Lithuania fought hard until the very end, but Dario Saric proved just too hard to handle, as Croatia triumphed 88-76 (22-15, 14-18, 22-20, 30-23) against the tournament hosts in the U18 European Championship final in Vilnius.
Croatia’s superstar Saric saved his best performance for the gold-medal match against Lithuania, finishing the game with 39 points, 11 rebounds and 4 assists and picked up the Tournament MVP award.
“We lost to Saric and that’s about as much as I can say,” said Marius Grigonis, who had a team-high 17 points for Lithuania and was named to the All-Tournament Team alongside Saric.
The Saric-led Croatia started the game better, but Lithuania got back into the game in the second quarter after Croatia’s go-to man picked up his third foul and ended the first half on the bench.
Lithuania were within one point at 47-48 as the third quarter was closing to an end, but Saric converted on an and-one play to spark a 10-3 run for Croatia.
In the final period, Lithuania had closed the deficit to six points (61-67), but Saric was key for Croatia once again, scoring five points in quick succession to decide the outcome of the game.
Tomislav Gabric had 14 points for Croatia, while Mislav Brzoja and Dominik Mavra chipped in 10 points each, being in the main contributors to the victory besides Saric.
For Lithuania, Jokubas Gintvainis and Justas Tamulis scored 15 points each, while the team’s captain Lukas Lekavicius had 9 points.
During the fourth quarter, a brawl broke out between Simas Raupys and Karlo Zganec and both players were disqualified.
Both teams, alongside Serbia, Russia and Spain qualified to the FIBA U19 World Championship in Czech Republic next year.