We have just finished the first full month of the 2017-2018 season, so let’s take a moment to recap everything that’s taken place so far in and around the Baltic Basketball League with the BBL Monthly Review: November edition.
MVP. Steven Cook claimed the first individual award, as he led Tartu to a record of 4-1 with outstanding all-around play. Not only is he the league’s top scorer, but he’s also among the top rebounding players and in the top three when it comes to three-point shooting. The swingman averaged 20.8 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.5 steals, while his team sits amongst the leaders of Group B.
INTERNATIONAL BREAK. The national teams of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia all took part in the European qualifiers, with the latter two splitting the bill with 1 win and 1 loss, while the Lithuanians had a great break, bringing in two big wins.
Estonia had the largest delegation of BBL players, with Kristjan Kitsing and Janar Talts of Tartu, TTU’s Sten Olmre and AVIS Utilitas’ Indrek Kajupank all making performances. Of these four, Kristjan Kitsing was the most impactful, making his way to a 13.5 point average.
For the Latvian selection, Pieno Zvaigzdes’ Arturs Ausejs was the only BBL player to step foot on the court, but did not leave a greater mark.
RECORD. Viktors Iljins would have been a shoe-in candidate for the monthly MVP trophy if it wasn’t his team’s struggles as a group. However, he did put up an impressive individual performance in Valmiera/ORDO’s only win, setting the season record for most rebounds, while also scoring in bunches. The big man finished the game with an astonishing double-double of 19 points and 20 rebounds, as the Latvian side defeated Tallinna Kalev/TLU.
UNDEFEATED. A month in, there’s only one team in each group that hasn’t suffered a loss. In Group A, surprisingly, it is Jurmala, who have been shockingly good on both the national and international levels, sitting amongst the leaders in the Latvian league and enjoying a 4-0 record in BBL. In Group B, it’s Pieno zvaigzdes with the highest winning record, also at 4-0.
HOTSEAT. Apparently, a 4-0 record in BBL and a decent performance in the Lithuanian league didn't guarantee a coaching position for Pieno zvaigzdes’ Rimantas Grigas. He was recently sacked, as former Juventus’ coach Gediminas Petrauskas recently took the reigns.
TECHNICALS AND EJECTIONS. Probably the most hot-headed person in current-day Baltic basketball, Virginijus Seskus made his presence known in his team’s technical loss against AVIS Utilitas Rapla. Seskus received his second technical foul with the scored tied and just a couple minutes left in the game and withdrew his team with him.
WINLESS. Speaking of the teams that have yet to climb out of their losing slumps, Tsmoki-Minsk and Betsafe Liepaja come to mind. These two clubs have suffered 4 losses each with no wins and share the last spot in Group A.
It’s already December, so it’s right about time to announce the best player in the month of November. The first trophy goes out to University of Tartu guard Steven Cook, who led his team to one of the top positions in Group B with a record of 4-1.
As the season started late in October, we did take those games into consideration as well.
The American has been in scintillating form and leads the league in scoring, is among the top five in rebounds and has also shown tremendous efficiency, ranking second in the league. Throughout the initial four games of the season, he averaged 20.8 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.5 steals. If these numbers were not impressive enough on it's own, Cook has been lighting it up from beyond the arc, making three-pointers at an impressive 53.3 percent clip.
The first game of the season against Ogre was his best so far, as the swingman went on to put up an outstanding double-double with 28 points, 11 rebounds and 4 dimes under his belt. He followed that performance up with 16-point and 17-point performances, while his last game was against Kalev/TLU, where he picked up another double-double: 22 points and 10 rebounds.
The Player of the Month trophy will be awarded in Tartu’s next home game, on the 18th of December.
TALLINN - Visiting Tartu University dominated after halftime and dealt with TTU with no major trouble, claiming a 70-88 victory on the road.
For two quarters it was a nip-and-tuck affair, as the two sides raced back and forth, with TTU leading after the first 10 minutes by five points. Tartu managed to regain momentum quickly and were already up by three before the intermission.
It was flat-out dominance in the second half, as Tartu University raced to a 15-point advantage to enter the final period, where they did their due diligence and closed the game strong.
