Ventspils win game one, lead by two


VENTSPILS – The first game of the Baltic Basketball League finals proved to be just as exciting, as could be expected, with a nail-biting finish to top it off. Ventspils had the home-court advantage and only managed to take two points out of it, winning 70-68 (19-17; 15-15; 16-17; 20-19) against defending champions Siauliai.

The Lithuanians got off to a quick start, as they scored the first six point of the game. Nevertheless, it was all answered back shortly and the two sides continued trading bucket after bucket. Ventspils closed out the first frame with two successful possessions and jumped ahead by two points.

Despite a monstrous posterizing dunk by Modestas Kumpys in the early stages of the second quarter, nothing much after the first ten minutes. The two teams held each other by the neck and didn’t allow even the slightest of breathing space. As the minimal lead swung back and forth, Ventspils stayed on top by the same two points before halftime.

The Latvians got a couple of consecutive plays to go their way and managed to build a game-high 6-point lead, which all evaporated right before the final period, mostly due to Siauliai’s hustle plays and second-chance points.

Siauliai seemed to be the side in control of the pace in the last quarter, as Karolis Babkauskas opened it up with a trey, but even that didn’t help them create any sort of advantage. The nerves seemed to be kicking in and the final minutes were nail-biting to say the least. The crowd went wild when Ventspils finally managed to jump ahead, but their enthusiasm was cut short by Julius Jucikas’ slam dunk.

The score was all tied up at 68 with just 45 seconds to go and Harvey Grant pushed the advantage to the Latvian team’s favor. Siauliai had the perfect opportunity to even the score but just couldn’t convert on either of their two last-seconds shots.

Harvey Jeray Grant was the leading scorer and rebounder for Ventspils, as he tallied respectively 14 and 9. Kristaps Janicenoks was solid with 11 points to his name, while Akselis Vairogs and Maris Gulbis chipped in with 9 apiece.

Julius Jucikas and Gintaras Leonavicius led Siauliai with 14 points each, while Vytautas Sulskis was just a point short of a double-double. The team's captain scored 9 points and added 10 rebounds.

Tartu race back to win at home


TARTU – In a game full of ups and downs, Tartu Rock managed to outlast Juventus and jumped ahead in the bronze final series. The Estonians were down double digits but managed to overcome the deficit and celebrated a 72-63 (15-24; 15-15; 27-13; 15-11) victory.

The visitors came out hot and firing with all cylinders and quickly mounted a big lead. Not even midway past the opening frame, Juventus already had an 11-point advantage. They managed keep the tempo up and entered the second quarter up by 9.

The second part of the first half, unlike the first, was much closer and the two teams traded possession for possession. The margin after two quarters stayed the same – 9 points.

The game turned upside-down in the third quarter, as Rock drained basket after basket and a 14-0 run entitled them to a 5-point advantage after the third frame.

The margin grew even more at the start of the final period, as the Estonians tipped the quarter off with another 7 consecutive points. Nevertheless, Juventus did not lay they arms down just yet and responded with a 7-0 run of their own. The sudden drama was toned down by Tanel Kurbas’ long-range bomb.

Tartu had an 8-point advantage with a minute remaining on the clock and Juventus’ priorities switched to just trimming down the margin as much as possible. However, even that task failed, as the Lithuanians kept missing out on great opportunities. They now face a 9-point deficit in the uphill battle at home.

Janar Talts was the clear MVP of the game, as he tallied an impressive double-double of 20 points and 11 rebounds. Joosep Toome added 14 points, while Tanel Kurbas and Augustas Peciukevicius finished the game with 10 points apiece.

Rashaun Broadus was a nuisance for Tartu’s defense, as he used his supreme quickness to pile up 19 points. Vaidas Cepukaitis added 12 points and 9 rebounds to the mix, while Egidijus Dimsa ended the game with 11 points. Arvydas Siksnius was also in double-digit scoring with 10 points in his account.

Siauliai draw Juventus, open doors for a repeat


UTENA – Siauliai did not manage to come back from Utena with a victory but that didn’t stop them from making it to the finals. The two sides drew at 60-60 (16-16; 14-8; 12-18; 18-18) but since Siauliai had won the first leg 73-69, they are the ones going through.

Utena’s early surge looked promising, as they mounted a 7-point advantage midway through the first quarter. Nevertheless, Siauliai responded with a 7-0 run to close out the quarter and the two sides were all tied up after the first 10 minutes.

