Ventspils dominate Rapla in debut


VENTSPILS – Ventspils came out to their season debut on a high gear, as they thrashed Tyco Rapla in the first half and cruised to an easy 105-75 (28-11; 29-19; 25-24; 23-21) victory.

Ventspils, who started their BBL season only in the Playoffs, took down 14th seeded Rapla and will have a 30-point margin before the game in Rapla.

Neither team managed anything spectacular at the start of the game, as only two points separated the two foes after the first six minutes. However, that was exactly when Ventspils’ rampage began.

The Latvians won a six minute section of the game 25-0 and amassed an impressive lead, which they held onto for the remainder of the half.

The second half would have been nip-and-tuck, had it not been such a one-sided first two quarters. Tyco Rapla managed to stop the bleeding, but it was already too little, too late. The Latvian side finished the game without any stumbles and cruised to an easy victory.

Ventspils was led by Akselis Vairogs’ 20 points, while Troy Barnies added 14. Artis Ate had 13, while Artjoms Butjankovs and Martins Meiers chipped in with 12 each. Harvey Grant had 11 points, while Nikolaos Gkikas ended the match with 10 points, 6 rebounds and 14 assists – a new season passing record.

Four players reached double-digit scoring for Rapla. Domagoj Bubalo led the way with 17, while Rait Keerles added 16 to the total. Rait-Riivo Laane ended the game with 14 points and 7 assists, while Ernestas Ezerskis chipped in with 13.

Kisielius: "It took some time to get my rhythm back"


Laimonas Kisielius has been a vital part of Pieno Zvaigzdes' success this season and it's due time he had some recognition. The Lithuanian forward was named the Most Valuable Player for the month of January.

Kisielius had an outstanding month, as his statistical numbers grew exponentially. He doubled his scoring, rebounding and assist averages, while increasing all his shooting percentages.

Throughout the month, the Lithuanian averaged 21.7 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists, while shooting 65% from two-point, 56% from three-point range and 80% of his free-throws. spoke to Laimonas about what this award means to him, his off-season routine, the upcoming match-up against Tarvas and his recent rise in form.

Laimonas, first of all, I’d like to congratulate you on becoming the MVP of January. What does an award like this mean to you?

Thank you for the recognition. Honestly, I don’t take these awards too personally any more. At the start of my career, I used to think it was an individual award, but as times moved on, I started viewing these more like a reference to the whole team’s play.

How would you rate Pieno Zvaigzdes’ season until now? Where do you see the biggest strengths of the club and what does the team need to add to become a powerhouse in the playoffs?

Right now we’re playing solid basketball and we’re a team that doesn’t rely solely on one or two players. We’ve got a well-balanced roster and anyone can come in and have a great game. That is definitely our biggest strength as a team. Perhaps one of the weaker points of our team is the experience – we’re a young squad and we could really use a big game or two.

Your opponent in the Eighth-finals is Tarvas. What do you know about this Estonian team and what can the fans expect from this series?

The Rakvere team will surely be a tough opponent. We‘ll have to stay focused going into the away game if we hope to have a good game. They‘ve got some heavy foreign firepower and the way we take care of them might decide the outcome of this series.

The Pasvalys side is often mentioned among the handful of teams that have got all the chances to take the trophy. In your opinion, what are some of the teams that pose the biggest threat to your run?

Right now, the only team that poses a threat is Tarvas. We‘ll think of the others only after this series is over.

Up until the end of the year, you were averaging 10 points, while in January, your averages skyrocketed and reached 21.7. Did something change in the coach‘s gameplan or did you simply get on a roll?

I had to miss the start of the season due to injuries and it took some time to get my rhythm back. This month we played some great basketball and it was successful both for me personally and team-wise.

Although you‘re not a fresh face on the basketball court, do you still feel that you‘re improving? Which aspect of your game has developed most throughout the year and during the summer?

I believe that this season, my biggest improvement was from the psychological side of the game. It is often an undervalued, yet a very important part of basketball. I‘m always trying to motivate my teammates, prepare them mentally for the upcoming big matches. Each and every one of us tries to give a positive kick in the behind to the others to push them to try even harder. During practices, we usually look to improve the team‘s decision-making. I spend most of my summers getting physically ready for the season and making sure I prevent any possible injuries. During the season it‘s more a tactical approach, therefore it‘s really important to set a good foundation prior to the season.

You‘ve played most of your career in Lithuania. Do you see yourself returning to the foreign market? Or is it more fun to play back home?

It‘s always nice to play in your home country – my friends, family are all here, but nevertheless, I would suggest trying out playing in a foreign country to everyone. It‘s an priceless life, culture, language experience and basketball is the perfect tool to try it all out.

And finally... Just recently you celebrated your thirtieth birthday – how did you celebrate your first step into your forties? Did your teammates remember to congratulate you?

We celebrated my birthday with a lot of work! My teammates were really wonderful – they came to my place before the practice with a great gift! And the following day, I received another gift – an important victory in LKL.

