|14 August 2010|
|Sports Hall Topolica was jam packed with more than 3,500 fans who desperately wanted their team to win but were shocked by Lithuania|
by Yarone Arbel
Quarter-finals day of the U16 European Championship in Bar, Montenegro was full of upsets and thrillers, but by far the most shocking result was Lithuania's win over the local team.
Each of the teams made it to the quarter-finals in a totally different style.
Montenegro won five games up to that point and dropped just a single one, to take the top spot in their Qualifying Round group.
Lithuania made it to the Qualifying Round only thanks to a single win, over the relegated Denmark, and needed a last quarter run in the last game against Italy to qualify with the very last ticket to the final eight stage.
If that wasn't enough they played also against thousands of local fans who filled every seat in the arena and created a great atmosphere for a basketball game, pushing their team every minute and second.
Yet the Lithuanian magic worked wonders with a 56-55 win behind a great run in the closing minutes, and a tight defense that limited the locals on only two points in the last 6:30 minutes.
What made it possible was a great sacrifice game and tough team defense by the entire Lithuanian team which made it more than natural to talk with the team's captain and one of the leaders - Tomas Dimsa.
"We believed the whole time we can do it, even when they were leading and had the momentum with them," he says when talking to the official website of the competition.
"We talked between ourselves and encouraged each other and also on the bench to keep playing hard and do our best.
"The game isn't over until it's over, and we always need to fight as long as we have a chance to win," he describes the success of the team.
Lithuania, as mentioned, didn't enjoy great success in the tournament so far, but Dimsa doesn't feel shy about it.
"I think we had some bad luck in previous games that we had a chance to win but dropped," he opinions.
"We're a young time without a lot of experience, and maybe our problem was over enthusiasm, that we wanted too much."
Yet they also had some inspiration from recent colleagues.
Last year the U16 team of Lithuania were on the edge of elimination in the Preliminary Round but had a surprising recovery and eventually made it to the title game.
"We talked about that among ourselves, and the coaches mentioned it too, and it helped us to stay positive and believe we can still do things here," says the captain.
Yet Lithuania had another player on their side.
"It was the first time for all us to play in front of such crowd so it was very exciting," he shares.
"It got to us maybe a bit during warm up but once the game started we put that aside and didn't let the fans get to us.
"In a way I think it helped us because all the fans eventually put pressure on our opponents and as the game got closer it effected them," he added.
Which most kids will probably tell you that they were introduced to the game through their father or brother, Dimsa has a bit of a different story.
His parents played handball, while the push to basketball came from none other than his grandmother, who used to play herself back in the days.
Now he's one win away from winning a medal with the national team of his country.
"I don't think we're favorites against Turkey in the semi-finals, but it doesn't make a difference to us if we are or aren't.
"We'll go to this game like any other game, try to win it and won't give up till the last second."
According to the three thrillers of the quarter-finals yesterday the last thing a team should do in this championship is give up before the last second, and if Lithuania brings their great fighting spirit defense they surely got a chance to write yet another upset.