The two sides traded baskets back and forth throughout the quarter but this time Siauliai were the ones to close out the period stronger and enjoyed a 6-point advantage at halftime.

The margin soon vanished and before the last quarter, the sides were once again level at 42.

Siauliai opened the final frame with a 7-point streak and Juventus had trouble finding a way back. The final minute was a free-throw shoot-out and the winner couldn’t be decided even with it.

Julius Jucikas was unstoppable for the defending champions with 27 points and 8 rebounds to his name. Gintaras Leonavicius chipped in with 10 points, while Rokas Giedraitis finished the game with 9 points.

Meanwhile, on the Juventus squad, Rashaun Broadus was the leading scorer with 22 points. Simas Buterlevicius added 12 points and 7 rebounds, while Arvydas Siksnius ended the outing with 10 points. Saulius Kulvietis was responsible for 7 points and 11 boards.

Ventspils advance to finals


TARTU – Ventspils continue to make strides towards the ultimate goal – the first championship of the season – with another semifinals victory on Tuesday evening. They had a huge advantage prior to the game but managed to win the second one too and defeated TU/Rock 76-72 (18-24; 25-17; 17-18; 16-13).

Tartu Rock made a small statement early on, when they jumped ahead by seven points.The series seemed to have gained some traction and the intensity in the arena was as high as ever.

Nevertheless, Ventspils answered back in the second quarter and were soon on level terms with the home team.

The victor hadn't been decided after three quarters, as only one point separated the two sides. Although the finalist had already been decided with Ventspils' first game victory, the two sides settled it all in the fourth quarter, battling for honor.

The Latvians managed to get away and secured a tangible lead midway through the period. They coasted to the finish line and now await their final opponent.

Janar Talts was unstoppable, but even that didn’t save Tartu. He scored 20 points and added 10 rebounds. Valmo Kriisa chipped in with 14 points, while Tanel Sokk ended the game with 11.

Martins Meiers was the leading scorer for Ventpsils with 15 points. Both Zanis Peiners and Maris Gulbis had 11, while Artis Ate ended the match with 10.

Siauliai narrowly escape Juventus' storm


SIAULIAI – As expected, it was a narrow finish in the Lithuanian derby between Siauliai and Juventus, yet the home side managed to get away with a four point win, 73-69 (18-15; 18-16; 15-21; 22-17). They will have a small advantage before the return game on the 22nd in Utena.

It was a nip-and-tuck affair right from the get-go and it was obvious how badly both sides want to win it. With a quarter gone, three points separated the two clubs, as Siauliai held on to an 18-15 lead.

Juventus eventually evened the score in the second period, but Siauliai played out the final minutes of the half very efficiently and regained control of the game with a small, yet very valuable five point lead.

Siauliai mounted their biggest lead of the game in the third quarter, when it reached 9 points and while it was the home side in the leading role for most of the game, it all turned around late in the third frame. Not only did the visitors trim the margin, they even managed to take a one-point lead before the final ten minutes.

Juventus locked down their opponents and it seemed they were on the highway to victory, as their lead reached 9 points midway through the fourth quarter. But once again, the tables turned and Siauliai came running back. They ended the game with a 15-2 run and were happy to have gotten out of this sticky situation.

Rokas Giedraitis was the highlight performer tonight, as he carried the victors with 20 points. Gintaras Leonavicius chipped in with 13, while Rolandas Alijevas, Julius Jucikas and Vytautas Sulskis ended the game with 10 points apiece. While the starting unit took care of most of the scoring responsibilities, the bench only added another 10 points.

The scoring for Juventus was a bit more spread out throughout the roster, as Rashaun Broadus and Nikita Barinov led the way with 13 points. Simas Buterlevicius added 10, while Arvydas Siksnius finished with 8 points in his account.

Ventspils cruise past Rock in first Semifinal duel


VENTSPILS ­– Ventspils continued their undefeated showcase in the Baltic Basketball League playoffs with an impressive 74-49 (24-13; 16-12; 12-13; 22-11) victory over visiting Tartu Rock in the first leg of the semifinals.

Right from the get-go, it was Ventspils jumping ahead. The Latvians used a 10-0 spurt to take an early lead and continued to build on it throughout the quarter. By the time, the first ten minutes had passed the home side enjoyed a 24-13 advantage.

