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.
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.