Lithuania remains the last unbeatable team in the OMNITEL U18 European Championship after a 78-75 win in Group E over Latvia at Siemens Arena in Vilnius, Lithuania on Wednesday evening.
The hosts fly to a 5-0 record in the group and capture the top spot while Latvia is down 3-2, still enough for the 2nd spot.
|Lithuania are still on a high after they came away with a scare against their Baltic neighbours|
The fight for the Group E crown was probably the best of the championship as both fans excited the thousand of fans gathered to support their team, but saw the neighbours from the north almost bring down their team.
Jonas Valanciunas delivered another big performance with 22 points, 17 rebounds and 3 blocks and was assisted by Vytenis Cizauskas who had 16 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists.
Edmunds Dukulis stepped up with 20 points and 6 rebounds, Davis Bertans added 14 points and 7 rebounds while Kaspars Vecvagars added 13 for the Latvians.
The zone defense of Latvia took Lithuania out of their flow and a bad shooting day kept the locals on just 4 three pointers at 13.8%.
Latvia on the other hand enjoyed a great run from the arc and hit 12 times in 25 attempts, but needed just one more to force overtime.
"When your opponent closes the paint you have to shoot from outside, and that's what we needed against Latvia, but the shots didn't go in," said the head coach of Lithuania Kazys Maskvytis.
"I'm happy that we won even on such a bad shooting day." he added.
In the first minute it seemed that the Latvian coach was unhappy as the first time out came already after 90 seconds with Latvia down just 4-0.
After the locals doubled the lead Bertans scored the first points for his team, but soon the gap was already 11 and it seemed like it's going to be another easy win for Lithuania, as the first quarter finish line saw the locals hold a 25-15 lead.
To the 2nd quarter showed up a totally new line-up for Latvia as coach Ziedonis Jansons replaced all 5 players, and it worked wonders.
Dukulis and Bertans joined forces and after 14 minutes it was already just 29-26.
Cizauskas and Valanciunas attacked the rim while Ulanovas hit a rare three pointer, to finish the second quarter strong and enter the locker room with a 42-30 lead.
Pukis and again Valaciunas kept the margin on the double-digit line but when Vecvagars then Bertans and finally Misters hit three pointers the gap was suddenly only 51-49 with the game still 13 minutes from its end.
Whatever Lithuania earned in the paint Latvia cut from the arc, until Bertans found the open lane to finish with a monster dunk and silence the fans, 68-65 and just 4 minutes to play.
Once again Valanciunas and Cizauskas pushed the margin higher up to 8, but just like before it was Vecvagars and Dukulis to bomb from long distance, and enter the last minute behind 75-73.
Cizauskas made just one from the line while Dukulis hit it twice and now it was just a single point battle with 13 ticks, but next Cizauskas improved and hit the pair from the foul line only to see Vecvagars miss a tough three and allow Lithuania to still stay perfect.
"For us it doesn't make a big difference if we finish 1st or 2nd," said Jansons of Latvia's bench.
"We didn't fear Lithuania and tried to win, but in the 2nd half we had a very short bench because of some injuries.
"I think the fans enjoyed the game, and we're happy to be in the quarter-final round. We'll try to win there and take it one game at a time."