TU/Rock barely escape Prienai


TU/Rock did what they were supposed to do – hold their own on the road and advance to the Quarterfinals. The Estonians were already in a great position to succeed, but the 73-67 (13-20; 27-14; 12-20; 21-13) victory against Prienai set everything to its places.

Tartu had won the first leg of the series by 32 points, so winning wasn’t a do-or-die goal for them.

This was truly a game of runs, as the margin totals kept swinging up and down. Prienai jumped on the right track right at tipoff with a 15-0 start to the game. Finally awakened by the cold shower, TU/Rock trimmed the lead down to 7 before the quarter ended.

Although the good first period might have ignited a spark of hope for the Lithuanians, all the positivity was wiped out with Rock’s dominant second quarter. The Estonians not only erased their deficit, but finally managed to build a slight lead of their own.

The third quarter belonged to the home side though and they were back on the run for the lead. The Lithuanians managed to get some stops and jumped in front by two points before the final frame.

Prienai weren’t able to hold their own during clutch time and TU/Rock celebrated another victory.

Arnas Labuckas had a nice game for Prienai, as he tallied 22 points. Martynas Linkevicius joined him in the double-digit range with 17 points. Paulius Ivanauskas was the only other player to stand out, as he contributed 9 assists and 4 points.

TU/Rock’s scoring was very wide-spread, as Augustas Peciukevicius led the team in scoring with just 13 points. He also added 7 rebounds and 4 assists to the total. Joosep Toome chipped in with 11 points, while Gert Dorbek added 9. Three more players had 7 points in their accounts.

Liepaja bang through to Quarters


LIEPAJA – Liepaja/Triobet built on their first leg lead and entered the Quarterfinals with a bang after taking down Jekabpils 105-83 (33-21; 24-23; 25-20; 23-19) on Wednesday evening.

Janis Antrops was the leading scorer with 19 points for the victors, while Gins Antrops had 17. Mareks Jurevicus added 16 and 8 assists, while Edgaras Zelionis ended the game with 14. Andrius Mazutis ended the game with 12 points and 7 assists in his account.

The home team was the first one to jump ahead with a 14-6 run to start the game. Liepaja didn’t turn down the tempo and with the first ten minutes down, they had a 12 point lead.

The margin didn’t shrink in the second period and just grew after the half, so Jekabpils found themselves in a desperate situation, having lost the first game by five. They were down by a combined result of 23 points going into the final quarter and the final spread was even larger.

Dovydas Redikas led Jekabpils in scoring with 19, while Andrejs Selakovs accompanied him with 14 points and 9 rebounds. Edgars Stelmahers scored 11 points in his season closer.

Pyrinto move on despite loss


Despite a blowout loss in the first leg, Valmiera showed that they’re a team to be respected at home, as they beat Pyrinto 84-78 (17-23; 30-19; 24-17; 13-19) but still ended up on the losing end of the series.

Pyrinto had blown their way past the Latvians in the first duel, taking the 34-point victory, so it wasn’t a do-or-die situation for them.

Pyrinto were the first ones to obtain a tangible lead, as the jumped ahead 19-10 in the first quarter. However, it all turned around in the second frame, where Valmiera dominated throughout the ten minutes. The Latvians won the quarter by 11 and turned a 6 point deficit into a 5 point lead.

They managed to pull ahead even further after the break, as the margin reached double-digits. Pyrinto came close to tying the game up later on, but Valmiera just showed too much will to win this one. Final score – 84-78.

Justin Hurt was the top scorer for Valmiera with 18 points. Davis Rozitis added 13 points and 10 rebounds. Sam Dower Jr. scored 12 points, while Vytenis Cizauskas ended the game with 11 points and 8 assists.

Tyrone Kent was the leading scorer for Pyrinto with 19 points and 7 rebounds. Antero Lehto added 17, while a couple of other guys finished the night with 9 points.

Pasvalys bruise their way past Tarvas


PASVALYS – After a tough game in the first leg, Pasvalys took care of Tarvas with ease in the second, taking the 89-68 (29-17; 19-13; 22-21; 19-17) victory and cutting the Estonian side‘s season short.

Pieno zvaigzdes held a slim 7-point advantage after the first game, but ultimately rose victorious for a combined score of 183-155.

Pasvalys were on the run right from the start, as a 11-0 run midway through the first quarter pushed their lead to 14. The Lithuanians kept control of the double-digit lead and built on it in the second period.

The margin soon reached 20 points and it seemed all was said and done. However, an 8-0 run ignited a spark of hope for Tarvas.

Nevertheless, the spark was soon put out with a dominant third quarter start for the Lithuanians. Pasvalys got off to a 14-2 run and the gap skyrocketed to 30 points.

The fourth quarter was merely a formality and Pieno zvaigzdes easily cruised to victory.

