|Vaidas Kariniauskas' 24 points paved the way for Lithuania as the Baltic giants beat Crotia|
Lithuania controlled the boards on Wednesday and held on for a 70-65 win over Crotia that gave them the last available ticket from Group E to the quarter-finals of the Sportland U20 European Championship.
The Baltic side actually took third place in the group, ahead of Montenegro, and will face Italy on Friday in the big battle for a spot in the semi-finals of the tournament.
Both sides entered the encounter determined to make a stand and Lithuania could only claim a slim lead after a very tight start when Martynas Paliukenas and Vaidas Kariniauskas combined for eight points in quick succession, the latter capitalising on Croatian turnovers to dunk in the open court.
Lithuania led 33-27 at the interval as a consequence, but Croatia started pushing hard immediately upon their return for the second half.
They clawed their way back and Domagoj Samac drilled a three-pointer with 1:15 left in the third quarter to put them in the driver's seat, 47-45.
That Croatian lead however was short-lived as Lithuania reeled in seven points within 39 seconds to go ahead 52-47 at the end of the third period.
A 9-0 run shortly after the start of the final frame gave the Lithuanians their biggest lead in the game, 61-49, when there was just over six minutes left to play.
Croatia threw everything at them in the final minutes but every time they came close, Lithuania would reply to maintain, as minimum, a five-point advantage until th e final buzzer.
Kariniauskas paved the way with 24 points and nine assists, Paliukenas added 16 points and Laimonas Chatkevicius picked up a double-double of 10 points and 12 rebounds.
Luka Panduric and Samac each had 13 points for Croatia in defeat.