Lithuania is the second finalist of the 2008 U20 European Championship Men in Riga after an energy consuming 96-79 win over Spain.
Lithuania enjoyed the support of several hundred fans who made the short trip from the south to push their team into the finals, but Spain played with no set backs.
From tip off till buzzer we witnessed two teams which at times battled more on who's going to leave more
sweat on the floor than on who's going to score more.
|Marc Rubio contributed for Spain with eight points and three rebounds.|
An intense and aggressive game on both ends of the floor, escorted with several big talents of both teams, combined a joyful experience to any in house attendant.
The final score doesn't tell half of the story as Lithuania had to work harder than any other game in the competition to put their hands on this win.
The teams went neck to neck for 37 minutes before Lithuania connected key plays to decide the game.
Spain missed one of their key players - Xavier Rabaseda, who had to go under appendix operation during his stay in Riga.
Martynas Gecevicius hit 23 points, Lukas Brazdauskis had a big night with 20 points and 12 rebounds, Vytenis Lipkevicius added 15, Sarunas Vasiliauskas scored 14 and Donatas Motieunas added 10.
Victor Claver stepped up for Spain with 19, Joaquin Colom added 14 with six assists, Pablo Aguilar had 13, Sergio De La Fuente scored 11 and Pere Thomas 10.
"We held Spain on around 30 points in the second half and that's what made the difference for us," explained Gecevicius after the game.
"We won by 17 but it was much tougher than that. It was probably the toughest game we had here so far.
"I want to win every game and tomorrow is certainly no exception," he added.
Spain stormed with the first five points of the game and stayed on top with great team offensive play.
Gecevicius carried his team with eight first quarter points, but Aguilar finished a fast break with a big dunk, and followed with a big three-ball under pressure to make it 19-15.
Another Gecevicius hit from long range arrived before both teams failed to score in the last 90 seconds of the quarter, to enter the second with Spain up 18-19.
The game, hot tempered as it is already, climbed another level in that aspect with an unsportsmanlike foul on each side.
Claver and later Marc Rubio burned the net from long range but Lithuania executed in the fast break, and enjoyed the presence of Gecevicius and Motiejunas in the set offense.
De La Fuente with a three point play and Claver with a great finish made it 38-34 less than four minutes in the half, to force a Lithuanian time-out.
Claver showed he can put the ball on the floor and score with another big move to keep the four point difference.
Motiejunas, who didn't score much but had a big positive influence on his team's game, showed his talent, but the last say of the half was spoken by Colom.
The Spanish guard, who reached ten points and six assists already in the first half, scored in traffic a tough lay up to set the half time score on 47-42.
Only six players scored for Spain in the first half, but their spread was between five and the 11 points of Claver.
"In the second half we changed our defense and that made a difference," told the winning coach Rimvydas Samulenas.
"I know Vasiliauskas for a long time and I trust him a lot. I was sure he'll contribute in real time when we need him."
Spain scored first but saw Lithuania answer with seven points in a row for a tie.
Vasiliauskas stepped up and took control over the game with eight points in a two minutes span as Lithuania climbed to 59-53.
Spain was ready for anything but giving up, as the game moved into its final stretch with Lithuania still up 65-61.
Motiejunas, Aguilar and Claver presented big plays that showed what a great level of competition we witness, as the teams entered the last five minutes still four points far, 75-71.
Brazdauskis combined four and equally important drew the fifth from Aguilar to slide his team inside the last two minutes with a seven point lead.
A catch and shoot three pointer by Lipkevicius gave Lithuania a double-digit lead and from there Spain couldn't recover.