The visitors found themselves in a huge hole and digging even deeper when the gap between the two clubs reached 18. Only a three-pointer before halftime managed to slightly cut into the deficit.

After an amazing first-half showcase, Ventspils slowed down a bit in the second and TU/Rock tried to use it to get back into the game. Nevertheless, the Estonian club’s offense was a bit toothless and they just couldn’t break the game.

While the margin floated around 12 points, a nice Ventspils’ run set things to its own place. The Latvian side amassed a 20-point advantage midway through the final quarter and the winner was all but clear.

Kristaps Janicenoks led Ventspils with 15 points, while Harvey Grant had 14. Martins Meiers and Artjoms Butjankovs chipped in with respectively 13 and 11 points.

Tanel Sokk was the go-to guy for Rock and was the only player to reach double-digit scoring with 11 points. Joosep Toome was the second-highest scorer with only 7 points.

The return match will be played on the 17th of March in Tartu.

BBL Playoffs Review: Quarterfinals


Only four teams are left in the run for the ultimate award, as the Quarterfinals are just over! We witnessed a plethora of impressive games, including a decisive overtime and a big comeback. Check out everything that’s happened in the past week in the BBL Playoffs Review: Quarterfinals!

LAST 4! Two Lithuanian clubs and one team representing Latvia and Estonia are all among the last four participants. And all four clubs were the highest ranked after the regular season! Can last season’s champs Siauliai repeat their success, or will Juventus, Rock or Ventspils dethrone them?

COMEBACK. After losing the first leg matchup versus Pieno Zvaigzdes by 11 points, Juventus had a tough task ahead of them. Nevertheless, powered by a 1500-strong army of fans, the Utena side managed to blow past their rivals by 20 points in the return game.

PLAYOFF BASKETBALL. Gritty and rough, that’s how playoff basketball should be played. Compared to the Eighthfinals stage, the scoring during the Quarterfinals has dropped from 158.5 to 142.5 points per game. A real example of defensive basketball was the first game between TU/Rock and Liepaja/Triobet, where the teams combined for just 108 points – the lowest score this season.

OVERTIME DRAW? Yes, you read that right. The game between Tartu Rock and Liepaja/Triobet went right down to the wire and even an extra five minutes were played. Yet, the game still ended in a draw, which was clearly more useful for the Estonians, as they had a 10-point advantage after the first game.

REMATCH. Three of the four teams apart from Juventus were part of the Olybet BBL Cup at the start of the season, so there are a couple of looming rematches. However, they’ll happen either in the final or in the battle for third place.

DERBY. It’s a Lithuanian derby in one of the semifinals, as Juventus face off against last season’s champions Siauliai. These two clubs have met three times already in the Lithuanian Basketball League and the Utena side took two very narrow victories.

Rolandas Alijevas of Siauliai is the MVP of the Quarterfinals after he had a season night in the opening game and followed it up with another solid performance. The Lithuanian point guard averaged 16.5 points, 3 rebounds and 7.5 assists in the series against Lietkabelis.

Michael Dixon Jr. was a very big part of the first win in the series and was pretty much the only bright spot in an otherwise terrible performance in the second leg of Pasvalys’ series against Juventus. The American averaged 16 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists in the two games.

Nikolaos Gkikas had two more rock-solid games to add to the total, as he led Ventspils past Pyrinto with averages of 12 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.5 assists – all in a very efficient manner.

Next up in the countdown is Juventus’ Egidijus Dimsa, who played a key role in the club’s turnaround. The forward averaged 12 points and 8 rebounds during the Quarterfinals.

After a below average first leg game, Simas Buterlevicius bloomed in Juventus’ comeback, where he scored 19 points and tore down 9 boards. The swingman averaged 15.5 points, 6 rebounds and 2.5 assists in the series.

Juventus' home walls lead series' comeback


UTENA – The Lithuanian derby between Juventus and Pieno Zvaigzdes was truly the cherry on top of this year’s Quarterfinals. While Pasvalys gave them a scare late on, the home side managed to stay calm and took an 85-65 (20-13; 22-21; 18-16; 25-15) win to compensate for the first leg loss.

Pasvalys had won the first meeting between these two clubs 76-65, so they were looking at a double-digit advantage even prior to tip-off.

