It would be difficult to find a player who seems to be enjoying basketball as much as BBL Finals MVP Jahenns Manigat does. After he guided Pasvalys to their first-ever BBL championship, Jahenns took a minute of his time to celebrate and shared his thoughts with BBL.net.
Pieno Zvaigzdes celebrated their first BBL championship in club history and ended their trophy drought – the last time the Lithuanian side took the top spot on the podium was back in 2011, when they won the second tier of the Lithuanian league.
Having joined the team mid-season, Jahenns has been a perfect addition and was a real thunderbolt of energy throughout the finals series. He averaged 14.5 points, 7.5 assists and 6.0 rebounds and was rightfully chosen the the Finals' Most Valuable Player.
First of all, congratulations on winning the championship trophy and the MVP award. It was real fun watching you guys play out there – it seemed you were really enjoying yourselves!
Thank you! I mean, we had to – we really wanted to win today. We just really wanted to win today. We knew we had a plus 18 advantage and sometimes it’s difficult to really get fired up when you’re up by that much. It’s human nature – it’s in the back of the mind, but we told ourselves we just wanted to win in front of our fans. They deserve to see us doing both – taking the win and holding up the trophy.
You were certainly fired up, we saw you riling up the fans. Was getting the fans involved something you stressed before the game?
Honestly, that's just how I play. I've played that way ever since I could remember. Our fans gave us a really big boost, especially in the first half – the game was going back and forth. They gave us a really big boost and we were able to push in the third quarter. Again, as I always say – you're only as good as your fans – if your fans can give you the extra lift when you need them the most, you'll be surprised what you can do as a team.
Again, the 18 point advantage before the game, but it was still a very emotional game. Did the loud support from the opposing fans and Jurmala's tough play give you some extra motivation to ride it out?
Absolutely! That's what you want in a championship game. Hats off to Jurmala, they understood what they were up against and they played really hard. Being down 18 is really tough but right up until the end of the fourth quarter, until that last minute they were giving us everything that they got so you absolutely have to respect them. Hats off to them and congratulations to for the second place!
PASVALYS – Pieno Zvaigzdes proved to be the strongest team in the league after defeating Jurmala for the second time and claiming their first ever BBL Champions trophy. Final score: 76-68.
The first leg of the finals finished in a blow-out, as Pasvalys took a 98-80 victory on the road and brought home a hefty, 18-point advantage.
Nevertheless, the atmosphere surely finals-worthy, with around 50 visiting fans making sure their voices were heard throughout the whole game, despite the huge deficit their team already faced.
The Lithuanians took control early, running off by seven points after the opening ten minutes. The only positive Jurmala could take from this kind of start was that they managed to get both Pieno Zvaigzdes’ Centers in foul trouble – Nikita Balashov had 3 fouls in just two minutes, while Luis Shoshi was benched with two fouls.
Jurmala reduced the deficit to just one point before the second half but Pasvalys managed to regain control and with Jahenns Manigat turning the crowd up, the hosts drifted away to a double-digit lead.
SIAULIAI – Another intense battle between Siauliai and Tartu University was once again decided in the final minutes. Having lost the first game by two points, the Estonians managed to regroup, lead for most of the game and take home Bronze with an 78-70 victory.
Tartu got ahead with some hot shooting early on, running off to a 12-3 start. Carl Engstrom and Janar Talts were doing business in the block, as they combined for 16 points in the first quarter alone and had Tartu leading by ten heading into the second period.
Siauliai picked up from a poor start and finally got things going, reducing the margin to seven in the next segment and creeping up from behind to tie the game up in the third.
Janar Talts used his smarts to make his way for easy baskets under the rim, as he spearheaded Tartu’s efforts and gave back the lead to the Estonians.
For Tartu, Janar Talts did the heavy lifting, finishing the game with 22 points. Steven Cook had 16, while Carl Engstrom ended up with 14. Vytenis Cizauskas had 10, as Kristjan Kitsing and Julius Kazakauskas added 8 each.
