OGRE – Ogre/Kumho Tyre and their home ground remains an unsolvable mystery for Pieno Zvaigzdes. The Latvian club has beaten the highest-seeded team from the regular season 83-75, and now both of Pasvalys‘ losses have been handed to them in Ogre.
Despite having gone 11-1 in the regular season, nobody in Pasvalys was expecting an easy game against Ogre, as the two sides split the season series with a win at home each. Nevertheless, it‘s safe to say that Pieno Zvaigzdes were considered to be the favorites of this Eight-Final.
The way the first quarter unraveled let us know that this might be a classic in the making, as neither side had any breathing room – there were six lead changes in the first six minutes alone. However, the hosts managed to close out the quarter strong and enjoyed a four point advantage.
Pieno Zvaigzdes were quick to respond in the second period, as they immediately regained control of the lead. And while it was just a slim margin, the game took an eight-point turnaround for Pasvalys to go up four.
Things got more and more exciting as we were closing in on crunch time, and it was now Ogre taking the reins with a little help from multiple missed free-throws by Pasvalys.
Ogre ignited a 9-2 run to open up the final quarter and that got them an 11-point lead just two minutes in. The Latvians managed to keep hold of the slippery advantage until the very end, with Derrick Low’s free-throws bringing the deficit back to single-digits.
Rihards Zebergs was the top scorer for Ogre/Kumho Tyre with 17 points in his account, while Marcis Vitols had a 16-point night. Guntis Sipolins added 12 points in just ten minutes of action, while Karlis Apsitis finished the game with 11 points.
On the other side, it was the starting five doing the heavy lifting, as all five players entered double-digit scoring. Steponas Babrauskas had a team-high 16 points and 10 rebounds, while Andriy Agafonov added 11 points and 9 boards. Egidijus Dimsa had another 11 points. Both Evaldas Zabas, and Derrick Low scored 10 points, as the American also dished out 10 dimes.
JEKABPILS – An action-packed start to Wednesday basketball, as Jekabpils rose to a late comeback, but were ultimately denied victory by Nevezis. The 74-78 victory hands Nevezis a four-point advantage in the return game.
Nevezis didn‘t wait around and rocketed ahead in the first quarter. After neck-to-neck opening five minutes, the Lithuanians closed down the defense and finished the quarter with a 14-0 run, giving the team a 16-point advantage right out of the gates.
Things weren‘t looking up for Jekabpils, and it was only Jurijs Aleksejevs who managed to really make a difference for Latvian side in the first half, as he scored 15 of the 25 points. Nevertheless, the margin still rose and the two sides entered halftime with 18 points between them.
A spurt early in the second half allowed Jekabpils to substantially reduce the deficit, but they were still facing an uphill battle with a double-digit spread on the table entering the final quarter.
Nevertheless, the game was far from over, as the Latvians rose like a phoenix and hurried to tie the game up. While Nevezis managed to regain composure, they were now up by just a couple buckets, and that was good news for Jekabpils who scored the final basket to cut the deficit to just four before the second leg.
The fate of this series will be decided in two weeks, on the 22nd of February in Kedainiai.
Jurijs Aleksejevs cooled down in the second half, but was succeeded by Rinalds Sirsnins, as both players ended up scoring 20 points. Roberts Stumbris chipped in with 17, while Janis Antrops ended the game with 9 points to his name.
Jermaine Love was the top scorer for Nevezis with 17 points, while Vaidotas Volkus added another 15. Ivan Smiljanic ended the game scoring 11, while Ignas Vaitkus had 9. The league's best playmaker Toni Prostran had a great night sharing the ball, as he dished out game-high 9 assists and added 7 points to the totals.
TARTU – It‘s Quarterfinals moods in Tartu already, as University of Tartu just booked a ticket to the next round with yet another dominating win against Barsy. The Estonians kept their opponents on lockdown, and easily won 74-45.
Defense was the key for Tartu en route to their 29-point victory, as they allowed just 14 points in the first half, while scoring at will on the other end.
The Estonians ran off early and never looked back: a 15-point lead after the first quarter turned into a 32-point advantage at the halftime break.
Keeping in mind that University of Tartu put the first game to bed leading by 34 points, that was already a 66-point advantage for the Estonians with 20 minutes of basketball remaining.
Having said that, it was apparent that the end of the game would merely be a formality. While the margin didn't grow, Barsy couldn't manage to end the game full of pride, as they finished the game down 29 points.
Mandell Thomas and Dominykas Milka were the top players for the victorious side, as they contributed 17 and 15 points, respectively. Milka was also strong under the boards, as he tabbed 13 rebounds.
PRIENAI – A season debut that everyone would dream of – Vytautas opened up their Triobet BBL campaign with a high-scoring win against Port of Parnu. The Lithuanians enjoyed the night scoring and took a 100-55 home win.
