TARTU – The outcome of the Triobet BBL Semi-Final tie between TU/Rock and Valmiera/ORDO remains in the air after the first leg of the match-up ended in a close 68-64 win for the home side on Tuesday evening.
Yet to lose a game in the Play-Offs, the Estonian side will have a slender four-point cushion in the second game, which will be played in exactly a week’s time at the Vidzeme Olympic Center.
In a positive start of the game, TU/Rock rode the hot hand of Gert Dorbek, who collected 16 points in the first two quarters, to take a 42-33 lead at the halftime break, with the visitors struggling to find a rhythm offensively.
However, the double-digit lead the hosts held midway through the third period soon disappeared, as Valmiera/ORDO mounted a comeback to cut the deficit to 55-53 before the final frame.
Although the guests never took the lead, they did not allow TU/Rock to break away either, finishing the game with a manageable four-point deficit.
Dorbek finished the game with a game-high 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting, while Brian Harper and Tanel Sokk collected 13 and 10 points respectively.
For Valmiera/ORDO, Armands Skele had 16 points and seven boards, Kwamain Mitchell scored 13, while Lauris Blaus chipped in with 13 points.
Gert Kullamae, head coach of TU/Rock: "It was a tough game from both sides and as expected neither team gave anything away easily. We got in front by 10 points, but lost the rhythm after that. I’m pleased with our defense today. Altogether we have to be satisfied with the win and second half awaits in Valmiera. This could possibly become a one shot series – one shot can decide who will go to the Finals."
Roberts Stelmahers, head coach of Valmiera/ORDO: "It’s always nice, but hard to play in Tartu. I’m happy for the team that we came back from a ten-point deficit and showed character. Tartu used their strengths and are a good team that has played together for years. For home game we will have more fans and we’ll see how it goes in Valmiera."
JEKABPILS – Back-to-back Triobet BBL champions Siauliai got past the Quarter-Final barrier in the Play-Offs despite picking up a 93-91 loss against Jekabpils on the road in Latvia on Tuesday.
Having built a nine point lead in the first leg, the Lithuanian side controlled the flow of events in the away game as well, but a late spurt by the hosts provided a consolation prize for the home fans.
A good start saw Jekabpils take an early 18-9 lead halfway through the opening period, but Siauliai answered with an 11-3 run to cut the gap to a single point in a matter of minutes.
The game swung in the completely opposite direction in the second period, with the visitors going up 47-36 after a basket by Domagoj Bubalo. However, a strong end to the first half, saw the double-digit gap melt to two points at the interval.
But in the third quarter, Siauliai managed to increase their advantage to 68-62 before successfully sailing the ship home, despite a late spurt by the home side that saw Jekabpils snatch a small win that wasn't enough to change the outcome of the aggregate score.
David Dudzinski had 25 points for Siauliai, Rokas Giedraitis added 16 points, six rebounds and four assists, while Gintaras Leonavicius chipped in with 14 points and four assists.
For Jekabpils, Rinalds Sirsnins collected a team-high 22 points and seven assists, Modestas Kumpys collected 17 points, while Tyler Larson had 15 points.
The field in the Triobet BBL Play-Offs has dwindled down to just four teams after an exciting Quarter-Final stage, which saw defending champions Siauliai advance to the Semi-Final round, alongside Lietkabelis, TU/Rock and Valmiera/ORDO.
Having won the two previous editions of the league, Siauliai will go up against another Lithuanian side Lietkabelis in regional derby, which means that Lithuanian will certainly have a team in the Championship Round. Meanwhile, TU/Rock and Valmiera/ORDO will be playing for the second ticket to the Final on the other side of the bracket.
Siauliai vs Lietkabelis
Siauliai entered the competition from the Play-Offs after being eliminated in the First Group Stage of the FIBA Europe Cup. The Eight-Final tie against Port of Parnu was a breeze for the back-to-back champions, who posted a 186-141 win on aggregate.
