PRIENAI – Zygimantas Janavicius has been one of the cornerstones to the success Tonybet Prienai has had over the past couple of years. This season is no different, as the 25-year-old playmaker leads the Baltic Basketball League (BBL) the league in assists.
BBL.net spoke with point guard from Alytus, who is averaging 7.3 points and 5.0 assists per game, about the season so far and the team’s chances in the Quarter-Final duel against Swedish side Norrkoping Dolphins.
First of all, congratulations on becoming the best assistman in the BBL. What does an award like this mean to you?
I am obviously very excited and happy about it, but as one of my former coaches told me – players are made good by a good team. First and foremost, this award is a result of the whole team’s effort.
The season is going well so far – you finished second in your group in the regular season and went on to beat Juventus in the Eight-Final. How would you rate Tonybet’s performance in the league so far?
I’d rate it well. So far, we’ve been on track on the goals we’ve set for ourselves before the season and we’re hoping to continue on this path.
In the first round of the playoffs, you lost the first leg against Juventus by three points. Did you feel any pressure before the return leg in Prienai?
We didn’t feel any pressure whatsoever, because we were playing at home and three points isn’t that big of a difference. We believed that we can beat them and cover the margin.
You will face the Norrkoping Dolphins in the Quarter-Final and will be playing both games on the road. Is it a big advantage for the opponents? How does the team feel before the trip to Sweden?
The mood inside the team is good, because we won an important game in the Lithuanian League [against Dzukija Alytus]. Although we’re feeling good about our chances, the opponents will have a big advantage, playing both games at home. A home court is always helpful.
There are only eight teams still in the race for the BBL trophy this year. In your mind, which teams have the best chances of going all the way?
Personally, I would point out last year’s champions Ventspils, Tartu Rock and Pieno Zvaigzdes. I haven’t had the chance to see Pyrinto play myself, but I’ve heard a lot of good things about that team.
You’re not that young of a player anymore, but do you feel you have improved any specific part of your game?
Every season gives you more and more experience, and now I feel much stronger psychologically, which has allowed me to improve my long-range shooting.
So far, you’ve spent your entire professional career in Lithuania. Have you ever had thoughts about trying yourself abroad?
I haven’t had the right circumstances to go abroad, but I’d to give it a go next season.
TARTU ‒ Spurred on by a packed Tartu University Sports Hall, TU/Rock established a 13-point advantage after the first leg of the Quarter-Final tie against Pieno Zvaigzdes, taking a 77-64 victory at home on Friday evening.
The second battle for a place in the BBL Semi-Final will take place in Pasvays in exactly two weeks on Friday, March 21st.
TU/Rock ran away to a double-digit lead already in the early going after Augustas Peciukevicius completed an 8-0 run to give the hosts a 17-7 advantage five minutes into the game.
However, Pieno Zvaigzdes had an appropriate response and cut the gap to three points by the end of the first half, maintaining a slight lead throughout the second half as well.
Having started the second half with a 38-32 edge, TU/Rock increased the separation to 14 points with eight quick points to restore a double-figure advantage.
The deficit threatened to get out of hand, with the hosts leading by as many 17 points with as little as 30 seconds remaining, but Egidijus Dimsa and Aliaksandr Kudrautsau sliced the gap to 13 points at the final buzzer.
The Lithuanian duo of Augustas Peciukevicius and Vilmantas Dilys led the winners with 17 points apiece, with the latter also grabbing a game-high 14 rebounds. Tanel Kurbas added 11 points.
Meanwhile former TU/Rock player Egidijus Dimsa paced Pieno Zvaigzdes with 17 points and eight rebounds, Marshawn Powell added 15 points, while Aliaksandr Kudrautsau collected 13 points.
KEDAINIAI ‒ Tauras Jogela became the second Nevezis player to win the Baltic Basketball League (BBL) monthly MVP award this season, as the player snatched the honors for the month of February.
The 20-year-old forward arrived to Kedainiai on loan from Zalgiris Kaunas just a month ago.
In the three game he has played for Nevezis in February, Jogela has averaged 19.7 points, 9.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 2 steals per game.
His best performance came in the first game against Parnu, when the player scored 21 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and added five steal, on the way to a total ranking of 32.
Jogela was also instrumental in the Eight-Final clash against Valmiera, in which Nevezis overcame a 19-point first-leg deficit and advanced into the next round.
The talented prospect led the Kedainiai side to a 96-70 victory in the second leg, scoring a team-high 23 points, snatching 12 boards and dishing out four assists.
Nevezis are set to face Finnish side Pyrinto in the Quarter-Final, with the first game taking place in Kedainiai on Tuesday, March 11.
With the first round of the Baltic Basketball League (BBL) playoffs already in the books, let’s round up the most impressive performances and most memorable events of the eighth-finals.
TARTU – After taking a 31-point advantage in the first game against Jekabpils, there was little doubt before the second leg that TU/Rock would be the team advancing to the BBL Quarter-Finals.
The Estonian team triumphed in the second game as well, taking an 84-63 victory after and will now face Lithuanian side Pieno Zvaigzdes in the next stage of the competition.
With a huge deficit from the first game, Jekabpils never threatened to make the aggregate score close, but it was a much more competitive game than the first meeting, with TU/Rock leading only 35-32 at the halftime break.
