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.
PANEVEZYS ‒ Lietkabelis made the playoffs by whisker, but already caused a stir in the Eight-Finals by surprising the defending champions Ventspils with a 67-66 in the first leg of the match-up.
The second game between the teams will be played in Latvia on Saturday, March 1.
Ventspils started pulling away at the end of the opening period, but it was a 10-0 run midway through the second quarter that gave the Latvians a game-high 13-point lead at 35-22.
Lietkabelis cut the gap to eight points (39-31) by the halftime break and scored eight points in a row to start the third quarter, tying the game at 39-all.
The guests from Ventspils regained a slight advantage in the fourth quarter and led 65-61 with 12 seconds left on the clock.
However, in the time remaining, Mantas Kazonas and Darrick Leonard buried a three-pointer each, while Sandis Valters went one-of-two from the free-throw line in between, as Lietkabelis ended up winning by a single point.
Kazonas led the Lithuanian side with 17 points, Leonard scored 13, while Ivan Nelyubov scored 12 points and grabbed eight rebounds.
The only Ventspils player in double figures was Ronalds Zakis with 16 points and five boards, as Harvey Grant and Maris Gulbis added nine points apiece.
KEDAINIAI ‒ Having lost the first game against Valmiera on the road in Latvia by 19 points, Nevezis looked as good as done and dusted in the BBL Playoffs.
However, the Lithuanian team created a small miracle by overcoming the deficit already in the first quarter and claiming a 96-70 victory and progressing to the Quarter-Final.
Waiting for Nevezis in the next stage of the playoffs, is the only Finnish team in the league, Pyrinto, who defeated Tarvas in the first round.
The Kedainiai side came out strong from the get-go and miraculously closed the 19-point deficit already in the first eight minutes taking a 26-6 lead.
Led by Tauras Jogela and Valdas Dabkus, who had 13 and 10 points at the halftime break respectively, Nevezis increased their lead to 30 points after two quarters.
After a quick 6-0 run at the end of third period, Valmiera had closed the gap to 65-44, but Nevezis never allowed the game to get closer, pulling off an impressive comeback to advance to the next round.
Jogela paced the winners with a double-double of 23 points and 12 rebounds, Dabkus added 21 points and 10 boards, while Gintaras Leonavicius chipped in with 17 points and five assists.
Valmiera's scoring leader Janis Kaufmanis had 20 points, Ernests Kalve collected 14 points apiece for Valmiera, with Sandis Amolins adding 10 points.
LIEPAJA ‒ Pieno Zvaigzdes entered the playoffs as the highest-ranked team, but had to work forced to work hard in the first leg of the Eight-Final tie against Liepaja/Triobet.
Although the Lithuanian side registered a seemingly easy 92-79 victory, the winners built the the advantage over the last five minutes.
Despite being on the receiving end of an 11-2 run at the start of the game, Pieno Zvaigzdes managed to finish the opening quarter with a 26-18 lead, with Aliaksandr Kudrautsau scoring eight points in the period.
Liepaja/Triobet had fallen behind by double digits in the second quarter, but a 12-4 spurt closed the gap to 46-44 at the halftime break.
Pieno Zvaigzdes stayed in front throughout the third quarter, but Ivars Timermanis kept the game close, as the hosts cut the gap to a single point (67-66) before the final period.
Liepaja/Triobet had tied the score on multiple occasions in the final quarter, but the visitors from Pasvalys broke the 74-74 deadlock by outscoring the hosts 18-5 in the last five minutes to clinch the win.
Evaldas Kairys led all scorers with 20 points and also had six rebounds for Pieno Zvaigzdes, Arturas Jomantas scored 17 points and grabbed eight boards, while Rolandas Alijevas added a double-double of 10 points and 10 assists.
For Liepaja/Triobet, Arnolds Helmanis had a team-high 18 points, Ivars Timermanis scored 15, while Lauris Blaus added 12 points and six rebounds.
