Greece Seeking First Gold, Lithuania To Crash The Party
Hosts Greece hope to complete a perfect tournament and capture their first gold medal at the U18 European Championship Men while Lithuania look to crash the party for their second title at the age group.
When Lithuania and Greece met on Thursday in the final game of the Qualifying Round, it was almost a meaningless game since both teams had already qualified for the semi-finals. But this time glory is at stake in Sunday's final in Pyrgos.
The Greeks return to the U18 final for a second straight summer after losing to Serbia in 2007 despite having in their ranks the tournament's MVP, center Kostas Koufos. But this Greek side is more focused on balance offensively and tough defense.
"We are very happy to be in the final. We hope to take the trophy because we deserve it in my opinion. We are playing very, very good defense," said Greek guard Evangelos Mantzaris.
George Vlassopoulos's Greece have allowed the fewest points per game at less than 62 while ranking second in opponents total field goal percentage.
Number one in opponents field percentage, however, are the Lithuanians, who know how to play some defense as well. Vitoldas Masalskis's men have allowed just 67 points per game.
"We can beat every team we want," said Lithuania's star center Donatas Motiejunas, who is fourth-best in the tournament with 18.4 points and 9.8 rebounds.
"Two days ago (against Greece) we were not so concentrated because we knew we were in the final four. Of course we tried to win. But that was not our game. Of course it's going to be hard to beat them in their gym with a full crowd behind them. It will be tough, but I think it is not impossible."
Of course the key to the match will be defense. But it will important how Lithuanian playmaker Augustas Peciukevicius can deal with the pressure from Greek guard Kostas Sloukas.
Another crucial match-up will be in the low post where Greeks Leonidas Kaselakis and Zisis Sarikopoulos must deal with Motiejunas and Tautvydas Slezas - and vice versa.
The X-factor for the Greeks might be the home fans in Prygos.