Evaldas Kairys had a season-high 21 points this evening and also contributed 10 rebounds. Gytis Sirutavicius was a great sidekick with 13 points, while Michael Dixon Jr. added 10 to the totals.

Brandis Raley-Ross concluded what has been an amazing BBL season with another outstanding performance. The guard scored 28 points and dished out 4 assists, thus leading his team in both categories. Juris Umbrasko added 15 points, while Reinar Hallik chipped in with 10.

Siauliai not worried by Parnu, advance


PARNU - Siauliai put themselves in the best position possible after the home game with a 37-point blowout and finished their work in Parnu, as they defeated the Estonians 82-70 (23-14; 22-27; 26-15; 11-14) on Tuesday evening.

The game was a bit of a roller-coaster ride, as the score kept swinging up and down. Siauliai were the team to jump ahead firstly, as they piled up a double-digit margin just halfway through the initial frame.

By the time the second quarter got to full speed though, it was already Parnu running away with the lead. However, their good run was short-lived and Siauliai came back firing in the second half.

The Lithuanians used an 11-0 run and put the game away for good. The margin kept increasing and Parnu were unable to even cut the disadvantage to single-digits.

Siauliai celebrated a combined 190-141 Eighth-finals victory.

Rokas Giedraitis was impressive for the victorious side, as he banged down 6 three-pointers in his 18-point effort. Gintaras Leonavicius added 15 points and 6 rebounds, while Vytautas Sulskis ended the game with 13 points and 6 boards.

Janis Vahter scored 20 for Parnu, while Renato Lindmets ended the game with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Rannar Raap chipped in with 13 points and 6 rebounds. 

Ventspils cruise to Quarterfinals


RAPLA – Ventspils had nothing to worry about going into the game against Tyco Rapla, having won the first leg by an impressive 30 points, but made sure to make a statement in the second game as well. The Latvians started slow, but ultimately mounted a 70-55 (11-17; 22-10; 20-14; 17-14) victory.

Tyco Rapla was surprisingly active in the initial minutes and that helped them amount to a 8 point lead early in the game and keep hope alive for a miracle comeback.

However, all that was quickly cut down with 7 unanswered points for Ventspils. The two sides went back and forth for most of the second period, but Artis Ate hit a three-pointer with the clock winding down and pushed the visitors’ lead to six before the break.

The margin soon reached double-digits and Ventspils made sure to keep their distance. Before the final quarter, they were up by 12 and felt absolutely safe knowing they had a 42-point combined advantage.

Tyco Rapla couldn’t get any closer and that would be the end of their Baltic Basketball League season.

Harvey Grant led the way for the Latvians with 13 points and 6 rebounds, while Martins Meiers added 11. Nikolaos Gkikas ended the game with 9 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists.

Only one player slipped inside the double-digit scoring mark for Tyco Rapla, as Domagoj Bubalo was close to a double-double with 15 points and 9 rebounds. Rait Keerles added 8 points, while Janar Soo chipped in with 7.

Mazutis: "We’re getting ready to stop the whole team"


Andrius Mazutis has been one of the cornerstones to the success Liepaja/Triobet has had over the past year, as the 33-year-old playmaker leads the Baltic Basketball League (BBL) the league in assists.

BBL.net spoke with point guard from Mazeikiai, who is averaging 7.4 points, 3.8 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game, about the season so far, his first basketball steps and the team’s chances in the Playoff duel against Latvian rivals Jekabpils.

Andrius, congratulations with the achievement! Clearly, becoming the best assistant is a tough task to accomplish. Are these kinds of awards something you hold valuable or do you take it more like a message that you’re on the right track?

Thank you for the appreciation. At this point in my career, I don‘t really pay that much attention to awards like these. This year I‘ve really had great teammates, who can all knock down their shots. All I have to do is get them the ball at the right time in the right place and they know what to do. Of course, our coach’s schemes are very handy for me, since I’m usually the guy leading the ball to the hotspots. All I can say is that I appreciate this award more as a team, not a personal, achievement.

Liepaja/Triobet has performed marvelously this season, both in the Baltic and Latvian Basketball Leagues. What has been the key to this success?

Work, work and more work. We push ourselves in practice every single day and the results are apparent. This was only the first half of the season and everything will be sorted out during springtime. Only then we’ll see which team chose the right path.

Although this season seems to be unfolding well, throughout the club’s 22 years of history, Liepaja has yet to win a title in the LBL or BBL. With the current roster, which, as we’ve seen, is capable of some great things, what are the adjustments or improvements in the game that have to be made to finally change history?

Every player has to improve both individually and team-wise day in and day out. If we honestly do our homework, results will surely surface. Even if they don’t, at least it won’t be hard to look each other in the eye, knowing that we’ve done everything that was in our hands.