Nick Zeisloft was huge for Siauliai in the second half, finishing the game with 17 points. Having led the way for Siauliai in the first half, Donatas Sabeckis and Arminas Urbutis had 14 and 12points, respectively. Laurynas Birutis had a quiet game, as he ended up with 10 points.
After full-out dominance in both international and domestic fronts, Laurynas Birutis was named the Player of the Month of March, making it his second award in the league this season.
After raking in the monthly honors in the Lithuanian Basketball League (LKL), the big man adds another Baltic Basketball League Player of the Month award to his tally.
Birutis averaged 18.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and 21.8 ranking points per game, as his club continues its battle for a podium finish.
The young Center from Siauliai started the month off dropping 16 points and 13 rebounds as he finished off Ogre in the Quarterfinals. He followed that up with another great series against Pieno Zvaigzdes. His best game of the month was a loss against the Pasvalys club, where he tallied 22 points and 8 rebounds.
The award will be presented in Siauliai's final game of the season on the 4th of May, as the Lithuanians try to hold on to a slim margin in their battle for bronze.
JURMALA - It was a one-sided first leg of the finals, as Pieno Zvaigzdes easily handled Jurmala on the road, bringing back an eighteen point margin and a 98-80 victory.
The two sides started the game off testing each other out, trading punches that gave Jurmala a single-point advantage after the opening quarter. The Latvians were hanging onto a slim margin for another quarter and while they entered the second half ahead, things got out of hand right after the break.
Pieno Zvaigzdes won the third quarter 31-17 with the help of an 11-0 run and broke free, adding to their lead in the final period.
Jurmala will be hoping for a small miracle on the 5th of April, as they visit Pasvalys for the final game of the season.
Trevon Hughes had the hot hand, dropping 22 points for Pasvalys. Osvaldas Olisevicius added 15 points, while Vyacheslav Bobrov and Jahenns Manigat chupped in with 14 apiece. Manigat also filled out the scoresheet with 8 assists and 5 rebounds. Tomas Lekunas had 12 points, while Martynas Varnas ended up with 10.
Edgars Jeromanovs had things going for him individually, as he put up a game-high 24 points and dished out 6 assists. Haralds Karlis scored 14, while Ervins Jonats and Denis Krestinin had 10 apiece.
TARTU - In a high-scoring affair truly worth a final, Siauliai managed to take home a slender, 88-86 lead against Tartu University, as we await an exciting return leg next week.
Tartu had the upper hand initially, as they rocketed ahead for a ten-point lead not even a quarter into the contest. However, all the momentum was taken away in the second period, as Siauliai went on a 14-0 run to jump ahead before halftime.
The two sides traded bucket for bucket up until the final moments. Vytenis Cizauskas had the chance to tie the game up with 20 seconds to go, but his shot was swatted away, and the two sides will have to settle everything in Siauliai.
Laurynas Birutis was being his usual self, leading the way with 22 points. Akeem Wright added 16 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists, while Arminas Urbutis ended up with 10 points and 8 boards. Vytautas Sarakauskas finished up with 9, as the trio of Sarunas Beniusis, Kristupas Zemaitis and Donatas Sabeckis chipped in with eight points apiece. Sabeckis also added 8 assists to the tally.
For the Estonian side, it was the guards doing the heavy lifting, as veteran Tanel Sokk picked up 19 points and 4 assists, while Vytenis Cizauskas added 18 points and another 5 dimes. Kristjan Kitsing had 13 points, as Janar Talts and Julius Kazakauskas ended up with 12 and 10 points, respectively.
JURMALA - While it was University of Tartu coming away with the 83-81 victory over Jurmala, it was the hosts still smiling after the final buzzer, as it meant their 12-point first game lead was enough for them to make their first BBL Finals in team history.