While the game started off quite competitively, it wasn't much of a contest after the first half of the first quarter, as Vytautas shot ahead to advance into a double-digit lead territory.
The margin grew exponentially and come halftime, it was already a blow-out. With 25 points between the two sides, it seemed like a certainty that the game was already over.
Nevertheless, in a two-game series, the score matters, and Vytautas made sure Parnu had no way of causing an upset at home. They added another 15 points to their lead in the third quarter and capped it with another five points in the final fourth.
Two brothers faced off against each other today, the night before their father's - Vytautas' Head Coach Virgilijus Seskus - 50th birthday, and both were top scorers on their respective teams. The coach must have been pleased both with the way his team, and his sons played.
Domantas Seskus had 22 points for Vytautas, while Saulius Kulvietis was the Robin to his Batman with 18 points. Four more players were in double-digit scoring for the Lithuanians.
The younger brother, Edvinas Seskus, was also solid, leading his team with 17 points to his name. Saimon Sutt added another 14, as the two 21-year-olds accounted for the lion's share of the team's points.
RAPLA – A double-digit victory on a hostile turf put Valmiera/ORDO in pole position of their Eight-finals series against AVIS Rapla. Not only will they have home-court advantage, but will also enter the game with 13 points to spare after the 78-65 win.
Valmiera piled the pressure up right from the get-go, as they put up a double-digit advantage not even halfway into the first quarter. Unable to retaliate, the Estonians could not reduce the deficit before the second quarter.
From the on, it was a very close game, as the teams traded baskets left and right. Nevertheless, the margin still stood at nine after two quarters, despite being reduced to six multpile times throughout the frame.
There were similar sights in the second half as well – after closing in on their opponents, AVIS Rapla just couldn’t complete the comeback, and a 7-0 run put Valmiera back in a safe spot.
There was a large gap between the two clubs for the whole fourth quarter, but a couple of great plays allowed Valmiera to finish the quarter strong and bring a 13-point advantage back home ahead of the second leg of the series.
TALLINN – A lackluster second half sent TLU Kalev to the edge of the cliff, as they lost 75-92 against Liepaja/Triobet and will now face a 17-point deficit going into the second leg. It will be even more of an uphill battle, as they will have to do that in a hostile environment in Liepaja.
The first half of the game was competitive, to say the least. With multiple lead changes swinging the lead back and forth, we were hoping for an exciting finish to the battle.
The Estonians were actually ahead after 10 minutes, and were still very much in the game at half-time, trailing by just three points. However, they crashed and burned after the break, perhaps caused by tired legs.
With great contributions from the bench, Liepaja/Triobet quickly piled on their lead and improved their positions with a terrific third period. They added another five points in the closing quarter to collect the 17-point victory.
For Liepaja, Roberts Krastins scored 24 points, while Arturs Ausejs added another 20. Rihards Berzins chipped in with a cool 17 points, as Ingars Aizpurs ended up scoring 10.
Kristo Saage was terrific for TLU Kalev and despite his near-triple-double, the Estonians were unable to put up a fight. Saage attempted 17 three-pointers, making just 5, totaling 23 points, but also contributed 9 assists, 8 rebounds and 4 steals. Dorde Dzeletovic was also solid, as he had 17 points and 11 rebounds.
The first game of the Triobet BBL Play-offs brought little-to-no drama, as the top seeded University of Tartu coasted to an incredibly easy victory in their Eighth-finals series against Barsy Atyrau, 83-49.
Leading from end to end, it was nothing close to a nail-biter for the Estonian side. As a matter of fact, the game was pretty much settled before Barsy even scored a basket. Tartu opened the game going on a 17-0 run to send the Kazakhs to a knock down.
Nevertheless, you could bet Barsy were reminiscing about how they were down by just 14 at the end of the first quarter, as things continued to get worse as the game progressed. By halftime, the margin was already 22 points, and the victor was clear as day.
The teams were still playing for the final result and once again, the halftime margin looked like a good memory comparing to what it turned into after the break. University of Tartu waved away any thoughts of complacency and advanced their lead to 34 points before the final buzzer.
The Estonians will look to close out the series early, as the two clubs face off again tomorrow.
You could make the case that Denis Krestinin is long overdue for an individual award, but something has stopped him every month up until now. The best player on one of the best teams in the league, Krestinin has finally notched his first Triobet BBL Player of the Month award for the month of January.
The Triobet BBL regular season has come to a close and all 16 teams participating in the next round are already known. We also know the best players in each of the main statistical categories.
It was our final week of the regular season and with teams battling for the highest seed, it was still full of uncertainty. Let‘s look back at what happened with the traditional Triobet BBL Weekly Review, already looking at its’ 15th volume.