Let’s take a minute to look at your next opponents, Jekabpils. You’ve already played these guys twice in the LBL, splitting a victory each. And despite that, Jekabpils is still far below in the league standings. What do you know about this team and what can we expect from this matchup?

Despite the current standings, the battles between these two clubs are always intense. Jekabpils were haunted by injuries in the first part of the season, maybe that’s why their results are a bit worse than last year. This might be something that motivates them though, so we can‘t expect any easy games.

Rinalds Sirsnins is a clear leader on that team and has a deadly, and an extremely high volume (3.8/9.4 per game, 40%) three-point shot. Will limiting his long-range scoring opportunities be one of your personal goals in these two games?

We play in the same position so naturally we’ll have the most micro-duels. We’re getting ready to stop the whole team, not just individuals. The tactical decisions will be in the hands of the coach, but of course, we’ll pay a bit more attention to their leaders. One of them will be Rinalds.

Let’s talk a bit more about you personally. When you’re growing up in a basketball-crazed country like Lithuania, it’s probably hard not to get pulled into the whirlpool. How, when and why did you take on basketball? Who was, or maybe still is, your basketball idol?

I started playing at the age of five. During those times, Zalgiris and CSKA match-ups drew country-wide attention. That, perhaps, was the initial push to take up basketball. Talking about Lithuanians, I loved seeing Sarunas Marciulionis and Arvydas Sabonis play, while Michael Jordan was my favorite worldwide.

I believe it’s safe to call you a journeyman. Throughout your career you’ve played for a lot of different teams in a lot of different countries, ranging from Lithuania to Azerbaijan, Turkey and Belarus to name a few. What is the one season that was most memorable? And what is the one basketball related memory, you cherish most?

I couldn’t point out a specific season, since they all left a mark in my life. The losses made me stronger, the victories added self-confidence. I met a lot of different coaches and players who became important pieces of my career. If I had to remember one single moment, episode of my playing days, it would be the final playoff game between Nafta Mazeikiai and Siauliai. We were leading by three points with five seconds on the clock and we couldn’t manage to foul them. They drained a three-pointer and took the overtime victory.

You are no spring chicken anymore, having already played professionally for a decade and a half. What does the future hold for you and are there some unfinished business, unaccomplished goals you would like to take care of before it’s all said and done?

I live by the day right now. All I want to do is give it my all to get Liepaja all the possible victories.

Raley-Ross: "Basketball is like a chess match"


It’s been a season full of ups and downs for Tarvas, but it has brought out the best of one of the Estonian club’s players. Brandis Raley-Ross was recently named the Baltic Basketball League’s top scorer of the regular season and claimed the award before the home game against Pieno Zvaigzdes.

The 27-year-old guard averaged league-best 20.7 points and his biggest scoring outburst was against Dynamo Moscow, when he racked up 35 points. Brandis took some time off his schedule to talk to BBL.net about his season.

Congratulations on becoming the top scorer in the Baltic Basketball League, Brandis, and thank you for sparing some time for us! What does this kind of achievement mean to you?

Firstly, I want to thank you for the interview. This achievement means a lot, it shows the extra work that I have put in this summer and during this season to make my game complete. I also credit my coach and everyone involved in bringing me to Tarvas for giving me this opportunity. 

Tarvas has had a so-so season, winning half of their eight ‘official’ games, as they finished third in Group C. How would you rate the first part of the season team-wise?

Well, if Dynamo hadn’t dropped out, we would be 6-4. The first part of the season has been interesting to say the least. Tarvas this year has dealt with many things including players leaving, injuries etc. I don't think I have played with the same group of players for over 6 weeks yet. I believe we have done well considering the adversity the team has been through.

While the club has yet to perform to its’ full potential, you’re racking up an off-the-charts statline. What is the secret behind this outstanding form? 

Focus, confidence, determination, dedication and discipline. I am extremely motivated to prove I am the best player every time I step on the court and I have had to sacrifice things off the court for my success on the court. I am a gym rat, I watch film every day, eat healthier and spend 2-3 hours a day preparing my body for upcoming games. Any other secrets I can't tell.... To quote Kobe Bryant, "if I tell you my secrets I have to eliminate you".

Where do you see the most room for improvement both as a team and as an individual?

As a team we have to build chemistry with our new additions and develop an identity as a team. For myself, I have to be ready for everything. Teams are throwing a lot of different defenses at me and always switching up coverages, so I must watch more film and continue to add more to my game defensively and offensively to be 2-3 steps ahead of the opposition. Basketball is a chess match and I pride myself in being ahead and prepared.

You’re facing one of the regular season’s best teams, Pieno Zvaigzdes, in the first round. What are your expectations for this matchup and what will be the key elements of carrying out the upset?

Pieno Zvaigzdes is a great team they have great players and even better coaches. It will be tough to beat them, but anything is possible. I expect our team to compete for 40 minutes and execute our game plan.