Kisielius rakes in January honors


Pieno zvaigzdes have proved to be one of the premier teams in the Baltic Basketball League this season, as they tallied 8 victories in 10 games. One man, who has contributed a great deal to this success is Laimonas Kisielius. The forward led his team to three victories this month and earned the January MVP honors.

Kisielius had an outstanding month, as his statistical numbers grew exponentially. He doubled his scoring, rebounding and assist averages, while increasing all his shooting percentages.

Throughout the month, the Lithuanian averaged 21.7 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists.

What makes it all even more impressive, is his shooting – Kisielius' converted on 65% of his shots from two-point range, 56% of his long-range bombs and 80% of his free-throws.

The forward's best game was in Parnu, where the Lithuanian scored 27 points and tore down 9 rebounds, en route to his team's blow-out 108-80 victory against the Estonian club.

He followed it up with a 24-point, 6-rebound outing against Kalev/Cramo and then finished off the month with another double-digit performance in the big win against Jurmala/Fenikss.

Elegar sets record in Kalev/Cramo's win


TALLINN – If the first match-up of the BBL Playoffs is any indication of how the rest of it unfolds, we are sure to have some exciting games, as Kalev/Cramo and Lietkabelis showcased a truly nail-biting game. The Estonians managed to turn the game around in the fourth quarter and celebrated a very important 78-64 (17-16; 18-19; 17-18; 26-11) win.

The second, and final, leg of the series will be played in Panevezys on the 4th of February.

It was a neck-to-neck game straight from tip-off and the two sides traded basket after basket, while the leading side changed 7 times in the first quarter alone.

To the fans’ delight, there was more of the same in the second quarter. We saw more of the same gritty basketball for the first five minutes before Kalev/Cramo ran off to a 9-0 run. However, their lead was short-lived and Lietkabelis soon came racing back, winning the final three minutes of the half 11-1.

The Lithuanians held the game in their hands for most of the third period, as a 9-0 gave them a tangible lead. However, once again, the side in front couldn’t hold on to the lead and we were back at where we began before the final quarter.

It was all about Kalev/Cramo in the fourth quarter, however, as the home side buried four long-range bombs, combined it with terrific defense and pulled ahead by double-digits.

Five players were in double-digits for the home side, as Gregor Arbet and Rain Veideman led the way with 14 points each. Frank Elegar was a beast amongst the boards, as he set this season’s rebounding record with 20 boards. Both Elegar and Scott Machado ended the game with 12 points apiece. Erik Keedus ended the game with 10 points.

On the other side of the court, it was Evaldas Zabas leading the way with 15 points. Egidijus Dimsa added a double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds, while Ivan Nelyubov finished with 12 points and 7 rebounds.

BBL Weekly Review: Volume 12


The regular season drew to a close this week and it’s time to sum it all up. With a dozen weeks of Baltic Basketball League action already in the books, we present you the 12th volume of the BBL Weekly Review.

AWARDS. Three players earned individual accolades for their impressive play throughout the regular season. Tarvas’ Brandis Raley-Ross was named the league’s most proficient scorer, Parnu’s Ronaldas Rutkauskas received the best rebounder title, while Liepaja/Triobet’s general Andrius Mazutis was the league’s best assistman.

NUMBER ONE. After securing their seventh victory in eight games, Juventus cemented their position as the best team of the regular season. Their only loss of the season was in Liepaja, where they fell just short, 71-74.

NO HELP. In the game that cost TTU the ticket to the playoffs, the starting unit didn’t receive any significant support from their teammates, as four starters scored all of the team’s 66 points.

RECORD. In the game against Lietkabelis, Andrejs Selakovs got the lion’s share of his points at the charity stripe, as he set season records for both free-throws made and attempted, making 16 of 18 shots.

RUNS. A couple of teams recorded 12-0 runs this week, but the one that influenced the game most occurred in Rapla, where Tyco Rapla used it to finally get away from Nevezis in the fourth quarter and reach an insurmountable lead.

Despite his team’s lack of success (0 victories in 8 match-ups), Nevezis’ big man Joshua Crawford was outstanding in both games this week and becomes the BBL Weekly MVP. The center averaged 18 points, 10.5 rebounds and 5 assists in the back-to-back contests.

Previously mentioned Andrejs Selakovs lines up right behind him with the record-setting performance. The big man scored 24 points and tallied 12 rebounds, thus amassing 29 ranking points. Nevertheless, Jekabpils failed to down Lietkabelis and lost a couple spots in the final standing.

David Haughton of Tarvas is also on the list with his great performance that willed the Estonian club to a victory against Nevezis. The forward scored 20 points and tore down 9 boards in Tarvas’ fourth win.

Frank Elegar showed that he is a force to be reckoned with in his season debut. The big man recorded 16 points and 13 rebounds, as Kalev/Cramo snapped their tough three game losing streak.

Finally, closing out the top five is Giedrius Staniulis, who was the go-to guy in both of Prienai’s games. The 23-year-old averaged 16 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks, while Prienai won one of two games.

BBL hands out individual awards


As we wrap up the 11th Baltic Basketball League regular season, it’s time to announce the best individual performers in each of the three main statistical categories.

