in the competition coming into the final game against the Czech Republic.

The duo played each other on the closing day of the Qualifying Round, two days ago, and Lithuania won 76-48, but tomorrow in the finals the Czechs plan to give a fight.

France made a great drive in the championship but will have to settle for fighting for Bronze against the team from Turkey.

Three days ago France beat Turkey 67-60 - a win that eventually was worth the semi-finals ticket.

Jonas Valanciunas stepped up in the best timing with a huge performance of 14 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks, followed by Rimvydas Brencius with ten points, 11 rebounds and one block.

No less than nine players scored six points and up for the winners who showed great team spirit and never-ending competitiveness throughout the 40 minutes.

Even in the closing minutes, with a 20 point lead in their pocket and the ticket to the finals sealed in their hands, Lithuania continued to pressure on defense, and fight for every loose ball.

"I think that's part of what won the game for us," said Head Coach Kazys Maksvytis.

"My players fight all the time, and showed today big maturity.

"I was a little afraid how they will show for this game after the big win over the Czechs two days ago, but they proved they are mentally strong."

Leo Westermann led the French side in a big game of 13 points, four assists and four steals, but got very little help from most of his team-mates. Mathis Keite added ten points.

"My players did their best, and fought hard, but Lithuania was the better team and they deserve the win," commented Tahar Assed-Liegeon of the French bench.

"Valanciunas had a great game today and their guards played very well.

"They are a team with lots of good basketball players," he added.

Lithuania was up from the first moment taking a 5-0 lead after two minutes.

Keita hit a jumper to give France their first and last lead of the game, 8-7 and from there Lithuania took over again on the way to a 17-15 first quarter lead.

France stayed close behind for one more quarter, but that was it.

Valanciunas showed his presence everywhere, as he collected already after less than 15 minutes 11 points, eight rebounds and two blocks.

Keita hit from long range and Westermann collected points as the two combined 16 out of France's 30 first half points, but Rolandas Jakstas kept his team on top with an eight point half time lead, 38-30.

"Tactically what won the game was the three pointers," added Maksvytis.

"In the first half we hit only one out of 15 three pointers, while in the second we drilled five in 11 attempts."

France couldn't keep up with that.

Tautvydas Sabonis hit one from the corner to seal the third quarter gap on 13, 49-36 and after Dovydas Redikas and Deividas Pukis shared one each the gap increased to 20 entering the last minutes of the game.

Nevertheless the pressure on the ball continued, and the margin kept growing, reaching a maximum of 26 two minutes before the buzzer.

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