PRIENAI – Pieno Zvaigzdes had their unbeaten run ended in the last game of the regular season, as they fell short against TonyBet, in Prienai, losing 66-77.
The Group C leaders dropped to an 11-1 record, while second-placed TonyBet improved to a 9-2 mark with more game remaining.
Prienai took over the initiative already from the get-go, jumping ahead to a 21-11 lead seven minutes into the game. Pieno Zvaigzdes did manage to cut the deficit to 34-36 just before the halftime after Arturas Jomantas hit a pair of free-throws.
Despite trailing throughout the third quarter, Pieno Zvaigzdes got a taste of the lead in the final period, as a three-pointer by Dovydas Redikas gave the visitors a 61-59 edge with six minutes remaining in the game.
However, Pasvalys didn’t stay in front for too long and triples by Arturas Valeika and Martynas Linkevicius established a 70-64 advantage for TonyBet, who calmly saw out the game and took the win.
Laimonas Kisielius had a game-high 30 points for Prienai, making 6-of-9 long-range shots, while Arvydas Siksnius and Arturas Valeika added 12 points apiece.
For Pieno Zvaigzdes, Egidijus Dimsa had 16 points and eight rebounds, Evaldas Kairys collected 14 points, while Arturas Jomantas chipped in with 12 points, eight rebounds and five assists.
PANEVEZYS – Lietkabelis pulled off a big upset by taking a 81-75 victory against one of Group B front-runners Siauliai on Wednesday.
Following the win, the Panevezys side improved to a 3-8 record and took an important step towards the playoffs, while Siauliai dropped to 9-2.
The game was close in the first two quarters, with Siauliai having a slight 40-36 advantage at the halftime break. However a 23-19 third quarter by Lietkabelis tied things up at 59-59 before the final period of action.
The hosts started the fourth quarter with a quick 6-0 spurt, with Mantas Virbalas extending the lead to 65-59 with a three-point shot.
Although Siauliai had come from behind to tie the game at 70-70, but Darius Griskenas and Mantas Kazonas scored five points in a row, with 1:20 left in the game, as Lietkabelis held on for the win.
Griskenas led all scorers with 16 points, Kazonas collected 14 points, while Darrick Leonard added nine points, eight assists and six rebounds for the winning side.
Derek Needham had a team-high 14 points for Siauliai, Julius Jucikas scored 12 points, while Rokas Giedraitis chipped in with 11 in a losing effort.
KEDAINIAI – The departure of Simas Buterlevicius didn’t stop Nevezis, as the Kedainiai side overcame early struggles and registered a 88-73 victory against the visiting Parnu side at home in Lithuania on Wednesday evening.
Despite losing four of the five starters from the start of the season, the BBL Cup winners finished the regular season with a solid 9-3 record, while Parnu was last in Group B, having only once in 12 games.
The visitors from Estonia actually had a very positive start, taking an early 20-12 lead halfway through the first quarter and staying in front until the half-time break (46-44) behind 12 points by Rannar Raap.
However, Nevezis took the control of the game into their hands with a powerful 17-0 run to break a 49-49 deadlock and shoot ahead by double digits.
A great game by Tauras Jogela, who finished with 21 points and 12 rebounds, allowed the hosts to cruise to a win after a solid second-half effort. Sarunas Kulevicius scored 14 points, while Arminas Kelmelis added 13.
Rannar Raap paced Parnu with 16 points, Nemanja Miljkovic collected 15 points and nine rebounds, with Janis Vahter chipped in with 12 points and eight boards.
JEKABPILS – Although the small Latvian town of Jekabpils, with a population of under 30,000, might not be the most exciting place to live, it has turned out to be a perfect landing spot for Troy Barnies, who is averaging a stellar 16.4 points and 7.4 rebounds in the Baltic Basketball League.
"Winning games, the team is doing well, you individually are doing well -- you literally can’t ask for more over here,” says the 25-year-old forward from Maine, who came to Latvia after spending the last two seasons in Finland and Turkey.
BBL.net caught up with Barnies to talk about being named the January MVP, dunking over his teammate in the Latvian league All-Star dunk contest and what kind of a surprise he got for his 25th birthday.
First of all, congrats on the January MVP honors! You snatched up the individual award, Jekabpils went on to snatch a playoff spot – all in all, it's quite a nice stretch. How does it feel, when things are going so well?
To be completely honest, I haven’t felt any better in my three years as a professional ball player. I’ve been in the right position finally for myself. Playing small forward is where I needed to be to show my abilities and it’s worked out great for me so far! Add good teammates and coaches, that’s just asking for success. When things are going well overseas, you can ask any American ball player… you’re on cloud nine. Winning games, the team is doing well, you individually are doing well, you literally can’t ask for more over here. It’s all about staying consistent and keeping yourself happy. That’s the biggest part. I’m for sure all good!
