Halfway through the Round of 32, the four teams representing the Baltics in the FIBA Europe Cup have had mixed result. This time around only Ventspils and Pieno Zvaigzdes managed to tab a victory, while Juventus fell in dramatic fashion.
Ventspils 77-69 Lukoil Academic
Ventspils showed true resilience, as they fought all the way back from a 15-point deficit with dominating play inside the paint. The Latvians outrebounded their opponents 44-26 and jumped to the top of Group P with their second victory in three games.
Artis Ate was the top gunner for Ventspils with 18 points to his name, while Kristaps Janicenoks was good for 15. Allan Wiggins chipped in with 13 points and 7 rebounds, as Andrejs Grazulis came off the bench to add 10 points and 7 boards.
Enisey Krasnoyarsk 87-68 TU/Rock
After a dreadful start to the game, TU/Rock found themselves down by 20 not even halfway through the game. While the Estonians clawed back, wiping out the double-digit deficit, the home side were not about to let this one slip and recovered victory with an 18-3 run, handing TU/Rock their third loss in the Round of 32.
Gert Dorbek led the way for the Tartu side with 21 points, while Evaldas Zabas added 12 to the total. Brian Harper and Janar Talts accounted for 9 points each, as they also chipped in with 9 and 6 rebounds respectively.
Pieno Zvaigzdes 95-93 Energia Targu
While they were still up by double-digits with 6 minutes remaining, Pieno Zvaigzdes ended up squandering a 19-point third quarter advantage. Nevertheless, they still rose victorious for their first victory after an overtime drama.
Ramon Moore was the hero for Pieno Zvaigzdes, as he scored 22 points, including the go-ahead basket in overtime, while also filling the boxscore with 6 assists and 5 rebounds. Andriy Agafonov was solid with 17 points and 9 rebounds, while Giedrius Staniulis chipped in with 15 points.
Khimik 77-76 Juventus Utena
The Lithuanian side led the way for 35 minutes of basketball and had the lead and the ball with 12 seconds to go, but were still unable to close out the game. Edgaras Zelionis’ shot was blocked and Khimik converted on both free-throws to push ahead.
Edgaras Zelionis put up a great performance with 20 points and 6 rebounds for Utena, while Arminas Urbutis scored 18. Spencer Butterfield and Rolandas Alijevas ended the game with 11 points apiece, while the latter also had 6 rebounds and 6 assists.
PRIENAI – Despite losing the first three quarters, Vytautas managed to keep their unbeaten record intact after a fourth-quarter comeback saw them take an 83-81 victory against the visiting Jekabpils in Lithuania on Wednesday.
Although the Lithuanian side, now 10-0, had already guaranteed first place in Group B, avoiding a loss in the late stages of the regular season is a good sign for the team’s confidence. Meanwhile, Jekabpils dropped to a 5-5 mark.
Only two points separated the sides after the first period, with the visitors holding a slight edge. They had increased the gap to as many as seven points in the second period, but eventually finished the half up only 44-41.
Led by Tyler Larson, Jekapbils remained in front in the third quarter, but Vytautas were breathing down their necks the entire time. The guests were closer to getting the win heading into the final quarter, with the scoreboard showing 66-60 in their favor.
However, the experienced Vytautas squad mounted a comeback in the fourth period and took the lead at 71-69 with six minutes remaining in the game after a made shot by Vaidas Cepukaitis.
Although the game could have gone either way, it was the hosts who looked betted down the stretch, as they avoided the upset in front of the home crowd.
Laimonas Kisielius had a team-high 22 points and 17 rebounds for Vytautas, Sarunas Vasiliauskas scored 20 points, while Vilmantas Dilys collected 16 points for the winners.
Meanwhile, Tyler Larson scored 31 points for Jekabpils after going 7-of-11 from three-point range. Modestas Kumpys scored 17 points for the Latvian side. Quite interestingly, these two players also accounted for all 13 of 15 turnovers by the team.
PANEVEZYS – With one game remaining in the regular season, Lietkabelis clinched the first place in Group A standings with a 98-70 victory against the visiting AVIS Rapla at home in Panevezys.