Vytenis Cizauskas had the highest-scoring in the game, putting up 19 points, as Kristjan Kitsing helped out with another 10 points to the tally. Tanel Sokk chipped in with 12, while Janar Talts had a double-double of 11 points and 10 rebounds. Hendrik Eelmae finished the game with 11 points.
Toomas Raadik was TTU's leading scorer, as he ended the game with 15 points. Oliver Metsalu added 11 to the tally, while Martin Giese was also in double-digits with 10 points to his name.
VALMIERA - It took quite some time, but Valmiera/ORDO finally managed to land themselves their first victory. In what turned out to be a high-scoring affair, the Latvians secured a 94-82 win against Kalev/TLU.
The game started off well for the hosts, as they jump ahead to an early 13-6 advantage. While the margin was quickly cut to just one, the Latvians managed to regain the 7-point advantage in no time.
Valmiera/ORDO continued expanding their advantage and before halftime already had a double-digit advantage.
TLU had no major coup attempts, as they trailed by a margin of around 10 points throughout the next quarter. The closest they got to their opponents was 6 points at the end of the game, but any attempt of a comeback was quietly rebuffed.
It was certainly a memorable night for Viktors Iljins, who dominated the boards and tallied a monstrous double-double - 19 points and 20 rebounds. Janis Kaufmanis was the only player to exceed his scoring, as the guard dropped 21. Eduards Hazners was also great with 19 points, while Edmunds Elksnis ended up with 17 points and 9 rebounds.
Reimo Tamm finished the game with 20 points for the Estonians, while Dorde Dzeletovic added 17. Bamba Fall once again put up impressive numbers, securing a double-double of 13 points and 16 rebounds. Kristo Saage ended up scoring 11 points and dishing out 8 assists.
PARNU - Jurmala extended their impressive campaign in the Baltic Basketball League with their fourth consecutive win, defeating Port of Parnu 72-64 in hostile territory.
Jurmala got off to a great start, raising their margin to 9 points not even a quarter into the game. The margin just grew and by halftime, Jurmala seemed to have reached an insurmountable lead at 16 points.
However, Port of Parnu were not ready to submit just yet and mounted a bit of a run in the final twelve minutes of basketball. A 19-point deficit was quickly cut to single-digits, yet eight points was as close as they got.
Ervins Jonats had a great game for Jurmala, scoring 19 points, while Haralds Karlis added another 11 for the victors.
Rannar Raap was Parnu's top scorer with 20 points. Mikhel Kirves added 11 points to the tally, whereas Timo Eichfuss and Saimon Sutt finished up with 10.
PASVALYS - It was the fourth consecutive victory for hosting Pieno zvaigzdes, as they defeated TTU 75-51.
It was a no contest early on, as the Lithuanians ran off to a great start, finishing the quarters up three-fold, 24-8. Things didn't get better for TTU from there on, as they continued trailing by a double-digit margin.
Pieno zvaigzdes reached their largest lead, 29 points in the middle of the final quarter. Safe to say, the game was all but over way before.
Ignas Fiodorovas had a team-high 13 points for Pieno zvaigzdes, while Trevon Hughes and Steponas Babrauskas added a dozen each. Tomas Lekunas and Vyacheslav Bobrov finished up with 10 points each.
Levan Maskhulia was TTU's top scorer, getting 15 points under his belt. Tonis Peil had an impressive double-double, as he put up 13 points and 18 rebounds.
SIAULIAI - After an intense battle throughout the whole game and a very exciting finish, Vytautas managed to go out victorious in Siauliai, taking an 82-79 victory in hostile territory.
It was a game between two equals, and that was visible early on, as both sides traded punch for punch. Vytautas did have the upper hand after the first quarter though, as they led by two.
Siauliai started the second quarter off with a 6-0 spurt, yet that didn't do too much damage to Vytautas' hopes, as they quickly regained momentum and got back ahead by a basket.
The third quarter brought no change of scenery, as the lead kept changing hands - the leading side changed 12 times throughout the game, while the score was tied 16 times.
However, the visitors managed to make some room for themselves in the final period, as a 9-0 run got their lead to a game-high 11 points with just three minutes to go. Although it seemed this one was all said and done, Siauliai managed to claw back mostly because of Arminas Urbutis' tremendous play.