The Quarter-Final round was definitely more tightly contested, but a 73-64 victory against Jekabpils in the first leg at home in Lithuania was enough to see Siauliai through, despite a two-point loss on the road.
Their Semi-Final opponents, Lietkabelis, had an excellent Regular Season in Triobet BBL and finished first in Group A with a 10-2 record, which was good enough for second in the Regular Season rankings.
After drawing the first game of the Eight-Final tie with Jurmala/Fenikss 88-88 on the road in Latvia, Lietkabelis took care of business with a convincing 92-78 victory at home in Panevezys to qualify for the Quarter-Finals, where they topped Nevezis 148-120 on aggregate after a big win in the first game.
Big man David Dudzinski had been the key man for Siauliai, averaging 18 points and 4 rebounds per game on 52% shooting from three-point range in Triobet BBL Play-Offs. The team’s captain Gintaras Leonavicius has also been a steady contributor.
Rokas Giedraitis has also had a big impact after being sent back to his former club on loan by Lietuvos Rytas. The 23-year-old athletic swingman has put up averages of 15 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists per game.
However, as part of the deal, Siauliai sent a key piece in Arturas Jomantas to Vilnius, which will undoubtedly be a big loss for the club.
Meanwhile, Lietkabelis will be relying on the 216 cm Serbian giant Mile Ilic to do some damage to a fairly limited Siauliai frontcourt. Ilic, who leads the team in points, rebounds and blocks has been the main man in the middle after Arturas Valeika got sidelined with an injury.
In a generally well-rounded team, Miljan Pavkovic serves an important role of orchestrating the offense and is averaging 8.1 points and 5.7 assists. He will receive some help from Zygimatnas Janavicius, who joined the team recently from Lietuvos Rytas.
The trio of Arnas Labuckas, Valdas Vasylius and Jermaine Love should be also on the scouting radar of Siauliai as players who could be dangerous in the tie.
TU/Rock vs Valmiera/ORDO
TU/Rock had more success in the FIBA Europe Cup than Siauliai, advancing from the First Group Stage before eventually running out of steam in the second phase. The Estonian club has steamrolled its opponents in the Triobet BBL Play-Offs so far and has not shown any signs of slowing down.
In the Eight-Final stage, the Tartu club blew out Barsy with an aggregate score of 204-151 after winning both of the legs handily. They did, however, have an advantage of playing both games at home.
Although the victory margin of the Quarter-Final series was smaller, there was little intrigue in the tie itself, as TU/Rock won the first leg against Liepaja/Triobet by 27 points before finishing off all formalities with closer 80-76 win away from home.
In all fairness, the path to the Semi-Final was not all that difficult for Valmiera/ORDO as well, as the Latvian side eased past TLU Kalev in the Eight-Final stage with a 171-134 win on aggregate before taking care of Pieno Zvaigzdes in the Quarter-Final.
At one point in the first leg, the Valmiera club held a 34-point lead, but a rather wasteful end to the game allowed the Lithuanians to cut the gap to 10 and keep some hope, but Valmiera/ORDO pushed them with an 80-78 victory at home.
In the four games played in Triobet BBL, Brian Harper has been the most impactful player for TU/Rock, averaging 15 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.8 blocks and 1 steal per game. Evaldas Zabas has been probably the second most important piece on the team, with averages of 14.5 points and 5.5 assists per game.
There is no clear leader on Valmiera/ORDO, but Martins Laksa, Aigars Skele and Armands Skele stand out as the three players averaging double digits in points. Laksa is the top scorer with 11.5 points per game, while brothers Aigars and Armands collect 11.2 and 11.1 respectively.
The addition of American point guard Kwamain Mitchell, who already made his debut against Pieno Zvaigzdes, added a new spark to Roberts Stelmahers’ squad, who are looking to improve on what has turned out to be a historically good season for the club in the Baltic league.
VALMIERA – The series seemed to be going down to the wire, but Valmiera used a terrific second half to put the series out of reach and win the second leg of the Quarter-Final against Pieno Zvaigzdes by two, 80-78.
