by Paul Nilsen
A buzzer beating basket by the outstanding Teresa Vyoralova broke the hearts of Lithuania and simultaneously handed Czech Republic a thrilling 62-61 victory - their first of the Qualifying Round.
With both teams having enjoyed a series of dominant runs during the game, both sides eventually came together in the dying moments in what proved to be a thrilling climax.
|Tereza Vyoralová had a double-double with 19 pts and 10 rbs with the last of both wrapping up her teams win|
After a free throw from Ieva Kazlauskaite gave Lithuania the lead with seconds to spare, Czech Republic air-balled their shot, missed the first put back attempt and then up stepped Vyoralova for the play of the game.
It was such a close call with buzzer sounding almost at the same time that instinctively all players and spectators looked straight to the referees and having been given as good, Lithuanian players slumped to their knees while Czech players celebrated.
It was certainly fitting that it was the Czech number 8 who sunk the killer blow as she had been the stand out player for her team in the game. She not only accumulated 19 points but also 10 rebounds, including some great hustle plays on offence.
You did however have to feel a lot of sympathy for Lithuania. In particular Kazlauskaite and Vita Zilinskaite who both produced hugely impressive double-double performances for their team. The former harvested 14 points and the same number of rebounds while the latter pulled down 13 boards to add to her 17 point haul.
Ironically it had looked like Lithuania might take the win in the early exchanges as they moved into a 20-9 lead but inspired by Barbora Ondrejkova who claimed 6 first quarter points, the Czech team rattled off the last 8 points of the period.
With Zilinskaite and Kazlauskaite both cleaning ip on the glass defensively, Cech Republic then found it tough going inside as the game drifted towards half-time. Lithuania pounded the ball inside and drove to the hoops relentlessly and that helped them into a 36-29 advantage at the interval.
If anybody thought that Lithuania were going to bounce back from their mauling by Russia and pull away they were wrong. It was the Czech team that dominated the penultimate period.
They stepped up their defence and looked much quicker and active under the basket defensively and did a better job on the glass to build the platform for a 23-12 third quarter.
Heading into the final ten minutes of the game, the Czech team foun themselves in front at 52-48 and there was little change in the game down the stretch. Czech Republic were still ahead, albeit by only two points but it set up a tense final ninety seconds.
Zilinskaite made a tough shot for Lithuania fronting up to the basket with hands in her face to tie the game at 60-60 and then with Czech Republic then throwing up a prayer down the other end, they fouled Kazlauskaite with 21 seconds left on the clock and she made one free throw.
That potentially gave Czech Republic the chance to win the game with the last shot and it looked as if they had blown it until with milliseconds to spare, the MVP stepped up to wrestle the win away from Lithuania.