VENTSPILS ‒ The defending BBL champions Ventspils will have to let go of their crown after being knocked out by Lithuanian side Siauliai in the Quarter-Final round, despite taking a 71-68 victory in the second leg of the tie at home in Ventspils on Saturday evening.
The Latvians could not overcome the six-point deficit they accumulated on the road, despite leading by as many as nine points in the second half. Siauliai will meet Pyrinto in the semi-final.
Ventspils entered the second half with a favorable 47-40 advantage and a one-point lead on aggregate and increased the gap to nine after Janis Timma threw down a dunk to start the third quarter.
However, spurred on by a couple of three-pointers from Rokas Giedraitis and Travis Leslie, Siauliai came back to cut the deficit to 56-55 before the final period.
With five minutes remaining in the game, Harvey Grant’s lay-up made it 68-62 for Ventspils, which would’ve been enough to force overtime, but a couple of timely baskets from Derek Needham saw Siauliai hold on to their first-leg lead.
Needham finished the game with a game-high 18 points, Travis Leslie scored 16 points and added six boards, while Vytas Sulskis had 11 points for Siauliai.
Meanwhile, Ronalds Zakis led the hosts with 14 points, Harvey Grant scored 13 points and grabbed seven rebounds, with Akselis Vairogs contributing with 10 points.
TAMPERE ‒ Pyrinto registered another victory Nevezis, defeating the Lithuanians 97-95 in the second leg of the Quarter-Final tie to progress to the Semi-Final round, where they will face the winner of the Siauliai and Ventspils pair.
The Finns had won the first game 91-61 and their 30-point advantage was never in doubt, although the Kedainiai team did put up a much better effort this time round.
Following a powerful 23-8 start, the hosts seemed to be en route to another crushing victory, but Nevezis battled back and even snuck ahead 36-32 at the start of the second period.
However, Pyrinto regained a double figure advantage by the halftime break at 53-42, outscoring Nevezis 17-6 in the last five minutes of the second quarter.
The home side maintained a safe gap throughout the second half and sailed to an easy win, with Antero Lehto pacing Pyrinto with 24 points and six assists. Damon Williams added 19 points, while Kelvin Lewis chipped in with 14.
For Nevezis, Gintaras Leonavicius was the top scorer once again, finishing with 29 points in his account. Valdas Dabkus had 18 points, while Tauras Jogela added a double-double of 13 points and 11 boards.
TAMPERE – Pyrinto didn’t break their confident stride, continuing a successful march through BBL Playoffs with an easy 91-61 victory against Nevezis in the first leg of the Quarter-Final tie in Tampere.
Although Nevezis has already proved to be a resilient bunch, but overcoming a 30-point deficit might be too big of a task even for them, as the second game will also be played in Finland.
The hosts asserted their dominance from the early going, finishing the first quarter with a 21-13 advantage, with a pair of free-throws by Benjamin Raymond pushing the gap to double digits early in the second period.
Pyrinto’s lead increased to 18 points following a 12-0 run to make it 33-15 with five minutes remaining in the first half. Trailing by 21 points at the interval, Nevezis did manage to limit the damage in the third quarter, getting within 58-43 before the start of the final frame.
However, the Finns decided to answer all the remaining questions already in the fourth quarter and not wait for the second game of the tie the following day, winning the period 33-18 and taking a 30-point win in the end.
Antero Lehto and Yannick Anzuluni led the winners in scoring with 19 points apiece, while Benjamin Raymond scored 18 points and grabbed five boards.
Meanwhile, Gintaras Leonavicius was by far the best player on Nevezis, scoring 23 points, while February MVP award winner Tauras Jogela added 13 points and seven rebounds.
KEDAINIAI – It didn’t take long for Tauras Jogela to find his groove in Nevezis, as the 20-year-old forward from Kaunas snatched the February MVP award after arriving to Kedainiai only a month ago.
The talented player, who has been regarded as one of the top Lithuanian prospects over the years, started the season with Zalgiris Kaunas, but was loaned to Nevezis at the start of February.
Over the three-game stretch during the month, Jogela averaged 19.7 points, 9.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists and led the Kedainiai team past Valmiera in BBL Eight-Finals.
BBL.net caught up with the player to talk about how he’s progressing as a player, his move to Nevezis and how the monthly MVP caught him by surprise.
Tauras, congratulations on becoming the BBL MVP for the month of February. You moved to Kedainiai from Zalgiris Kaunas merely a month ago, would it be fair to say this comes as a bit of a surprise to you?
Thank you. It was definitely unexpected for me, personally. I didn’t expect to be acknowledged and appreciated in this way. That month flew past really fast.
