by Yarone Arbel
Greece was saved by the bell and escaped from the Classification Round with a 66-63 win over Lithuania in Group B of the U16 European Championship at Osnovna Skola Jugoslavija in Bar, Montenegro on Saturday night.
This was the last chance for Greece and they took full advantage of it with a close win that pushed them to a 1-2 record, tied with Lithuania and Denmark, but good enough for the third spot.
Lithuania kept the second spot thanks to the close loss, but the biggest disappointment happened in the Danish camp that could have celebrate an unthinkable appearance in the Qualifying Round if Greece had lost, but now will have to survive six more games to avoid dropping to Division B after one year in the top stage.
Ioannis Papapetrou led Greece with 18 points while Kyprianos Maragkos added 15 points with seven boards.
Marius Grigonis was the top scorer of the night with 26 points while Tomas Dimsa added 14.
Lithuania held a seven point lead with seven minutes on the game clock, but a great team effort by the Greeks turned the game over, and saved their trip to Montenegro.
Greece and Lithuania will join France, Croatia, Serbia and Italy in Group E of the Qualifying Round and will try to make the quarter-finals.
Lithuania attacked from the start and took an 2-11 lead after five minutes, but Karampekis scored five in a row and carried Greece within short distance, 11-13.
It took four more minutes for Greece to complete the come back and take their first lead, 21-19 but Grigonis stepped up and together with Simas Raupys reached a 28-28 tie inside the closing two minutes of the half.
A three pointer by Dimsa was the last shot to be scored before the half time break, and create a small 29-32 gap in favor of Lithuania before the closing 20 minutes of the group games.
The Greeks came back ready for the second half and Maragkos started to create points in the paint and make it a 43-40 lead but still with more than 11 minutes to play on the game clock.
Grigonis was ready with an answer and together with Lekavicius wrote a 2-12 run to create the mentioned seven point gap, but after a time out, Greece came back more focused.
Karampekis and Maragkos were the leading force behind a 10-0 Greek run to take the lead once again, and this time hang on to it.
The duo was also responsible for the bucket that created a six point gap, 62-56, inside the last minute and secured the win in addition to the Qualifying Round spot for Greece.