It's definitely not your first individual achievement (i.e. Mr. Basketball in Maine), you were named for – which ones, both individual and team, do you hold the most dear?
Personally, the dearest award to me is being named Mr. Maine Basketball in 2007. I love my state so much and where I am from, and I am now in the history books to be a part of the greatest basketball players to ever come out of Maine and I couldn’t be more honored about it.
Jekabpils are through to the playoffs after a solid regular season. How far do you think you can go? Were there any specific goals set by the management or the coaches?
Our goal was to make the playoffs for sure, we have had a lot of close games that we felt we should have won but didn’t turn our way in the BBL, but that’s basketball. We are where we need to be and now it’s time to play even smarter come playoff time.
Talking about BBL, which team or player was the most difficult to play in the regular season?
I think to me, the most difficult team to play during the regular season in the BBL was probably Pyrinto. I played against them four times last year in the Finnish’s Top League and they knew who I was and so did I for them. They are a very experienced team and play very smart. Another reason why I love to get another opportunity at them in our own gym on Wednesday. Should be interesting, I love the level of competition. That’s all I want, to play the best and as of now… that is them.
You're from Maine and came to Latvia by way of Finland and Turkey. Were there any stand-out moments in your professional journey here in Europe?
I have been through so much in my last three years overseas. The most difficult for me was my year in Turkey. The biggest culture shock for myself. No one could really speak English and in that league at the time, only one American could play at a time on the court. Most teams had two Americans. So at most I would get to play 20 minutes and share time with another teammate. That was rough but I learned a lot that year. About the business side of things. My team went through four different Americans, cutting all but the last and leaving me in Turkey the one to keep my job throughout the year. It was hard at times, very hard… but I’m a better player and person now because of it.
As it so happens, you just celebrated your birthday on February 10th as well – did your receive anything special? Did your teammates not forget about it?
My team was very nice to me on my birthday! I got some small gifts from the club along with a shout out on the local radio station playing my favorite song for me! It was awesome to say the least, because it was unexpected. My club took care of me and made my day very special. I couldn’t ask for anything more, being overseas without family – it was nice!
You participated in the Latvian All-Star Day, both in the actual game and the slam dunk contest. What are your impressions from the event? Was it easy to convince your teammate Cam Rundles to allow you to jump over him in one of the dunks?
The All-Star day was fun! The game was all jokes and dunks putting a show on for the crowd, but the dunk contest was very competitive. These Latvian guys can jump, sheesh! The funny thing was, when I asked Cam if I could jump over him, he responded…”Lets go” with no hesitation. Talk about a teammate with so much trust in you. [Laughing] I did that dunk in a dunk contest in high school years ago and thought to bring it back for old time sake! It was fun! Glad I made it. That would have been embarrassing with a packed gym. [Laughs again]
We have noticed that you're pretty active on Twitter. Is that one of your go-to free time activities? What else do you do in Jekabpils, when you're not on the basketball court?
I love Twitter. Most of the time I like to think that I’m actually a pretty funny guy in person so I try to show that on the social network with my random thoughts and updates on my life. It’s one of my go to activities along with playing PS3. I’m a big Call of Duty guy. Keeps the hours rolling and my time used over here. I’m also a huge movie buff and have literally seen every movie that has come out already and then some. I repeat watched movies as well because I like to see if I missed anything through the first time watching. But that’s pretty much it, my town is very small and there isn’t much to do outside so I find ways to keep myself occupied for sure.
Probably the most important question – what is your favorite Latvian word?
Hmmm, favorite word in Latvian… well let’s keep this PG-13 and I’m going to say “briedis” which means “deer” in English. We have a teammate that reminds us of a deer the way he moves his body and I asked one of my other teammates how to say “deer” in Latvian. It’s a funny joke for us! [Laughter]
And lastly, what would you like to say to all Jekabpils fans before the playoff battles begin?
To the Jekabpils fans, we need you! The home games we have for the BBL are important to us more than anything because it’s our gym. We play in front of all of our fans and as much as they want us to win we need to them to support us through our way in the playoffs. It will only make us want it even more!
RAKVERE ‒ Tarvas took a strong step towards the playoffs with an 81-77 victory against Tallinna Kalev at home in Rakvere on Tuesday evening.
The hosts improved to a 4-7 mark, while the visitors from the capital dropped to 3-8 before the last game of the regular season.
Halfway through the first quarter, the teams were tied at 10-10, but Rait Keerles scored six points in a row to ignite a 17-3 stretch, as Tarvas finished the period with a 27-13 lead.
Tallinna Kalev had cut the deficit to a mere three points (41-38) at the halftime break, but Tarvas shot ahead once again in the third quarter.
With four minutes left in the game, the guests were behind by 12 points, but a 9-2 spurt saw them get within five points with 30 seconds left.
However, Maris Laksa, who finished the game with 21 points, and Giedrius Gustas, who added 12 points and six assists, made a free-throw each to seal the game.