TAMPERE ‒ Pyrinto booked a spot in the BBL Quarter-Finals, as they breezed past Tarvas, taking a 102-94 victory in the second leg of the Eight-Final tie at home in Tampere.
The Finnish side had won the first meeting between the teams in the playoffs by 19 points and will face either Valmiera or Nevezis in the next round.
A sizeable margin of victory in the first game took some pressure of Pyrinto’s back, as the hosts once again a typical high-scoring start.
Having broken away to a 30-22 lead after the first quarter, Tampere pushed the gap to double digits at halftime, going into the break with a 60-47 advantage.
Although four in a row points by Giedrius Gustas had cut the gap to six points (70-64) in the third quarter, this was as close Tarvas managed to get, as Pyrinto progressed to the next round.
Alex Vaenberg led the winners with 17 points, Antero Lehto added 15 points and seven rebounds, while Yannick Anzuluni added 11 points.
29 points and six rebounds from Maris Laksa wasn’t enough for Tarvas, with Giedrius Gustas adding 21 points, five rebounds and six assists.
RIGA ‒ Norrkoping Dolphins started the Baltic Basketball League (BBL) Playoffs with an 87-75 victory against Barons kvartals on the road in Latvia.
The win allowed the Swedish side to establish a 12-point cushion before the second leg of the Eight-Final tie.
Neither team managed to break away until the second quarter, when Dolphins went on a 15-2 run to turn a four-point deficit into a 46-36 advantage.
Having finished the half with a 54-42 lead, the guests from Norrkoping maintained a double-double digit edge for the majority of the remaining time.
A three-pointer by Andris Epners with four minutes to go had given Barons hope, cutting the gap to 69-76, but Dolphins finished the game strong, taking back home a 12-point advantage.
Joakim Kjellbom paced the winners with 20 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and three blocks, while William Walker added 20 points and nine boards.
For Barons, Ilmars Bergmanis had a team-high 14 points, Roberts Mednis scored 12, as Arturs Duselis added 10 points.
SIAULIAI – Despite mounting a miraculous comeback, Barsy fell short of victory in the second leg of the eighth-finals, losing 91-78 against Siauliai on Tuesday evening.
Having strolled past the Kazakhs in the first leg, Siauliai will now face the winner of the Ventspils - Lietkabelis pair in the quarterfinals.
Although Barsy kept breathing down Siauliai’s back for the most part of the first quarter, the home side managed to gather a tangible lead in just over a minute, as a 10-0 run and a buzzer-beating three-pointer allowed them to take control of their first double-digit lead.
While the margin sailed around the 10 point mark in the second quarter, Siauliai sparked another 10-0 run at the beginning of the third that seemed to have put the game to bed.
Despite being down by 20 at the start of the final quarter, Barsy showed some guts and with a number of back to back buckets, trimmed the lead to just 6 with two minutes on the clock. However, Siauliai finished the game on a high note, running off with a 7-0 stretch to grab their quarterfinals ticket.
Travis Leslie was the key player for Siauliai, as he put up 23 points, 11 rebounds and 5 assists. Darius Pakamanis chipped in with 14 points, while Derek Needham and Julius Jucikas had 13 apiece.
Leading the way for Barsy was Gytis Sirutavicius and Bryan Harrison, who had 19 and 17 points respectively. Fredrick Zambalist added 13, while Mikhail Yevstigneev ended the game with 12.
VALMIERA ‒ After leading Valmiera to the Baltic Basketball League (BBL) Playoffs, Janis Kaufmanis, for once, allowed his teammates to do most of the damage in the first Eight-Final leg against Nevezis, which the Latvian team won by 19 points.
Nevertheless, the 24-year-old shooting guard, who led the league in scoring with an average of 20.6 points per game in the regular season, was still at the spotlight, as he was presented with the BBL Best Scorer award before the game.
BBL.net spoke with Kaufmanis about what the award means to him, who he sees as the favorites to win the BBL and how he sees his future play out.
First of all, congrats on becoming the top scorer of the BBL regular season, Janis! What does this award mean to you?
