Despite dropping Saturday's match up with Lithuania, 109-83, the Dominican Republic's hopes for an Olympic berth are still very much alive.
The Dominicans fell behind early yet again, this time to a shot-making Lithuania squad that benefited from early Dominican foul trouble. They found themselves facing another 20-point deficit yet again Saturday night, but they could not muster up another comeback like they were able to against Macedonia in the quarterfinals.
Things looked very promising at the outset of the game. Francisco Garcia had picked up where he left off on Friday night, drilling both of his first two three point attempts in the first quarter. His playing time would be limited in the first half, however, as head coach John Calipari was forced to sit his sharp shooter after picking up two early fouls within the first four minutes of play.
Still, the Dominicans hung tough, using a 5-0 run at the beginning of the second quarter to pull into a 21-21 tie with Lithuania, and it looked like the Dominicans had built a head of steam.
Lithuania immediately answered, using an 8-0 run to get back out ahead, 29-21, and the lead gradually grew from there. The Lithuanians used some efficient shooting in the first half, including 4 of 6 from the arc. Calipari elected to put Garcia back in the game in the middle of the second quarter as Lithuania made its run, but Garcia had cooled off.
As halftime rolled around, the Lithuanians held a convincing 52-36 lead.
The Dominican Republic was plagued by foul trouble, not only from Garcia, but Al Horford. The leading scorer for the Dominicans this entire tournament had three fouls of his own, logging just four points at the halfway point. Lithuania took advantage of the foul trouble and was perfect from the line, knocking down all 12 free throw attempts in the half.
Lithuania did not cool down at halftime. They pulled out to a 20-point lead at 63-43, and it appeared that they had this game all but wrapped up. The Dominicans improved offensively in the third quarter, cutting the score to 75-61 after three quarters of play, but it wouldn't get any better from there.
The fourth quarter saw Lithuania lay it on, racing out to a 96-69 lead in the fourth quarter before Calipari threw up the white flag and allowed some of his younger, more inexperienced players to get some minutes and rest his guys for Sunday.
When the clock struck zero, Lithuania had taken down the Dominicans 109-83. Jack Michael Martinez led the way with 13 points and 10 rebounds, notching his fourth double-double of the tournament, and Horford kicked in 12 points of his own despite foul troubles.
The good news for the Dominican Republic is that it is still very much alive for the final Olympic bid for the 2012 games. Because they reached the semifinals and the top three teams advance to the Olympics, the Dominicans will need to defeat Nigeria Sunday in the three/four match up to decide who gets to advance.
It will be the biggest game in the Dominican Republic's history in the game of basketball as it looks to advance to its very first Olympic Games. It will be no easy task as Nigeria upended heavily favored Greece team in the quarterfinals.