Pieno Zvaigzdes were down by 31 at one point in the first leg, but their second-half performance helped bring the drama back into the series, as they faced just a ten point deficit.
It was sure to be a nail-biting affair, as the two sides didn’t let the other take control. Pieno Zvaigzdes were in front by one after ten minutes. The visitors kept nabbing points away from the deficit and at halftime it was just a 6-point cumulative lead for Valmiera.
Pieno Zvaigzdes opened the second part of the game with 4 consecutive points and were down by just two in the series. Nevertheless, Valmiera soon jumped ahead and the visitors were on the outside looking in with a combined deficit of 11 before the final quarter.
Valmiera was in control of the series throughout the fourth quarter, and will now face TU/Rock in the Semi-Final.
Arturs Berzins came off the bench to score 17 points for Valmiera, while Martins Laksa added 15. Mitchell Kwamain ended the game with 12, as both Armands, and Aigars Skele had 10 points to their names.
Andriy Agafonov led the Pasvalys side with 15 points and 10 rebounds, while Derrick Low added 13 points and 6 assists to the tally. The trio of Zygimantas Skucas, Steponas Babrauskas and Jokubas Gintvainis all accounted for 11 points in the game.
PANEVEZYS - There was no real drama in Panevezys, as visiting Nevezis failed to fight past the 23-point first leg deficit. Lietkabelis won the second leg of the quarter-final 64-59 and now look forward to the Semis.
While the undermanned Nevezis jumped out to a solid start, Lietkabelis came back strong in the second quarter and were slowly building towards a double-digit lead.
Nevezis were not ready to give in just yet, as they picked up the pace, won the third quarter by double-digits and jumped back ahead by six points before the final quarter, bringing some uncertainty to the series.
Nevertheless, that was soon wiped out with a 12-5 run to start the quarter, bringing Nevezis’ BBL hopes to a halt. The sides traded hoop for hoop in the final minutes, but it was ultimately the home side winning the game by five.
Jurica Zuza was the man leading Lietkabelis, as he scored 17 points and tore down 7 boards. Zygimantas Janavicius added 12 points to the total, while Simas Buterlevicius ended the game with 9.
For Nevezis, it was Ernestas Ezerskis leading the scorers with 17 points and 7 rebounds, while Oleksandr Kolchenko and Aidas Viskontas were good for respectively 12 and 10 points. Mindaugas Kupsas added 8 points and another 8 rebounds.
LIEPAJA – TU/Rock punched in their Triobet BBL Semi-Final ticket after taking care of business against Liepaja/Triobet in the second leg of the Quarter-Final tie on the road at the Liepaja Olympic Center on Tuesday evening.
An 80-76 victory was enough to see the Estonian side progress, with the Tartu club coming into the second leg with a 27-point advantage after winning the first game at home 93-66.
Although the return leg was more or less rendered to a formality right from the get-go, the game itself was relatively close.
The visitors took a one-point lead after the first quarter at 23-22, but Liepaja/Triobet got up in front by a couple of points at the halftime break (44-42).
The game was decided in the third quarter, which TU/Rock won 19-12. The hosts fell short in the final frame.
In the next round, TU/Rock will face either Valmiera/ORDO or Pieno Zvaigzdes, with the Latvian team holding an 10-point lead after the first leg.
PASVALYS – Valmiera/ORDO celebrated a road victory in the first leg of the Triobet BBL Quarter-Final, but a strong fourth quarter by Pieno Zvaigzdes was enough to avert disaster, with the Latvian side winning 81-71 despite leading by as many as 31 points in Pasvalys.
The hosts won the second half of the game by 18 points, minimising the damage from fatal to manageable ahead of the second game in Latvia.
Valmiera/ORDO blew everyone away with a terrific start and took a 31-14 lead already after the first quarter. Mantas Sernius and his team couldn’t stop the visitors from pulling away even further and after a three-pointer by Aigars Skele a couple of minutes into the third period increased the gap to a game-high 58-27.