The home side sprinted back with a 10-0 run and were now down by just one with a minute remaining. However, a couple of unsuccessful plays, including a missed last-second three point attempt, resulted in a loss by a very small margin.
Tomas Dimsa had a good game for the winning side, as he tallied 20 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists. Denys Lukashov added 18 points to the tally, while Edvinas Seskus and Martynas Linkevicius ended up scoring 10.
On the other end, it was an outstanding performance by Arminas Urbutis, who recorded a double-double of 26 points and 11 rebounds, all in 12-of-16 shooting. Akeem Wright added 16 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists. Donatas Sabeckis finished with 12 points, while Rytis Pipiras ended the game with 10.
OGRE - A dominating performance marked a morale-crunching 105-62 victory for Ogre against Latvian rivals Valmiera/ORDO on Tuesday evening.
Ogre got off to a hot start in the first quarter and we saw their lead climb into double-digit territory fairly quickly - after just ten minutes of basketball, it was already a 27-17 lead for the hosts.
Valmiera managed to stay afloat in the second period, but the deficit got out of hand after the break, as Valmiera's offense seemed to have shut down. They could not get anything to fall, witnessing a manageable 13-point game quickly turning into a blow-out.
Ogre showed it's best basketball with Rihards Zebergs on the court. During the 28 minutes the 25-year-old spent on the court, Ogre improved their lead by 37 points. The Latvian himself scored 21 points and was quick to draw fouls too. Lauris Mizis added 16 points and 6 rebounds to the tally, while Rinalds Sirsnins ended up with 15. Davis Atelbauers and Gints Antrops finished with 13 points apiece, as Guntis Sipolins joined the company with 10 points of his own.
Only six players made a mark in scoring for Valmiera/ORDO today, as the visitors were led by a 16-point performance from Viktors Iljins. Eduards Hazerns added 13 points off the bench, while Davids Viksne ended up with 12. Edmunds Elksnis brought another 11 points to the tally.
JURMALA - Not much of a contest in the Latvian seaside, as Jurmala took care of AVIS Utilitas Rapla with some high-powered offense, winning 97-72.
It was a very tight game for two quarters, as both teams struggled getting on a roll and were just changing hands of lead, back and forth.
However, come second half, it was full-blown dominance from the home side - a seven point advantage at the break, quickly grew to double-digits, and Rapla were already facing an 18-point deficit before the start of the final period.
Things didn't get much better for them in the fourth quarter, as Jurmala advanced their lines and pushed the margin to 25 before the final buzzer.
Haralds Karlis had a great night scoring the ball, as he put up 23 points and also added 6 rebounds to the tally. Ugis Pinete chipped in with 16 points, while Denis Krestinin finished with 12. Ervins Jonats had 11 points in his account.
Devonte Upson had a team-high 21 points for the visitors, as he drew foul after foul, revoking a total of 8 fouls. The American also added 9 rebounds to the tally. Nolan Cressler and Indrek Kajupank also entered the double-digit scoring zone, as they finished the game with 12 and 11 points, respectively.
TARTU - A match-up between two Estonian clubs ended in a blow-out victory for Tartu University, as they beat Tallinna Kalev/TLU by a big margin, 86-67.
The teams couldn't get off to a high-scoring start, starting off with 4 points each in the first three minutes. However, Tartu managed to get things going for a while and were already up by eight at one point in the first quarter. Nevertheless, a three-pointer before the end of the period cut that margin to just seven.
Throughout the second period, the margin slowly expanded, but it did reach double-digits, as 44-31 glared on the scoreboard.
Nothing changed through the third quarter, as Tartu University entered the final quarter up by a dozen, quickly building on that with stifling defense. With a big margin between the two clubs, everything was already settled and the home side enjoyed a 19-point victory.
Steven Cook led the game in scoring with 22 points in his account, as he also added 10 rebounds to the tally for a double-double. Kristjan Kitsing added 17 points, while Carl Engstrom finished up with 15.
For Tallinna Kalev/TLU Dorde Dzeletovic was the top scorer with 21 points. Reimo Tamm added a dozen, as Kaido Saks ended up with 10. Bamba Fall had more points than rebounds, as he got close to a double-double of 8 points and 14 rebounds.