VILNIUS - The Lithuanian women's national team has seen mostly victory after a late start to the FIBA World Championships in Brazil. After missing their first game against Australia due to border problems, the team has defeated Canada, Senegal and Argentina. The only game lost so far was against Brazil on Sept. 16. The Lithuanian team's 62-47 win over Argentina is perhaps their most promising performance yet, and gave them the confidence they needed after losing 84-67 to Brazil the day before.
Lithuania played well from the beginning, but really showed their talent in the second half, out-rebounding their South American opponents 47-25.
The closest Argentina came was during the third quarter when Maria Gimena Landra made one of two free throws, closing the gap to 34-31.
Yet Landra's performance couldn't compare with that of Lithuanian forward Jurgita Streimikyte, who scored a game high of 20 points. The forward brought her team well into the lead at 43-34 after a third quarter lay-up and jump shot.
The South American team walked off the court with disappointment, as the game marked their heaviest defeat of the competition.
After a 74-63 win over Senegal in group B on Sept. 14, the Lithuanian team took a day off "to find the peace they needed to forget their travel stress," said coach Paulauskas.
Instead of hitting the court for drills, the team took a relaxing drive from Serra do Mar towards Guaruja, in Baixada Santista.
"After everything we experienced, we needed some time to relax. The players are tired and tense, a walk on a beautiful beach was all they need to recover," stated Algirdas Paulauskas, who spent the day with his team in Guaruja.
"I was told the highway is very beautiful and so is the beach. I think we deserve it," the coach added.
Due to border control problems, Lithuania arrived late to the World Championships, missing their first game against Australia, which was booked as a loss.
The team was banned from entering Brazil since they arrived via the French Guyana without proof of yellow fever vaccinations. The new Brazilian laws are in response to a recent outbreak in French Guyana.
After extensive negotiations, Brazilian authorities released the Lithuanian delegation. They then flew to Belem, Brasil and finally to Sao Paulo, where they arrived on Sept. 20, just hours before their game against Canada.
Despite the stressful journey, Lithuania thrashed the North American team 84 -58.
"We did not sleep well last night because we were travelling to Sao Paulo for the game against Canada, but we were still very motivated for the game," Paulauskas said. "We were deeply moved by the support we received from the Lithuanian community in Sao Paulo 's this gives us strength to win the championship."
"We could not lose motivation because we are participating in an important tournament, which gathers the best teams in the world," Streimikyte added. "It is an honor for us to be able to play against these teams."
On Sept. 18, Lithuania lost 75-55 to Spain. The Baltic state led by as many as six points in the first half, but fell apart near the end of the second quarter.
Spain scored six straight points to finish the second quarter, with Laia Palau's jump shot lifting them into a 33-32 lead.
As The Baltic Times went to press on Sept. 20, Lithuania was playing the United States, the defending Olympic champion that has not lost a single game so far in Brazil.
Other teams in the quarterfinals include Spain, Russia, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Australia and France.