RIGA (2011 FIBA U19 World Championship) – When Poland and Lithuania meet in the first of tomorrow’s Quarter Finals, Arena Riga will see a match-up between two sides who display a fine balance of individual talent and team play.
Lithuania, who won gold at last year’s European U18 Championship, are fronted by NBA Draft fifth pick Jonas Valanciunas, stats leader in both points and rebounds, but have considerable depth to their roster, with among the most evenly shared court time of any team.
They began their tournament in the worst possible way, with [a] defeat to Croatia, but have gone from strength to strength, falling only to the USA – in overtime – and this without their only true point guard Vytenis Cyzauskas, who is expected to return after two games out with an ankle injury.
Poland also had a bright 2010, winning silver in Hamburg at the FIBA U17 World Championship with the same team – the youngest of the Championship – that they have brought to Latvia. Star guard Mateusz Ponitka and captain Michal Michalak have provide excellent leadership as well as the bulk of the scoring and should be able to hold their own.
Poland know that the game will be won or lost inside the paint, and Lithuania’s two defeats have come at the hands of teams who have succeeded in neutralizing the mighty Valanciunas
. Boris Barac and Patric Young managed to do just that, allowing every other battle won on court to count for something.
Huge responsibility will therefore be placed on the broad shoulders of Piotr Niedzwiedzki and Przemyslaw Karnowski.