Thanks, this award means a lot to me, because it is the first individual award in my professional career. Obviously, it would have been impossible without my great teammates, coaching staff and management, who trusted me.
Valmiera finished the regular season in fourth place in Group A, with a 6-6 record. How would you rate that part of the season?
In my opinion, it has been a pretty solid season so far except two games on the road against Estonian Kalev and Rapla. We have completed our first goal to qualify for the playoffs and currently looking forward to beating Nevezis in two games and reach BBL Top 8.
The team looked pretty dominant in the first game against Nevezis on Monday. What was the reason of such success? What are your thoughts before the second game?
Nevezis had game on Sunday in LKL, therefore our main task was to play aggressive offensively and defensively. It was tight first half, but in the second we kept running and got them tired. One of the main reasons was good execution of pick’n’roll offense which Raimonds [Gabrans] and Kaspars [Cipruss] played very well. Finally we had a full roster, Davis [Geks] and Maris [Ziedins] have returned from little injuries and showed up in game confident.
We have a 19-point handicap, but we have to stay focus and fight for the win in a single game. As far as I know, Nevezis has a large crowd of fans thus we have to be ready to play hard.
Did the management or the coaching staff set any specific goals in the BBL this season? How far do you think this team can go yourself?
The initial goal was to reach final 8, but we are looking forward to go even further.
Which teams do you think could be held as the favorites to win the competition?
There are multiple great teams in this league that could win the trophy. Apart from my team, I would like to include BK Ventspils, Pieno Zvaigzdes and Dolphins as the potential winners.
Individually, you have better statistics in the BBL than in the Latvian Basketball League (LBL). What, in your mind, could the reasons be?
One of the main reasons might be the fact that Latvian teams knows me very well and they are more aware of my strengths and weaknesses. Personally, I don’t sort games whether it is BBL or LBL, maybe somewhere deep in my mind I had a feeling that BBL tournament is more important because there were just 12 games. In LBL, the season is long and the most important games will be in April and May.
You’re not the tallest and most athletic guy on the court, but at the end of the day – you’re one of the best in the league. What do you see as your strengths as a basketball player?
One of my advantages is my left arm. I think left-handed players are more difficult to guard. Quite often I get advantage with my mid range jumper, when I am fully concentrated I can make a lot of those shots. But I still have to work hard in order to improve my skills and become a better player.
You grew up and spent spent most of you career in Valmiera. What’s special about this city and the team?
It is my hometown where I have my family and friends. I really like the team, coaching staff and management. It all makes me happy to fight for Valmiera.
Do you have any long-term goals set out for yourself, something you would like to accomplish in your basketball career?
First of all, I am looking forward to make the most out of this year with my team. Personally, I have considered trying my skills abroad, but I will focus on that right after the season.
VALMIERA ‒ Valmiera built a sizeable advantage against the higher-seeded Nevezis before the the second leg of the Eight-Final tie, winning the first meeting 89-70 in Latvia on Monday evening.
The hosts got off to a very positive start, scoring inside at will, to run away to a double-digit lead at 20-10 after five minutes of play.
However, the terrific play from Nevezis’ swingman Gintaras Leonavicius, who scored 12 points in the opening quarter, kept the game close.
Having wasted their 10-point lead, Valmiera shot up to a 37-28 advantage in the second quarter after a three-point shot by Davis Geks, but Nevezis cut the gap to 42-41 at the halftime break.
Valmiera reestablished their superiority in the second half, with the Lithuanian guests not being able to offer any defensive presence inside.
With seven minutes remaining, a three-pointer by Vidas Ginevicius had scaled the difference down to 69-64, but the hosts replied by stepping on the gas pedal once again and scoring eight points in a row to cruise to an easy win.
Ernests Kalve paced Valmiera with 20 points, Kristaps Dargais collected 16 points and 10 rebounds, while Kaspars Cipruss added 14 points and nine boards.
For Nevezis, Gintaras Leonavicius had a team-high 18 points, Tauras Jogela scored 15, while Valdas Dabkus chipped in with 11 points and six rebounds.