When did you start playing basketball and was there anyone who inspired you to continue with this path? Who was your role model growing up and who is your basketball idol right now?

I started playing basketball when I was 5 years old. My mother and father both inspired me, they supported me every step of the way and help to keep my dream alive. I'm from North Carolina so Michael Jordan was always a role model or the standard to which I measured myself. I gravitated to watching Kobe Bryant more while in high school so he is currently my idol.

Rakvere is a small town with a population of merely 15 thousand and you’ve spent the lion’s share of your professional career here. Are you enjoying your time in Estonia and what is it that you miss most about the States? 

I love Estonia, this is where I got my 1st chance to be a professional player. I have great friends here that are like family. Obviously, I miss my family, especially my younger siblings who look up to me. 

What do you do in Rakvere, when you're not on the basketball court?

I spend a lot of time working on future business plans with my business Immaculate Training! Besides planning tournaments and camps, I also train and spend time with the younger teams in Rakvere. I love to give back and help others. Other than this, I am preparing for the next game.

What are your goals in the near future, this season with Tarvas and what do you think about the next step in your career, your longer-term ambitions?

My goal is to reach my full potential as a player and win multiple championships. Every year I want to move up a level and be more successful than the previous year. Long term, I will eventually play at the highest level of basketball.

Liepaja start playoffs with road win in Jekabpils


JEKABPILS – An outstanding fourth quarter performance allowed Liepaja/Triobet to start their BBL Playoff run on the right foot, as they took a 67-62 (17-17; 13-16; 26-16; 6-18) away victory against Latvian rivals Jekabpils on Wednesday evening.

This was the match-up between the 7th and 10th seeds, with the victors proving why they were higher ranked.

This game was the closest match-up in these play-offs so far, and it’s easy to see that the two sides are very evenly matched. And the first quarter was a great example of that, as the lead kept changing hands, but the quarter ended up a stalemate.

Neither team could get any momentum going in the second period as well, so the two Latvian clubs were split by only three points at halftime.

It seemed that this would be how the game would play out until the final moments, as the eight initial minutes of the second half were also nip-and-tuck. However, after the teams traded sizeable runs, Jekabpils finally managed to jump ahead before the final quarter – 56-49.

It all turned around very quickly in the final frame, as a 14-2 run now put Liepaja in the driving seat. The home side couldn’t get any closer in the final three minutes and were forced to face a small, yet crucial loss.

Dovydas Redikas returned to Jekabpils with a strong performance, tabbing 20 points and 7 rebounds. Devin Taylor was the only other player in double-digit scoring with 10 points to his name.

Edgaras Zelionis was the leading scorer for the visitors, as he knocked down 16. Arnolds Helmanis added 10 points, while Kristaps Miglinieks ended the game with 9.

Lietkabelis take revenge, advance to Quarterfinals


PANEVEZYS – Despite a one-sided victory, the ending to the LietkabelisKalev/Cramo series couldn’t have been much more entertaining. Although the Estonians entered the game with a 14-point advantage from the first of two games, Lietkabelis managed to overcome the difference and took a 96-75 (20-15; 30-23; 20-18; 26-19) victory.

After winning the first game 78-64, Kalev/Cramo could feel quite safe before the return match. However, Lietkabelis proved very early on that they’re not yet ready to let their arms down. Five minutes in the initial period, it was a 15-7 lead for the Lithuanians.

The home side’s advantage expanded to double-digits right at the start of the second quarter, but Kalev/Cramo rushed back with a 9-0 run, cutting the gap to just six. Lietkabelis finished the quarter strong though, and the margin was back in double-digit territory.

While the gap dwindled down once again and only seven points separated the two opponents with a couple minutes remaining in the third frame, another draught helped Lietkabelis tie the combined score with a 70-56 lead.

The final quarter was simply a disaster for the Estonian club, as they broke down. Lietkabelis improved their lead to mid-twenties and it seemed there was not much left for the visitors to do.

There was still a 26-point spread was on the table with two minutes on the clock, but Kalev/Cramo managed to get some life back in the game with a couple of three-pointers, accompanied by active defense and trimmed the margin to 19, with a chance to dig in even further. Nevertheless, Lietkabelis survived and will now face the winners of the Siauliai – Parnu series.

Evaldas Zabas was the cornerstone of this victory, as he tallied 24 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists. Egidijus Dimsa was solid with 19 points and 13 rebounds, while Ivan Nelyubov and Mantas Kazonas chipped in with 16 apiece. Dainius Salenga was clumsy with the ball late in the game and accompanied his 10 points with 3 turnovers in the final minute alone.

Rain Veideman led the losing team with 19 points. Gregor Arbet was solid with 18 points, while Scott Machado lit up with 17 points and 13 assists. Frank Elegar added 13 points and 12 rebounds to the total.