The Lithuanian side managed to get revenge for the loss in Estonia earlier in the season and improved to a 10-1 record. Meanwhile, the visitors from Rapla ran out of steam on the second night of a back-to-back and dropped to 6-3.
After a close first quarter, Lietkabelis went on an 11-2 run at the start of the second period to take the control of the game into their own hands. Having finished the first half with a 40-34 advantage, the hosts continued solid play after the interval as well.
The margin grew to double digits after a fantastic third quarter for Lietkabelis, who entered the final frame with a 15-point edge at 68-53 and sealed the deal comfortably in the final ten minutes of play.
Mile Ilic and Mantas Kazonas led the winners with 14 points apiece, while Brandis Raley Ross collected 10 points. All twelve players scored for Lietkabelis.
On the other side, William Artino had a game-high 23 points and eight rebounds, while Karl Johan Lips chipped in with 11 points.
RIGA – Something like this could not have been foreseen coming into the game, as Barons/LDz used a heavy barrage of three-pointers to sink one of Group A leaders Valmiera/ORDO by an unfathomable 42-point margin at home in Riga.
Arturs Ausejs paced the winners with 36 points and seven assists, as the Riga club triumphed 111-69 and improved to a 3-7 record, while Valmiera/ORDO lost its second game in a row, dropping to a 7-3 mark.
The hosts were red-hot right from the get-go and broke away to a 30-11 advantage already after the first quarter. With the visitors from Valmiera struggling to get stops, Barons/LDz added 30 more points in the second quarter to increase their lead to 60-28 at the halftime break.
The one-sided game continued after the interval, with the home side knocking one long-range shot after another, as they not only went on to add a valuable victory, but also made a statement to the rest of the league.
Barons/LDz made 11-of-22 shots from three-point territory, with Ausejs making a team-high six and Jason Calliste adding four more on his way to 23 points. The American also added 10 boards and six assists.
For Valmiera/ORDO, Martins Laksa had a team-high 16 points and seven rebounds, while Armands Skele and Lauris Blaus added 11 points.
LIEPAJA – Liepaja/Triobet were trailing for much of the second half, but managed to overcome the deficit to take a 77-69 victory against the visiting Barsy side at the Liepaja Olympic Center on Tuesday.
The win allowed the hosts to improve to an 8-3 mark in Group B. It was the third loss in a row for Barsy, who find themselves with a 3-7 record with only a handful of games remaining.
After a relatively even first quarter of play, Liepaja/Triobet had a 22-20 edge, but Barsy were breathing down their necks the entire team. The visitors had gone up 36-28 in the second period, but a 9-0 run to end the half allowed the hosts to regain a one-point lead heading into the interval.
Barsy tried to break away once again in the third period and did so with some success, building a 56-49 gap before the final frame. However, Liepaja/Triobet did not give up and marched right back into the game with an 8-0 spurt midway through the fourth quarter.
Led by the duo of Zack Stephan and Toms Leimanis, the hosts finished the game on a strong note and, having won the final period 24-10, celebrated a victory after coming from behind.
Leimanis finished with a team-high 18 points and seven assists, Stephan collected 16 points and nine rebounds, while Khris Richard added 12 points in the win for Liepaja/Triobet.
Meanwhile, Dmitriy Klimov had 23 points for Barsy, with Michael Burwell collecting 14 points and 10 rebounds. Ryan Cook scored 13 points, grabbed nine rebounds, but turned the ball over five times.
TALLINN – The wait is finally over in Tallinn, as TTU registered its first win of the season in Triobet BBL, defeating the visiting Jurmala/Fenikss 79-75 in overtime at the TTU Sports Hall on Tuesday.
The lone win doesn’t do much to help TTU climb out of the bottom of Group B, but it certainly gives the Estonian side some hope. Meanwhile, the visitors from Jurmala dropped to a 4-7 record.
An excellent start of the game saw the hosts go up 25-18 after the first quarter of play, with the same seven-point game remaining in place at the halftime break, with TTU up 37-30.
After the interval, Jurmala/Fenikss made a comeback and took a 51-50 lead before the start of the final period. However, after a close battle in the fourth quarter, nothing separated the sides.
Although Casey Roberts opened the scoring for Jurmala/Fenikss in the extra period, it was TTU who shot ahead after scoring six points to run away with what was the first win of the season for them.
