Lithuania Keep Olympic Hopes Alive



Turning Point: After Erazem Lorbek sunk a big triple to put Slovenia in front by a point with just over a minute to go, Mantas Kalnietis found himself home alone from downtown and made the shot to reply and switch them momentum.

Game Hero: Sarunas Jasikevicius had 12 points and 7 assists for Lithuania.

Stats Don't Lie: Lithuania finished with 20 assists.

Lithuania dodged a bullet against Slovenia to book a spot at the Olympic Qualifying Tournament amidst incredible tension in Kaunas.

Having led by 11 points, Lithuania almost blew it during a nervous second half but eventually prevailed 80-77 as Slovenia failed to force overtime with the final possession of the game.

Both teams had little time to bounce back from their respective quarter-final disappointments but still managed to serve up high drama for the fans.

There was a certain sense of déjà vu for Slovenian fans who watched their team establish a healthy lead during the early stages, as they did against Spain during their quarter-final match-up, only to suffer a drop later in the game.

They raced into a 14-6 advantage to catch Lithuania cold and perhaps suffering a hangover from their gut wrenching loss to F.Y.R. of Macedonia.

However after a time-out by Kestutis Kemzura, Lithuania stirred into action. They picked up their defensive intensity and closed to within a point, at 20-19 heading into the second quarter.

Slovenia then went into meltdown ahead of half-time. A 7-0 run for Lithuania gave them some real momentum as they went 34-28 in front.

Their superior energy lifted the large crowd inside the Arena with a sunk by Robertas Javtokas going down particularly well with the home support.

Their new found superiority was then underlined when Mantas Kalnietis finished in the same style in transition to hand Lithuania a commanding 44-33 lead at the break.

It looked bleak for Slovenia but unlike their previous game, they found some resolve to respond. Seven answered points applied some pressure to Lithuania and by two minutes into the final quarter, their comeback was complete as Matjaz Smodis handed them the lead.

If there had been a sense of déjà vu for Slovenia earlier in the game, Lithuanian fans could have been forgiven for thinking they were also seeing the same flaws which cost them a place in the semi-finals.

Their team continued to settle for low-percentage jump shots and for a while it was tough going for the hosts - especially when a triple from the corner from Sasa Ozbolt put Slovenia 68-65 up.

Lithuania regained their composure, if only just, and in a nerve-wracking conclusion, a three-pointer by Kalnietis proved decisive as Goran Dragic failed to force overtime from the corner.


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