Juventus gave Pasvalys a cold shower with a 9-0 start to the game. While the visitors managed to answer back, soon they faced a double-digit deficit, 20-8. Nevertheless, they returned five points in the final minute and finished the quarter down by 7.

The two teams went back and forth throughout the second quarter but neither team made any significant moves towards the Semifinal.

It seemed that Juventus turned on a higher gear early after the break and soon built a big 18-point lead. Nevertheless, Pieno Zvaigzdes turned up the intensity late in the third quarter and quickly cut the deficit to just ten. Since Pasvalys won the first leg by 11, they were still up by one on the combined scoreboard. A truly nerve-wrecking quarter awaited.

Pasvalys opened the quarter with a wide-open three-pointer and continued their efficient full-court press. However once the home side managed to get past mid-court, a couple of three-point plays allowed Juventus to reestablish a 14-point advantage.

Pieno Zvaigzdes seemed to back to their chaotic game, hoisting up three after three after three, despite not getting anything to fall and Juventus made the most of it. After an unsportsmanlike foul, Juventus already had an 18-point advantage with only over a minute on the clock.

Rashaun Broadus sealed the deal with a highlight-worthy slalom throughout the whole court and a beautiful play to push the advantage to 20. Juventus controlled the ending of the game and make it through to the semis!

The short-handed Juventus threw only eight men into the battle and two of them didn’t even finish the game. Nevertheless, Simas Buterlevičius led the undermanned team with 19 points and 9 rebounds, while Egidijus Dimsa added 16 and 6, all in just 18 minutes. Saulius Kulvietis ended the game with 14 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists, while Arvydas Siksnius had 12 points including some clutch baskets in the closing quarter. Rashaun Broadus was also in double-digit scoring with 10 points and 6 rebounds.

For the losing side, Michael Dixon Jr. was really the one of few brighter spots in an otherwise gloomy game. The American had 19 points and 7 rebounds and also drew 10 fouls. Aidas Viskontas added 12 points to the total, while Tauras Jogela was third in scoring with just 8 points.

Siauliai lock in Semifinals spot


PANEVEZYS – Siauliai celebrated another victory in the Quarterfinals series against Lietkabelis, taking a 78-66 (17-16; 9-18; 27-14; 25-18) victory on Wednesday evening.

The visitors had already achieved a safe 22-point advantage after the first game, so it wasn’t a do or die situation for them, but nevertheless, they came out strong.

The first ten minutes proved it would be a tough fight for both teams and the two teams were separated by only one point. After the first ten minutes the Lietkabelis dominance started, as they ran off to a big run.

The Panevezys side had already gotten back into the series, but after the break Siauliai finally woke up and were already ahead after three quarters, with a 53-48 lead.

It was all settled in the final quarter, when Siauliai set up another run and reached a double-digit advantage.

Rokas Giedraitis was the leading scorer for the newly-baked semifinalists with 15 points. Gintaras Leonavicius chipped in with 13, while Julius Jucikas and Jeffery Allen Jr. added 11 points each, while the latter also had 9 rebounds. Rolandas Alijevas finished the game with 10 points.

Evaldas Zabas was scored 15 points, Jurica Zuza chipped in with 14 points, while Dainius Salenga had 12 points to his name.

Ventspils dominant in Tampere


TAMPERE – After another dominant fourth quarter, Ventspils made sure they would become part of the four best teams in the Baltic Basketball League. They defeated Pyrinto 78-59 (12-17; 11-14; 25-15; 30-13) and will face Tartu Rock in the Semifinals.

The game was neck to neck for the lion's share of the contest, but the Latvians trailed by five points after the first ten minutes and were already down by 8 at halftime.

However, everything turned around after halftime, when Ventspils absolutely dominated on both sides of the court. They won the third quarter by 10 and bashed their opponents by 17 in the closing quarter. Pyrinto already faced a double-digit deficit mid fourth quarter and had not much hope of victory.

Ventspils cruised to the finish line and celebrated another top four berth.

Ventspils was led by Andrejs Grazulis, who scored 16 points and added 6 rebounds. Artis Ate scored 15 points, while Kristaps Janicenoks and Harvey Grant scored 14 points. Nikolaos Gkikas chipped in with 12.

Bryan Hopkins had 16 points for Pyrinto, while Damon Williams added 15 points and 12 rebounds.