Toomas Raadik had a team-high 18 points for the winners, the team’s captain Kiur Akenparg collected 16 points, while Kristjan Kitsing added 14 points and eight rebounds.
For Jurmala/Fenikss, Edgars Jeromanovs scored 20 points and grabbed seven rebounds, Andrew Smith scored 16 points and notched down an amazing 25 rebounds, but it wasn’t enough to come away with a win.
With 25 rebounds, Smith repeated Tanoka Beard's league record, which he set representing Zalgiris in 2005 versus Lietuvos Rytas.
KEDAINIAI – After starting the year on the wrong foot in Riga, the struggles continued for Nevezis, who suffered a 69-57 loss against AVIS Rapla at home in Kedainiai on Tuesday evening.
It was the fourth consecutive defeat for the Lithuanian side, who dropped to a 2-8 record in Group A, while the visitors from Rapla improved to a 6-2 mark following their fourth win in a row.
After opening the game with a strong first quarter, Nevezis broke away to an early 16-8 lead, but saw the gap quickly disappear, as AVIS Rapla responded with an even better second period, which allowed the visitors to go up 32-29 at the halftime interval.
The guests stayed in front after the break, increasing the gap to 52-44 heading into the final frame of the game. Nevezis managed to get as close as four points in the fourth quarter, but the Estonians did not panic and sealed the win with solid play down the stretch.
Sven Kaldre was the leading scorer for the winners with 17 points, William Artino added 15 points and six rebounds, while Kristjan Voolaid finished the game with 11 points and nine boards.
Meanwhile, Oleksandr Kolchenko had 18 points and seven rebounds for Nevezis. No other players reached double figures, with Grant Johnson coming closest with nine points, nine rebounds and three steals in his account.
There were six games in the opening week of 2016 in Triobet BBL, as action resumed after the Christmas break with plenty of drama. Leaders fell, newcomers made game-changing debuts, while veterans turned back the clock and gave the new generation some lessons in the game of basketball.
Let’s take a look back at the outstanding performances of the week in another volume of Triobet BBL Weekly Review!
DEBUT. When Dominykas Milka joined TLU Kalev, not many could have expected him to be as spectacularly good as he was in his debut against one of Group A leaders Valmiera/ORDO. The 23-year-old Lithuanian big man, who arrived to the Estonian capital from Hiroshima Dragonflies in Japan, scored 27 points and grabbed eight rebounds, as TLU Kalev defeated Valmiera/ORDO 80-79 to mark the start of 2016 with one of the bigger upsets of the season. Having improved to a 5-5 record, the Estonian side looks good going forward after the addition of Milka.
SHORTHANDED. There were only eight players at the disposal of Vytautas coach Virginijus Seskus in the first game of the new year and the team’s starting point guard Sarunas Vasiliauskas played only six minutes, but it didn’t prevent the Lithuanian side from keeping their unbeaten run going by topping Barsy 80-73 at home in Prienai. Vytautas Sulskis and Vilmantas Dilys took on the burden of carrying the team in such circumstances and had 24 points each in a win.
TURNING BACK THE CLOCK. Group A leaders Lietkabelis had to work hard for the road win against Port of Parnu after arriving to Estonia without three key players in Arturas Valeika, Arnas Labuckas and Mile Ilic. After a second-half spurt, the Lithuanians did triumph 97-92 and much of the laurels belong to the 37-year-old Croatian center Jurica Zuza who had his best game of the season with 23 points, seven rebounds and five assists.
MVP. Before the game against Barsy, Vytautas forward Laimonas Kisielius was presented with the December MVP award. BBL.net sat down with Kisielius to talk about being back in Prienai, the team’s title aspirations in Triobet BBL and the desire to fight for medals in Lithuania, as well as the difficulties that come along with having a relatively thin roster. You can read the full interview here.