Brandis Raley-Ross was named the league’s most proficient scorer, as he helped Tarvas secure the third seed in Group C with a 4-4 record. His 20.7 average was the league’s best and it will surely be necessary in the BBL Eighth-Finals, where the Estonian club faces one of the most deadly opponents in Pieno Zvaigzdes. The swingman’s biggest scoring outburst was against Dynamo Moscow, when he racked up 35 points.

December MVP Ronaldas Rutkauskas has raked in another personal award, after it was declared that he has become the league’s best rebounder. The Parnu big man averaged 10.4 rebounds, while recording 5 double-doubles in nine games. Rutkauskas also shares the league’s season high for rebounds with 17 against Pyrinto.

Liepaja/Triobet’s general Andrius Mazutis receives the best assistman award without much competition. The Lithuanian Point Guard averaged 5.4 dimes per game and will try to lead the Liepaja side against Jekabpils in the first round of the playoffs. Mazutis is one of the five players to have reached double-digits in assists.

Regular season draws to a close, playoff pairs revealed


The Baltic Basketball League (BBL) regular season has come to an end this Wednesday evening and the playoff pairs are finally clear. In accordance with the BBL regulations, the three teams that participated in the FIBA Europe Challenge Cup - Siauliai, TU/Rock and Ventspils will take the three top

seeds (seeded respectively first, second and third based on last season’s results), while the remaining 13 spots will be shared by the first four teams from each of the three groups and the best fifth-placed team.

Respectively from the top seed down to the fourth from each group, the teams lined up like this, while Parnu became the best fifth-placed team:

  • Pieno zvaigzdes, Kalev/Cramo, Pyrinto and Barons/LDz from Group A.
  • Valmiera, Lietkabelis, Jekabpils and Prienai from Group B.
  • Juventus, Liepaja/Triobet, Tarvas and Rapla from Group C

Following the BBL regulations, the BBL Eight-Final pairings were made based on the BBL team ranking after the regular season, with the highest ranked team paired with lowest ranked team from those to have qualified for the playoffs:

Jekabpils strike out against Panevezys


JEKABPILS – The league-best winning streak came to a halt, as Jekabpils had to face a defeat at the hands of Lietkabelis, who glided past them in the final standings. The Lithuanians came out firing and managed to take an 81-74 victory against their main Group B rivals.

Prienai squeeze past TLU Kalev in OT


TALLINN – Prienai came out victorious after an overtime drama in Tallinn, beating TLU Kalev 86-82 (18-12; 10-22; 20-25; 27-16; 11-7) to guarantee themselves a spot in the playoffs.

Prienai finished the regular season in fourth place with a 5-7 record, while TLU ended up with a single victory in twelve outings.

The game was full of ups and downs for both teams and Prienai were the first ones to jump ahead, leading by six after the initial ten minutes. The tables soon turned in the second quarter though, as TLU Kalev tied the game up and then managed to grasp a small lead.

The Estonian side’s lead just grew in the second half and reached 11 before the final quarter. However, Prienai were not ready to give up just yet and came storming back with three consecutive three-pointers.

While the home side had control of a two point lead with 15 seconds on the clock, Paulius Ivanauskas hit a game-tying lay-up with the clock burning down.

The game might have gone to second overtime was it not for TLU Kalev’s multiple turnovers in crunch time. Prienai made good of their free-throws and celebrated a much-needed victory.

Domantas Seskus was impressive for the winners with 21 points, while Giedrius Staniulis, who also had 11 rebounds, and Arnas Labuckas chipped in with 17 points apiece. Dominykas Milka ended the game with 10 points.

On the other side of the court, it was Thomas Connor Droney leading the offense. He had 25 points, including three of three long range shots. Maduabum Chukwudiebere added 15 points and 6 rebounds, while Reimo Tamm and Robertas Grabauskas scored 14. The latter also added 10 rebounds to the total.

TTU fall short of playoffs in Valmiera


VALMIERA – TTU finished their BBL season with a tough 74-66 (18-18; 17-15; 22-18; 17-15) loss to Valmiera, leaving them the last team behind the 16 to qualify for the BBL Playoffs.

Valmiera made it six out of six at home and 10-2 in total, while TTU dropped to a 4-8 record.

It was a nip-and-tuck affair right from the get-go and the lead changed hands 10 times just in the first half. The score was all tied up after the initial 10 minutes and only two points split the teams after another ten.

However, a 11-0 run to start the second half helped the Latvians jump ahead by double-digits. TTU came close to tying the game up but were always a basket or two short.

While the game was close, Valmiera managed to keep away at a two possession distance and finally achieved victory.

Aigars Skele was the go-to guy for Valmiera, as he racked up 17 points. Justin Hurt chipped in with 16, while Vytenis Cizauskas ended the game with 13 points to his name.

Four players from the starting unit scored all TTU’s points with Joonas Jarvelainen leading the game with 25. He also added 10 rebounds to the totals. Kristjan Makke finished the game with 20 points and 8 rebounds, while Toomas Raadik had 11. Jaan Puidet was solid all-around with 10 points, 7 rebounds and 8 assists.