Lithuania beats Croatia to reach Euro champs final

The Associated Press

LJUBLJANA, Slovenia (AP) -- Lithuania reached its first European basketball championship final since winning the title 10 years ago by beating Croatia 77-62 on Friday.

Jonas Maciulis led Lithuania with 23 points, Linas Kleiza added 22 and Mantas Kalnietis had 18. Lithuania center Jonas Valanciunas provided some big defensive plays with five blocks, while Bojan Bogdanovic led Croatia with 15 points.

''It was a difficult game mentally because we knew how important it was,'' Maciulis said. ''Both teams came out shot-shy and we were the first to take the lead.''

In Sunday's final, Lithuania will play either two-time defending champion Spain or France.

Lithuania won the European title in 2003 and was bronze medalist at the 2010 worlds but has not made the podium in Europe since taking bronze in 2007 and lost in the quarterfinals at home two years ago. Croatia, which was in the semifinals for the first time in 18 years, has never beaten Lithuania in the knockout rounds in any major tournament.

Lithuania went 9-for-23 from 3-point range, while Croatia was 3-for-20.

Croatia center Ante Tomic said his team - which had been on an eight-game winning streak - had done ''great things'' in the tournament.

Earlier, Pooh Jeter scored 10 of his game-high 20 points in the fourth quarter to lead Ukraine to a 66-58 victory over Italy and earn a spot at next year's World Cup. It will be Ukraine's first trip to competition.

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