ROSTER MOVES. There were some roster moves across quite a few Triobet BBL squads. In addition to the previously mentioned move that brought Dominykas Milka to TLU Kalev, Valmiera/ORDO added Lauris Blaus, Barons/LDz got Kristaps Gluditis, Edvinas Seskus signed with Vytautas, former Ukrainian national team player Oleksandr Kolchenko inked a contract with Nevezis while Port of Parnu brought in Mark Dorris to compensate for the departure of its leader Andrew Warren, who left to Kosovo. Later, Lietkabelis announced the signing of former Baltic League standout Brandis Raley Ross. Domagoj Bubalo left AVIS Rapla to join Siauliai in Lithuania, while Barons/LDz said goodbye to three American players.
PERFORMANCE OF THE WEEK. Kazakh side Barsy has not had the best of luck in 2016, picking up two losses in a row to start the year. After falling short 80-73 against Prienai, the team from Atyrau suffered a 94-78 loss at the hands of Jekabpils a couple of days later, despite Ryan Cook scoring 28 points, grabbing 10 boards and registering three steals. The 25-year-old American guard had the best performance of the week with an index rating of 37.
In Vytautas' win against Barsy, Vytautas Sulskis also had 37 ranking points having collected 24 points and 14 rebounds.
JEKABPILS – It was the sort of start to 2016 that Jekabpils was looking for in Triobet BBL, as the Latvian side brushed aside Barsy for a 94-78 victory at the Jekabpils Sporta Nams on Sunday afternoon.
The first meeting between the sides back in November also ended in a win for the Latvian side, who now have a 5-4 record in Group B, while Barsy have won three and lost six games.
Jekabpils rode on the back of stellar play by Tyler Larson, who had 27 points and 10 rebounds, and led from start to finish after breaking away early with a strong first quarter.
Although Barsy did not allow the deficit to get out of hand, the hosts were very much the dominant side on the court, dictating the run of play. Leading 67-60 before the final frame, Jekabpils sealed the win with a convincing fourth quarter.
Lithuanian big man Ronaldas Rutkauskas had a huge double-double of 17 points and 15 rebounds for the winners, as Sandis Silavs and Modestas Kumpys chipped in with 16 and 15 points respectively.
For Barsy, the efforts of Ryan Cook and Michael Burwell were not enough. Cook finished the game as the leading scorer with 28 points and 10 rebounds to his name, while Burwell added 13 points and 11 rebounds.
With the Christmas break already in the books, action returned not only in Triobet BBL. The four teams representing the Baltics in the FIBA Europe Cup also resumed play, but did so with mixed success, as Ventspils and Juventus got their first wins of the Round of 32, while Pieno Zvaigzdes and TU/Rock lost again.
Ventspils 97-80 Antwerp Giants
Ventspils ran away to a double-digit lead after the opening quarter against Antwerp Giants and never looked back, going on to take a convincing 97-80 victory in Group P action. The Latvian team, like the remaining three teams in the group, have a 1-1 record.
Kristaps Janicenoks collected 21 points, Martins Gulbis scored 17 and grabbed five rebounds, while Zanis Peiners finished the game with 16 points and five assists.
TU/Rock 83-87 Foxtown Cantu
Despite hanging close for nearly 40 minutes, TU/Rock could not hold out and eventually suffered an 87-83 loss at the hands of Foxtown Cantu. Following this loss, the Estonians are now 0-2 in Group R.
Lithuanian guard Evaldas Zabas had an excellent evening offensively, scoring a game-high 26 points, but it wasn’t enough. Janar Talts scored 17 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, while Gert Dorbek chipped in with 13 points and five assists.
Pieno Zvaigzdes 90-95 Cibona
Pieno Zvaigzdes wasted a fourth-quarter lead and fell short to Cibona down the stretch, losing 90-95 in Pasvalys. It was the second loss in a row for the Lithuanian side in Group S.
Derrick Low had a team-high 18 points and six assists for Pieno Zvaigzdes, Steponas Babrauskas scored 14 points, while Dovydas Redikas added 13.
Juventus 91-67 Bakken Bears
There was little intrigue in Utena, as Juventus steamrolled the visiting Bakken Bears 91-67 to get their win count in Group T under way. Led by Laurynas Samenas, who had 23 points with 5-of-7 shooting from three-point range.
Five more players in the Lithuanian team reached double figures. Edgaras Zelionis and Egidijus Dimsa scored 12 apiece, Spencer Butterfield and Rolandas Alijevas collected 11 points each, while Arminas Urbutis collected 10.