Lithuania Slip Past Hosts

23.07.2008

Aurime Rinkeviciute hit a clutch pair of free-throws with 23 seconds left as Lithuania held off the Slovak Republic 55-52 and remained unbeaten in the U18 European Championship for Women.

The result was a crushing blow for the host nation who dropped to 2-2 in Group E of the Qualifying Round, while the Lithuanians are certainly assured of a place in the semi-finals with a 4-0 mark.

In a low-scoring, gritty affair, Lithuania made their shots when they counted the most - down the stretch.

Veronika Cernakova - who finished with a game-high 21 points - was spectacular in the second and third quarter, helping her team take a 39-35 lead going into the final quarter, making it a possibility that the home side would pull off one of the biggest upsets of the tournament so far.

However, with Klaudia Lukacovicova struggling, it was left to Cernakova to carry the load offensively while Lithuania had several options - and used every one of them down the stretch.

Rinkeviciute tied the game at 39 all and Lithuania then took a four-point lead in the early stages of the final frame.

Cernakova converted a three-point play to get the Slovak Republic within one, 43-42, and they were back in front, 50-48, after Barbora Nococka made two free-throws with under two minutes to go.

The Lithuanians regained the lead, 53-52, on Egle Siksniute's shot with 46 seconds left and the Slovak Republic couldn't get a good shot to take the lead.

With time running out, they had to foul to stop the clock and Rinkeciviute coolly hit her shots from the charity stripe as Lithuania just about held on.

It was a low-scoring affair as the teams combined for 15 first-quarter points, with the hosts leading 9-6.

The shooting touch slowly began to return for Lithuania as they went on a 7-0 run and led 15-11 at one point.

But, cheered on by their fans, the hosts came back behind the inspiring play of Veronika Cernakova. She got her team within one, 15-14, and then scored five points in a row for a 20-15 advantage.

Gutkauskaite and Solipova - twice - hit from downtown as Lithuania had the deficit down to two, 23-21, at the break.

Marina Solopova collected 18 points, seven rebounds and three assists for Ramune Kumpiene's side. Giedre Paugaite had just three points but grabbed an impressive 18 boards.

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