Rait Keerles added 18 points, five rebounds and four points for Tarvas.
Reimo Tamm had a game-high 28 points for the losing side, while Renato Lindmets and Kaido Saks chipped in with 11 apiece.
VALMIERA – Having demonstrated dominant play throughout the season, Pyrinto clinched the first spot in Group A with a 78-69 victory against the hosts Valmiera on Tuesday evening.
The win puts the Finnish team at a 10-1 record and out of reach from the second-placed Dolphins. Meanwhile, Valmiera, now 5-6, are also through to the BBL Playoffs, but are still fighting for a better seed.
Although the Latvian side got off to a better start, jumping ahead by 7 late in the first quarter and struggled to catch up for the most of the first half, their dominance showed right after the break. A 15-2 run finally helped the Finns take control of a tangible lead. Despite all the effort, Valmiera came up short in the fourth after having trimmed the lead to just 4 with half a minute remaining on the clock.
Kelvin Lewis was the top scorer for Pyrinto with 18 points, while Antero Lehto and Alex Vaenerberg had 12 each. Damon Williams and Antti Nikkila were also in double-digits, as they scored 10 apiece.
Valmiera's Ernests Kalve ended the game having scored 18 points and gobbled up 9 rebounds, while Janis Kaufmanis chipped in with 17 points. Viktors Iljins finished up with 10 points and a season-high 15 rebounds.
As the regular season curtain call gets closer and close, the Baltic Basketball League (BBL) continues providing you opportunity to quickly overlook all the main events and spectacular performances that took place in the league in the weekly review.
PASVALYS – Pieno Zvaigzdes continued their unbeaten run in the BBL, taking a 101-67 home victory against the visiting Barons kvartals on Saturday evening in Pasvalys.
The Lithuanian team sits atop the Group C standings with an 11-0 record, while Barons dropped to a 5-6 mark.
After a strong start to the game, Pieno Zvaigzdes broke away to a 25-12 lead in the first quarter. The gap grew to 25 points at the end of the second period, but Davis Coders converted an and-one play to make it 55-33 at the half.
Having maintained a steady lead throughout the third quarter, but Barons made an attempt to get back in the game at the start of the final period, with an 8-0 stretch, which had cut the deficit to 75-62.
However, Pieno Zvaigzdes had a ferocious response, scoring 23 unanswered points, cruising to a comfortable victory in front of their home fans.
Zygimantas Jonusas paced the winners with a game-high 19 points, Egidijus Dimsa scored 18 points, while Dovydas Redikas added 17 points and three assists.
For Barons, Ilmars Bergmanis had 12 points, Karlis Apsitis scored 11, while Jekabs Rozitis finished the game with 10 points.
JEKABPILS ‒ Jekabpils booked a spot in the BBL Playoffs with a 76-50 victory against Tyco Rapla on the road in Estonia on Thursday evening.
The win guaranteed that the Latvian side won’t drop below fifth in Group A standings after improving to a 5-5 record, while Rapla, now 3-8, is in a much more difficult situation.
There was never any doubt about who the stronger team was on the court, with Jekabpils breaking away to a 27-14 lead after the first quarter, with Rinalds Sirsnins pacing the visitors with three long-range bombs.
Although Rapla stopped the gap from growing in the second quarter, Jekabpils resumed their domination after the break, winning the third period 21-6 for a 61-34 advantage, as they cruised to an easy win.
Sirsnins led all scorers with 14 points and also dished out seven assists, while the American duo of Cameron Runders and Troy Barnies collected 12 points apiece for Jekabpils.
Rapla’s only double-figure scorer was Martin Paasoja, who collected 10 points, with Ziga Fifolt adding a respectable performance of nine points, six rebounds and three blocks.
VENTSPILS – Ventspils coasted to an easy victory at home and gifted themselves their ninth victory in eleven outings, as they handled Parnu 89-66 on Wednesday evening.
It was a one-sided affair from the get-go, as the home side ran off to a 15-2 lead in the opening three minutes. Although Parnu managed to cut the margin to nine, Ventspils responded with a 12-0 run and put the game to bed already in the first quarter. Before halftime, the Latvian side’s lead had already reached 27 points.
We saw much of the same in the third quarter, as the visitors faced a shameful 36 point deficit midway through the third quarter.
While it was all said and done already, Parnu showed some signs of life in the closing quarter. They got off to a 14-2 start, added a couple more three-pointers and were down by only 18. However, the Latvians finished off the quarter strong and celebrated a 23-point victory.
Harvey Grant led the way for Ventspils with 18 points and 8 rebounds. Martins Laksa contributed 13, while Janis Timma and Artjoms Butjankovs finished the game with 11 points.
Three players reached double-digits in scoring for Parnu, with Taavi Hamarsalu collecting a team-high 16 points. Elgar Tamsalu and Vladzimir Krysevych added 13 points each.