Kaufmanis: "We have to stay focused"


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 defeat higher-seeded Nevezis


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.


Pyrinto win by 19 in Rakvere


RAKVERE ‒ Pyrinto will carry over a 19 point advantage into the second leg of the Eight-Final tie against Tarvas, after beating the Rakvere side 99-80 on Estonian Independence Day.

The visitors from Finland broke away to  a 24-13 advantage already in the first quarter, but Tarvas battled back and got within two points after an 11-2 run was capped off by Kristo Saage to make it 26-24.

Led by Benjamin Raymond, who had 13 points in the first half, Pyrinto finished the second period with a 50-41 advantage.

Tarvas’ deficit reached 17 points in the third quarter, but the Estonians battled back and got within a 11 points (80-91) with 45 seconds left.

However, the situation got much worse in terms of the second-leg perspectives for Tarvas, as Pyrinto went on to score eight points in the remaining time, increasing the gap to a game-high 19 points at the final buzzer.

Benjamin Raymond paced the Finns with 20 points, Antero Lehto scored 17 points and had six assists while Kelvin Lewis added 14 points and nine rebounds.

For Tarvas, Rait Keerles double-doubled with 21 points and 12 rebounds, Kristo Saage scored 17 points, while Silver Leppik collected 14 points and seven assists.

Juventus surprise Tonybet in Utena


UTENA ‒ Last season’s Baltic Basketball League (BBL) runners-up Tonybet Prienai were handed a 70-67 upset by Juventus Utena, who won the first leg of the Eight-Final tie.

Prienai had won the two head-to-head meetings between the sides in the regular season, but will have a three-point deficit coming into the second leg.

Nikita Barinov started the game red-hot, scoring eight quick points to give Juventus a 15-5 lead already six minutes into the game. However, the double-digit gap didn’t last long, as Tonybet cut the deficit to three points (17-14) at the end of the opening period.

Juventus carried over the three-point edge into the second half (37-34), but an 8-0 run at the start of the third quarter by Prienai allowed the guests to take their first lead of the game at 42-37.

Having led by as many as nine points, Tonybet seemed to have grabbed the control of the game, but the hosts finished the period strong and got within 48-50.

With minutes remaining in the game, the visitors had a 60-55 lead, but eight points in a row by Jeremy Hazell flipped the script completely, as Juventus shot ahead into a 64-60 advantage after Nikita Barinov added a free-throw.

Hazell led all scorers with 18 points and grabbed six rebounds, Barinov cooled off in the second half and finished the game with 11 points, while Averon Matthews chipped in with 10 points and six boards.

For Tonybet, Mindaugas Lukauskis had a team-high 14 points, Laimonas Kisielius scored 13 points and snatched six rebounds, with Arturas Valeika adding 12 points.


Confident playoff start for Siauliai


SIAULIAI ‒ The postseason battles of the Baltic Basketball League (BBL) begun in Siauliai, where the hosts registered a 107-79 victory against the visiting Barsy side in the first leg of the match-up.

The second leg will also take place in Siauliai but overcoming a 28-point deficit will be an uphill struggle for the Kazakh team.

After a promising start, Barsy finished the first quarter with an 18-16 advantage, with Harrison knocking down a three-pointer as the opening period concluded.

The guests led had increased the gap to six points (22-16), but a 17-3 run saw Siauliai turn the game around completely to take a 33-25 lead halfway through the second quarter.

Having finished the first half with a 39-37 edge, the hosts turned up the intensity in the third and fourth quarters, scoring 68 second-half points and running away with an easy victory.

Rokas Giedraitis, Julius Jucikas and Travis Leslie all finished with 21 points apiece for the winners, with Leslie also adding 10 rebounds and six assists.

For Barsy, Lithuanian swingman Gytis Sirutavicius collected a team-high 17 points, Bryan Harrison scored 14, while Fredrick Zambalist chipped in with 11 points.

BBL hands out individual awards


The Baltic Basketball League (BBL) regular season wrapped up last weekend, with Valmiera’s guard Janis Kaufmanis headlining the individual award winners as the league’s leading scorer.

The 24-year-old Latvian player averaged a league-high 20.6 points leading Valmiera to fourth place finish in Group A and a spot in the BBL Eight-Finals, where the club will face Nevezis Kedainiai.

Norrkoping Dolphins big man Joakim Kjellbom became the league’s best rebounder, with impressive averages of 14.6 points and 9.6 boards per game. Dolphins advanced to the playoffs as the second seed from Group A and are set to meet Barons in the first round.