Vincent Simpson finished the third quarter with a lay-up and increased the gap to 52-46, before the hosts broke the game wide open with a 32-17 final period, which translated into a 21-point advantage at the final buzzer.
Lithuanian big man Vilmantas Dilys led all scorers with 21 points and six rebounds, while Augustas Peciukevicius and Timmo Eichfuss added 11 points apiece for TU/Rock.
For Jekabpils, Troy Barnies scored 13 points, Michal Hlebowicki had 11 points and six boards, while Cameron Rundles chipped in with 10 points.
NORRKOPING ‒ Dolphins will meet Tonybet Prienai in the BBL Quarter-Finals after taking a 84-71 victory against Barons kvartals in the second game of the Eight-Final tie.
The Swedes had won the first meeting between the sides by 12 points and answered any remaining questions already in the first quarter.
Although the deficit for Barons was merely two points (20-18) after Ilmars Bergmanis nailed a three-pointer seven minutes into the game, Niklas Rydgren and Ludwig Wissing’s barrage of three-pointers increased the gap to 34-18 after a 14-0 run to end the opening period.
Having led convincingly the rest of the way, Dolphins passed their first test in the BBL playoffs, but the next one in Lithuania might be a lot harder.
Joakim Kjellbom, Jermont Horton and Ludwig Wissing all scored 13 points each for the winners, with Jan Tomanec grabbing a team-high nine rebounds to go along with nine points.
For Barons, Andris Epners had a game-high 23 points, while Agnis Cavars and Ilmars Bergmanis, who also had nine boards, added 10 points apiece.
VENTSPILS – The defending BBL champions Ventspils safely made it through to the BBL Quarter-Final after registering an 84-55 victory at home against Lietkabelis and overcoming a one-point first-leg deficit.
The visitors from Panevezys stayed close in the first 10 minutes of the game, finishing the first quarter at a 22-22 deadlock, but Ventspils began to put some space in the second period.
Having established a 39-33 advantage after the first half, pulled away for good in the third quarter, increasing the gap to 12 points and finishing the game with a strong fourth quarter.
Janis Timma and Sandis Valters led the winners with 13 points each, with the former also dishing out five assists for Ventspils.
For Lietkabelis, Darius Griskenas and Jokubas Gintvainis were the only players in double digits with 11 and 10 points respectively.
PASVALYS – Pieno Zvaigzdes advanced to the BBL Quarter-Finals after taking a 93-67 victory against Liepaja/Triobet in the second leg of the Eight-Final tie on Saturday evening.
The Lithuanians had won the first leg as well and had no troubles sealing the deal at home, taking a 17-10 lead already after the first quarter.
Having finished the first half with a double-digit advantage at 44-33, Pieno Zvaigzdes convincingly won the third and fourth quarters as well, behind terrific play of the starters.
The starting unit collected 63 points for the Pasvalys team, while Liepaja/Triobet’s starting five scored only 36 points.
Evaldas Kairys paced the winners with 25 points and 10 rebounds, Dovydas Redikas scored 17 points, while Paulius Sorokas added 15 points.
PJ Hill and Artis Ate shared a team-high with 12 points, with Ivars Timermanis chipping in with 11 points.
PRIENAI ‒ Last year’s BBL runners-up Tonybet progressed to the Quarter-Final round after taking an 84-76 victory against Juventus and overcoming a first leg deficit.
The visitors from Utena had won the first playoff duel by three points, but it wasn’t enough for them to advance past Prienai.
Juventus started the game well and finished the first quarter with a 16-13 advantage, increasing the gap to 38-32 at the halftime break.
However, the six-point edge on the evening and a nine-point advantage on aggregate disappeared in the third quarter, as Tonybet took a 56-53 lead heading into the final period.
The hosts began the fourth quarter with an 8-0 run, with six points coming from Vaidas Cepukaitis. Prienai led by as many as 15 points in the period and convincingly advanced to the next stage.
Zygimantas Janavicius led Tonybet with 16 points, while Mindaugas Lukauskis and Gintaras Kadziulis added 14 points apiece.
For Juventus, AJ Matthews scored a team-high 16 points and grabbed eight rebounds, as Nikita Barinov added 13 points in a losing effort.
JEKABPILS ‒ A 28-0 run by TU/Rock, spanning the second and third quarters, allowed the Tartu club to sail to an easy 84-53 victory against Jekabpils on the road in Latvia on Thursday evening.
Jekabpils finished the first quarter with a 16-14 advantage and still led 21-19 after Jurijs Aleksejevs made a lay-up four minutes into the second quarter.
However, that is when the nightmarish 10-minute stretch began, with TU/Rock scoring 18 unanswered points until the halftime break to make it 37-21 and then adding 10 more after the interval.
Having fallen behind by 26 points, there was no way back for the Latvian team, who at one point were trailing by 36 points at 37-73.
Tanel Kurbas had a game-high 16 points for TU/Rock, while Augustas Peciukevicius and Janar Talts added 15 points apiece for the winners.
Troy Barnies was the top scorer for Jekabpils with 15 points, while Jurijs Aleksejevs was the only other player in double figures with 11.