Leading scorer Rubstavicius' defense earns Lithuania title showdown with Spain
PODGORICA (Montenegro) - Tournament leading scorer Mantas Rubstavicius picked the perfect timing to come up with his first block in the FIBA U20 European Championship.
The Lithuanian guard came up big on defense with 34 seconds remaining in the Semi-Final clash with hosts Montenegro to send his team to the title game, where they will do battle with Spain for the trophy.
In front of a fervent home crowd in Podgorica, Montenegro and Lithuania traded blows throughout the final quarter, and Rubstavicius remained calm from the charity stripe to get to a game-high 18 points. He leads the tournament with 20.5 points per game, while shooting 48.6 percent from the field.
As Rubstavicius kept the game in balance until the final minute, the stage was set for Jokubas Rubinas to play the offensive hero role for Lithuania, getting his lefty layup for the lead at 65-63 inside the final minute, forcing Montenegro to call a timeout.
There was little doubt where coach Dusan Dubljevic was going to send the ball for the hosts. Fedor Zugic had a drive from the left to the middle of the paint, but Rubstavicius waited for him there, getting his first block at the event.
It finished 67-63, marking Lithuania's first Final appearance since 2016. Coach Mindaugas Noreika will search for the Baltic nation's second title in this competition, the only one so far came in 2012 in Slovenia.
Lithuania will face Spain in the title game. Seeing Lithuania at the other end will be a positive sign for Spain, as the last time they won the crown was in the aforementioned 2016 Final against the same nation they will face on Sunday.
On Saturday, Spain did their part against the back-to-back winners of 2018 and 2019, Israel. They won the game 84-75, but there was no shortage of drama in that Semi-Final, either.
Israel fought back from an early deficit to cut the gap to 77-72 with just over a minute remaining. Millan Jimenez knocked down a deep three-pointer to make it an 8-point lead for Spain late in the shot clock, then added another one from the corner to seal the deal for coach Joaquin Prado's team.
Real Madrid's boy wonder Juan Nunez led the way for Spain with the 18-year-old picking up 18 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists in just 21 minutes of work. Jimenez finished with 13, Ruben Dominguez had 16 as Spain shot 13-of-24 from beyond the arc.
Noam Shimon Dovrat was amazing for Israel with 26 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists, but his team will have to settle for third or fourth, after three consecutive Finals from 2017 to 2019.
At the other end of the spectrum, Portugal ended Czech Republic's run in Division A, winning the 13-16 classification game 82-66 thanks to Andre Cruz 's 29 points and Ruben Prey posting a double-double of 23 points, and 17 rebound and adding 5 blocks.
Ukraine are also going to compete in Division B next summer after a 95-59 defeat to Poland. The last team to be relegated from Division A will be the loser of the Portugal against Poland matchup on Sunday.
Honorable mention of the day goes to Turkey's Adem Bona. In the Classification Game 5-8 against Belgium, Bona had 6 blocks - the most at the event in Montenegro - to go with his 26 points and 8 rebounds. Turkey prevailed 78-75 in overtime and will play France for fifth place .