Nevertheless, Pieno Zvaigzdes showed resilience and brought back some intrigue into the Play-Off tie. However, Valmiera/ORDO will be the favorites with an 11-point lead before the second game.
Giedrius Staniulis had 22 points on 10-of-11 shooting, Derrick Low contributed with 14 points and five rebounds, while Jokubas Gintvainis chipped in with 12 points and four assists.
Armands Skele led the winners with 20 points and 12 rebounds, his brother Aigars Skele scored 16 points, while Lauris Blaus also dropped 16 against the team he started the season in.
KEDAINIAI – A huge fourth quarter performance saw Lietkabelis snatch an 84-61 victory on the road against Nevezis in the first leg of the all-Lithuanian Triobet BBL Quarter-Final match-up in Kedainiai on Wednesday evening.
After a horrendous finish to the game, the Kedainiai side will be the heavy underdogs before the return leg in Panevezys on March 9.
The first half consisted of a non-stop see-saw battle between the sides, with the lead changing hands multiple times. Lietkabelis were the first team to make a serious move after the interval, going on a 10-2 run to go up 55-47.
However, Nevezis finished the third quarter strong and cut the deficit to two points before the final frame. It was all downhill from there on for the hosts, who simply couldn’t get anything going in the last ten minutes, as Lietkabelis made a serious statement for a Semi-Final spot after an incredible 25-4 run.
Mile Ilic was unstoppable with 23 points and seven rebounds, Valdas Vasylius scored 13 points, while Julius Kazakauskas finished the game with 10 points and six boards.
For Nevezis, Vaidotas Volkus and Ernestas Ezerskis scored 12 points apiece, with no other players reaching double figures.
TARTU – TU/Rock dominated the first leg of the Triobet BBL Quarter-Final tie against Liepaja/Triobet, coming away with a 27-point lead before the second leg, having registered a 93-66 victory at home in Tartu on Tuesday evening.
The Latvian side will have a chance to redeem itself on March 8, but it will be an up-hill struggle for Liepaja/Triobet to close a gap this big.
The start of the game set the tone for what was to come, with the hosts opening the first quarter with a forceful 10-0 run. The gap continued to grow in the second quarter, as TU/Rock entered the halftime break with a 49-32 lead.
Not much changed after the interval, with Tartu dominating on both ends of the floor. The gap grew to 26 at the end of the third quarter and reached 32 at one point in the final frame.
Brian Harper was the top-scorer for TU/Rock with 19 points, seven rebounds and five blocks after going 13-of-14 from the free-throw stripe. However, the big man also committed eight turnovers.
Tanel Kurbas added 18 points and 11 rebounds, Brian Harper scored 17 points after going 13-of-14 from the free-throw stripe, while Gert Dorbek finished the game with 14 points.
For Liepaja/Triobet, David Hicks had a team-high 16 points, Ingars Aizpurs collected 15, while Kris Richard and Klavs Cavars added 11 points apiece.
SIAULIAI – There wasn’t much separating the sides in the first leg of the Quarter-Final tie between Siauliai and Jekabpils, with the Lithuanian side claiming a 73-64 victory at home in Siauliai on Tuesday.
The return game will be played in Jekabpils on March 10.
After a close opening quarter, it seemed that the hosts would pull away for good in the second quarter, having opened a 38-25 gap with two minutes remaining in the first half. However, Jekabpils answered with a 9-1 run to cut the deficit to five points before the halftime interval.
In a tightly contested third quarter, Siauliai managed to increase their advantage by a pair and entered the final frame with a 55-47 lead. The game could’ve gone either way late in the fourth quarter, but a solid finish secured a nine-point win for the Lithuanians.
Mike Scott led the winners with 15 points and 14 assists, newcomer Rokas Giedraitis and Cameron Ayers dropped 14 points apiece, while captain Gintaras Leonavicius finished the game with 12 points and eight rebounds.
Rinalds Sirsnins had a game-high 21 points and 10 assists, Ronaldas Rutkauskas double-doubled with 16 points and 15 rebounds, while Arturs Duselis chipped in with 10 points.