|Mislav Brzoja was a pickpocket with 6 steals to bring energy to the Croatian game and scored 15 points |
by Yarone Arbel
A great fourth quarter performance helped Croatia beat Lithuania 78-68 and keep a perfect record in Group E of the U16 European Championship at Sports Hall Topolica in Bar, Montenegro on Tuesday night.
Croatia remain as the only unbeaten team in the group, while Lithuania is now the only team without a win yet their fate is not final.
Tomorrow Croatia will meet France and must win to lock the first spot, although a one point loss can still keep them first in case Serbia win as well.
Lithuania will take on Italy and need an eight point win and a Greek loss to sneak into the quarter-finals in the last moment.
Three players scored 15 points for Croatia led by Dario Saric who also added 17 rebounds and six assists, Mislav Brzoja who had six steals and Filip Bundovic. Dominik Mavra had 13 and Karlo Lebo added 11.
Augustinas Jankaitis and Justas Tamulis scored 15 as well for Lithuania and Marius Grigonis added 12.
"Our fourth quarter today was the best quarter we played in the entire championship," said Drazen Brajkovic of the Croatian bench.
"We gained more confidence from that, and I hope tomorrow against France, which is a very important game, we'll continue this ability.
"What made the difference in the last quarter is that we were more focused than our opponents."
Lithuania started better and held a 2-6 lead after 90 seconds, and held on to the small lead down the road of the first quarter as Tamulis hit another one from the arc and made it 10-16.
Saric scored and dished an assist to create a 9-0 run to put Croatia on top, but Lithuania stayed close as Tamulis scored another three pointer to make it 24-21 after 10 minutes.
Yet another long distance bomb by Tamulis pushed his team up, but Brzoja with a steal and a quick lay up followed by a three pointer fixed it for Croatia, 31-26.
Lukas Lekavicius and Jokubas Gintvainis turned things over and allowed Lithuania to hold a 36-37 minimum gap at the end of the first half, which had its effect also on the following quarter.
The teams were glued to each other the entire third quarter and a three pointer by Grigonis with eight minutes to play made it 53-54 but that was the last lead for Lithuania tonight.
Bundovic scored five points in a row to ignite an 11-0 run and Saric added a jumper before he fouled out with 2:34 minutes to play and his team by now up 66-57.
An unsportmanslike on Jankaitis allowed Croatia to add two more points to the gap and keep the ball, and that was more than enough to finish another game on top.