RIGA (2011 FIBA U19 World Championship) - On the back of 26 points and 24 rebounds from Jonas Valanciunas, Lithuania have claimed the the first Semi Final spot at the FIBA U19 World Championship, seeing off a Polish side left reeling after a defensive break down midway through the opening half.
The early stages of the game were riddled by uncharacteristic offensive mistakes from both teams with nerves evident in the young players. It would be Lithuania however who would settle down first, taking advantage of the extra space that Jonas Valanciunas had after Polish coach Jerzy Szambelan subbed off big man Przemyslaw Karnowski. With Karnowski off the court Lithuania began to cut loose, going on a damaging 20-0 scoring run to go from leading by a point (16-15) to be sitting in a position of complete control.
After sitting out his side’s previous two games with an ankle injury, Vytenis Cizauskas was back in the driving seat against Poland, providing his team with some of the direction that they had been missing, particularly in stages of their game against USA. His ability to combine with Valanciunas was best exemplified midway through the second quarter when he allowed the ball to bounce off the backboard into the hands of his center who brought the crowd to their feet as he slammed it home over his defender.
Still trailing by 14 points at half time, Poland began to stage a slight comeback when Valanciunas enjoyed a brief break on the bench following half time to be behind by just seven points heading into the final ten minutes, suggesting a tight finish might be about to unfold.
Early in the final quarter the lead was cut even further when Michal Machalak silenced the big Lithuanian contingent in the stands with one of his seven three pointers to bring the margin back to four points.
It would be as close as the Poles would come however with Lithuania stirred back into life, scoring the next 12 points to be back in a position of dominance that would remain unchallenged over the final eight minutes. Poland’s situation was not assisted by the fouling out of big man Przemyslaw Karnowski and a knee injury to Mateusz Ponitka.
In the Semi Final Lithuania will meet the winner of the USA – Russia clash due to take place later on Friday.