Zygimantas Janavicius from Tonybet Prienai rounded out the field by snatching up the league’s best assistman award, as the 25-year-old playmaker averaged 5.4 dimes per game.  The Lithuanian team finished second in Group C and will face group rivals Juventus in the playoffs.

BBL Weekly Review: Volume 11


With the last game of the Baltic Basketball League (BBL) regular season already in the books, the league presents you the 11th edition of the BBL Weekly Review, which provides you theopportunity to quickly overlook all the week’s main events and spectacular performances.

Regular season concludes, playoff pairs clear


The Baltic Basketball League (BBL) regular season concluded on Sunday evening, as all 16 playoff teams became clear after the weekend’s action. In accordance with the BBL regulations, the first five teams from each of the three groups and the best sixth-placed team advanced to the postseason.

Tarvas became the last club to seal a playoff spot, finishing fifth in Group A, after Tyco Rapla lost out on a ticket to the next round after being defeated by Norrkoping Dolphins in the last game of the first stage.

Pyrinto, Dolphins, Jekabpils, Valmiera and Tarvas were the five teams to qualify to the playoffs from Group A. Ventspils, Siauliai, Nevezis, Barsy, Lietkabelis were the five top teams in Group B, while Pieno Zvaigzdes, Tonybet, TU/Rock, Barons kvartals and Juventus advanced from Group C.

Liepaja/Triobet became the best sixth-placed team, having finished with a 4-8 record in Group B, while Tyco Rapla and Caspiy, who were sixth in Group A and Group C respectively.

The playoff schedule will be finalized and announced on Monday, February 17th.

The full list of qualified teams: Pyrinto, Dolphins, Jekabpils, Valmiera, Tarvas, Ventspils, Siauliai, Nevezis, Barsy, Lietkabelis, Pieno Zvaigzdes, Tonybet, TU/Rock, Barons kvartals, Juventus, Liepaja/Triobet.

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:

In accordance with the Baltic Basketball League Regulations, season 2013/2014 all 21 teams are ranked after the BBL Regular season as follows:

Tyco Rapla lose to Dolphins, miss playoffs


NORRKOPING ‒ The Baltic Basketball League (BBL) regular season came to a close in Sweden, as Norrkoping Dolphins denied Tyco Rapla a place in the postseason, defeating the Estonian visitors 84-52 on Sunday evening.

A victory would have allowed Rapla to catch the playoff train, squeeze past Rakvere Tarvas (4-8) into the fifth spot in Group A due to a better head-to-head score. 

However, the Estonians didn’t manage to pull off an upset and finished the regular season in sixth place with a 3-9 record, while the Dolphins, 9-3, were second.

Rapla had given their supporters hope after going on a 14-2 run in the first half to turn a 13-9 deficit into an eight-point advantage at the beginning of the second quarter.

However, the good news ended here for the guests, as the Dolphins responded with 17 unanswered points to take a 32-23 lead, with William Walker scoring 11 points in this stretch.

Having finished the first half with a double-digit, the hosts continued what they had started and ran away to a 57-38 advantage after three quarters, before finishing the game with a thunderous final period.

Walker paced the winners with 17 points and nine rebounds, Jan Tomanec collected 14 points and six boards, while Niklas Rydgren added 12 points.

Martin Paasoja was the only Tyco Rapla played in double figures with 12 points, Martin Dorbek scored eight points, while Ziga Fifolt chipped in with seven points and nine rebounds.


Ventspils smash Siauliai, win Group B


VENTSPILS ‒ Ventspils secured the first placed in Group B with a 98-56 victory against fellow group leaders Siauliai on Saturday.

The teams entered the last game of the regular season tied for the first spot with an identical 9-2 record, but the Latvians came out on top.

Ventspils broke away right from the get-go, starting the game with an 8-0 stretch and going on to establish a 26-15 lead after the first quarter.

The nightmarish start for Siauliai continued in the second period, as Lorenzo Williams and Janis Timma guided the defending BBL champions into a 50-25 halftime advantage.

The second half was merely formality, but Ventspils kept pulling away and led by as many as 46 points in an unexpected blowout.

Lorenzo Williams had a team-high 19 points, seven rebounds and five assists, Janis Timma scored 18 points and dished out six dimes, while Maris Gulbis added 17 points.

For Siauliai, Vytas Sulskis collected 21 points and eight rebounds, Darius Pakamanis scored 12 points, with no other players in double figures.