VILNIUS - The boys may be teenagers, but they play like pros. The European U20 Championships, bringing together Europe's young basketball stars, drew to a close on July 17 with Russia taking the title.
Lithuania, however, wasn't far behind. The Baltic team played with strong defense throughout the tournament until coming up against Russia. Before a packed stadium of over 3,000 's most cheering for Russia 's the eastern team beat Lithuania 61-53, sending them home with a second-place finish.
In what was clearly the most tense and competitive game of the tournament, which took place in Chehov, Russia, Lithuania ran onto the court with cool heads. And for at least the first quarter, the game belonged to the Baltic team, who took an early 7-point lead. But it wasn't long before Russia caught up and rode their momentum to a 10-9 lead.
Burnt out from an aggressive first half, Lithuania struggled to take back the lead for the rest of the game. Yet they never fell too far behind and it was clear that Russia could feel the pressure. Lithuanian star player Renaldas Seibutis kept the team focused, scoring an impressive 17 points. But it was Jonas Maciulis who drove the fans wild with his quick feet and inspiring jumps, tallying up 15 points for his country.
On Russia's side, team member Anton Ponkrashov lead the team with 13 points. But the Championship glory was shared equally by Nikita Shabalkin, who helped Ponkrashov from beginning to end and scored 12 points.
Defense was so strong from both teams that it was difficult to discern just who had the advantage.
According to the scoreboards, Russia was slightly better off for most of the game, and by the third quarter (44-30) hardly a fan questioned their potential. But all was not lost for Lithuania.
The Baltic team turned up the energy in the last quarter, bringing the score to a close 41-43. A few more successful shots, and they could have brought home the European trophy. Russia, however, refused to back down. The team handled the situation with an 8-2 run, taking back their lead with 8 points.
Lithuania's full-court pressure couldn't save the game, and Russia was able to carry the lead until the last minute. Lithuania's strongest weapon 's three point shots 's proved to be their greatest weakness during the final game (5/29), allowing Russia to slip by to a Championship gold. Serbia/Montenegro took third place in the tournament after beating Israel 63-45.