By Chris Sheridan
KAUNAS, Lithuania — The home team at EuroBasket still has a chance to make it to the Olympics, but it’ll be 10 months before Lithuania knows for sure.
Sarunas Jasikevicius’ seventh assist of the afternoon, a pass to wide-open teammate Mantas Kalnietis behind the 3-point line, gave Lithuania a 79-77 lead over Slovenia with 19 seconds remaining. Jaka Lakovic missed a shot inside with 6 seconds remaining, Kalnietis made one of two shots from the foul line with 3.3 seconds remaining, and Slovenia’s last chance ended when Goran Dragic’s 3-point attempt off an inbounds pass hit the side of the backboard with a half-second left.
The result was an 80-77 victory for Lithuania that qualified them for next July’s pre-Olympic tournament to determine the final three teams for the 2012 Olympics. So far, the United States, Great Britain, Argentina, Brazil, Tunisia and Australia have qualified for London. Two European teams will qualify Friday in the semifinals of this tournament, as will the champion of the FIBA-Asia tournament.
Lithuania has participated in every Olympic men’s basketball tournament since declaring independence from the former Soviet Union in 1990.
Jasikevicius scored 12 points, Kalnietis scored 17 and Jonas Valanciunas had 8 points and six rebounds in 13 minutes.
The field for the pre-Olympic tournament next July, at a site to be determined, now includes Lithuania, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Angola, Nigeria, Venezuela, and New Zealand. Two teams will be added from the FIBA-Asia tournament, one more will come out of a classification game here in Kaunas on Friday, and the losers of both EuroBasket semifinal games will also get a second chance next July.