You had a 19-point deficit after the first game against Valmiera in the Eight-Final round, but managed to overcome this hurdle already in the first quarter of the second game. What helped you through this situation?
The first game against Valmiera on the road was really difficult and the six-hour journey to Latvia had a very negative effect. I think our self-confidence and energy from the very start of the game was the key to closing the gap in the second game.
Pyrinto Tampere awaits you in the Quarter-Final stage. How would you rate your chances of advancing though to the Semi-Finals, knowing you’ll play both games on the road?
It will really be very tough and difficult, but we’re not planning to give up just yet.
After arriving to Nevezis, you said that the most important thing for you is a chance to play. Are you happy with your role in the team?
I’m very happy and excited to be here. The coach has shown confidence in me and I’m getting a lot of playing time, as well.
Having been in both situations, what do you think is more valuable – practicing with experienced Euroleague players or getting minutes on a weaker team?
Practicing with Euroleague level players in Zalgiris has helped me a lot and I’m happy to have the chance to show what I’ve learned on the court. It was definitely a useful experience for me.
Do you feel you have grown as a player from the start of the season? Which part of your game did you work on the most?
I feel I have improved and got stronger – both mentally and physically. I couldn’t point out specific elements of my game, as I’ve tried to polish and improve my all-around game and a bit everywhere.
You were considered one of the most talented prospects in your age group in the whole of Europe, but you’ve had some problems with injuries. Do you feel you’ve still got something to show the world? What’s your focus during the practices?
The injury definitely was a setback. After those seven months without basketball, I lost some of my confidence, but that’s all long gone and way back in the past now. Every single day, I work on my game and try show what I can do. I’d say the main focus during practices is on improving my shooting.
SIAULIAI – Siauliai started the BBL Quarter-Finals on the right note, taking a 66-60 victory against the defending champions Ventspils in the first leg of the tie in Lithuania.
The Latvian side will now need to win by at least seven points at home on Saturday, March 15.
The hosts broke away in the second quarter, taking a 35-28 lead at the halftime break, which they increased to a game-high 19-point advantage at 55-36, heading into the final break.
However, the Harvey Grant-led Ventspils battled back in the final frame, cutting the gap to six points, as the final buzzer sounded.
Travis Leslie led the winners in scoring with 11 points and also added eight rebounds, Chris Cooper and Julius Jucikas chipped in 10 points apiece for Siauliai.
For Ventspils, Harvey Grant had a game-high 15 points and 10 rebounds, with no other player reaching double digits. Lorenzo Williams chipped in with 9 points and six assists.
NORRKOPING ‒ Tonybet Prienai finished the job they started on Sunday and registered their second victory against the Norrkoping Dolphins in as many days to advance to the BBL Semi-Finals.
NORRKOPING – Prienai Tonybet started their quarter-finals series on a high note, as they took down the Norrkoping Dolphins to rake up the well-deserved 83-69 victory on Sunday evening.
The second leg of the quarter-finals will be played in Prienai and overcoming a 14-point deficit will be an uphill battle for the Swedes.
Although Prienai got off to a quick start with Zygimantas Janavicius, who scored 9 of his 18 points in the first ten minutes, running the offense, the home side wouldn’t allow them to drift too far apart.
Only five points separated the two teams after the first quarter, but Tonybet outscored their opponents 7-0 and took control of their first double-digit lead. However, their opponents soon started regaining momentum – after Joakim Kjellbom’s basket, it was only a two-point spread.
Tremendous effort under the boards allowed the Dolphins to stay above water, but a hail of three-pointers finally buried them. The Lithuanian team knocked down 9 long-range shots in an eleven minute stretch to leave their opponents far behind.
The home side managed to cut the lead to 8 in the final quarter, but that was as close as they got. Prienai Tonybet responded with a couple more three-pointers to put the game out of reach.
Prienai compensated for their hopeless rebounding (24-41) with a great long-range performance, hitting a total of 14 shots from downtown at a 45% clip.
Zygimantas Janavicius was the top scorer for the visiting side, as he collected 18 points. Gintaras Kadziulis and Mindaugas Lukauskis knocked down 9 three-pointers combined to score 17 points apiece, while Martynas Linkevicius ended the game with 10.
Joakim Kjellbom ended the game with a game-high 21 points alongside his 10 rebounds, while Edgars Jeromanovs scored 15. The Swedes really missed a stronger output from their bench players, as they contributed only 9 points.
NORRKOPING ‒ It’s been mostly smiles in the Swedish city of Norrkoping, as the local side Dolphins have enjoyed a successful return to the Baltic Basketball League after a two-year break.
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.