Jurmala had won the first match-up between the two clubs by 12 points, 81-69, therefore their task was so much easier today. The Latvians made sure they had the upper hand in the first half, as they led by a combined margin of 17.
Nevertheless, Coach Priit Vene brought some life into his side during halftime, and they came firing back, as they cut the deficit in half in the third quarter alone. They couldn't get any close enough, though, and ended up with a meaningless two-point victory.
Ervins Jonats had a double-double night, scoring 16 and adding 12 boards. Ugis Pinete scored another 16 points, while Denis Krestinin ended the night with 12.
For Tartu, their main scoring outlets were Kristjan Kitsing and Janar Talts, as they tallied 21 and 19 points, respectively, also adding 7 rebounds apiece. Vytenis Cizauskas finished the game with 13 points in his account
Having been just one spot shy of the BBL Champions' Trophy last year, Pieno Zvaigzdes will have the chance to make things right this time around, as they defeated Siauliai in the second leg of the Semifinal, 68-64.
Pieno Zvaigzdes already had a tangible advantage, entering the game up by seven points after their 91-84 first leg win. They continued working hard and have already at least repeated last year's success, when they lost to Vytautas in the Finals.
Siauliai seemed to have pushed their noses ahead in the second quarter, going up by 6 to trim the series deficit to just one point, but Pieno Zvaigzdes responded with solid defensive work and retained the lead and bruised their way to the finish line.
Osvaldas Olisevicius stood out as the low-scoring game's top player, as he dropped 16 points and tore down 7 rebounds. Trevon Hughes added 14, while Jahenns Manigat ended the night with 13 points and 7 rebounds.
Laurynas Birutis led Siauliai with 14 points and 9 rebounds, as Arminas Urbutis added 10 points and 5 boards. Nicholas Zeisloft and Vytautas Sarakauskas ended the night with 9 points apiece.
TARTU - Jurmala made the most of their visit to Estonia, as they managed to set themselves up with a 12-point advantage before the return leg, defeating Tartu University 81-69.
Jurmala took the upper hand in the opening stages of the game, as they slowly built up a lead. However, it was never a one-way road, as Tartu were down by just four points before the final quarter. Jurmala managed to dominate in the final ten minutes and run up the score to double digits.
Edgars Jeromanovs led the Latvians with 17 points and was a pest on defense, tallying 6 steals. Denis Krestinin, who also had 10 rebounds, and Kristaps Plavnieks added 15 points, while Haralds Karlis and Ervins Jonats ended up with 10 apiece.
Vytenis Cizauskas scored 17 to lead Tartu in scoring. Steven Cook added 12, as Carl Engstrom and Janar Talts chipped in with 11. Tanel Sokk ended the game with 10.
SIAULIAI - Pieno Zvaigzdes managed to upset quite the crowd of Siauliai fans, as they raced towards a 91-84 victory in the first leg of the BBL Semifinal.
It was truly a game of runs, as the visiting Pasvalys side managed to run ahead by double-digits, 31-20. Nevertheless, it turned around in the second segment, as Siauliai managed to flip it over with a 30-15 quarter.
Pieno Zvaigzdes' final run happened at the start of the second half with another big run, that helped them keep their heads above water.
Pieno Zvaigzdes had a more rounded performance of the two sides, as five players entered double figures in scoring. Osvaldas Olisevicius was the top gun with 16 points and 7 rebounds in his tally. Vyacheslav Bobrov and Trevon Hughes added 15 each, while Jahenns Manigat and Arturs Ausejs finished up with 10 each.
Laurynas Birutis stepped up with 22 points and 8 rebounds for Siauliai, as his partner in crime, Donatas Sabeckis, flirted with a triple-double. Sabeckis filled out the statsheet with 17 points, 9 rebounds and 9 assists. He also revoked 11 fouls, getting to the free-throw line for a total of 13 times. Akeem Wright added another 17 points, although his efficiency was very poor, as he made just 4-of-12 from the field.