JURMALA - Nothing could get in the way of Jurmala, who paved the way to victory with terrific three-point shooting against Betsafe/Liepaja, taking an 82-64 win to start their campaign.
It was pretty clear that the game wouldn't be too close quite early, as Jurmala took the reigns right from the start. After a 10-4 start, they finished the quarter even stronger and got the lead up to double digits just one period in: 20-10.
The margin grew to 18 in the middle of the second quarter, but the visitors managed to cut into it a bit and entered the halftime break with the same 10 points between the two clubs.
Betsafe/Liepaja made an attempt at a comeback and managed to cut the deficit to just five, but Jurmala immediately responded with a nice run of their own, comfortably getting to the finish line.
Denis Krestinin and Haralds Karlis had 14 points apiece for Jurmala, while Ervins Jonats accompanied them with 13 points in his tally. Edgars Jeromanovs contributed 11 to the cause.
On the other end, Roman Grushcenko picked up game-high 22 points, while Roberts Krastins chipped in with 14. Toms Leimanis ended the game with 11 points and 8 assists.
TARTU - University of Tartu proved once again that a game in their home court is no easy task. The Estonians managed to hold back the LBL leaders Ogre, putting their noses in front in the 70-64 win.
The Estonians shot away right after the headcount, running to a 10-3 lead not even halfway through the first quarter and retained the lead throughout the remaining half hour of basketball.
Nevertheless, the lead never seemed to be big enough to just cruise towards the end. At halftime, it was a ten-point game and it was nowhere near being a done deal. The Latvians got as close as a 6-point margin late in the third quarter, but that was as far as they went. Steven Cook drained a couple more shots and put Tartu out of harms way.
Steven Cook was an unstoppable force on the offensive end, tallying 28 points, 11 rebounds and 4 assists for the performance of the day with 32 ranking points. He didn't receive much help from the rest of his team in the scoring department, as his sidekicks were Carl Engstrom and Hendrik Eelmae, who contributed respectively 13 and 10 points, with another 8 rebounds apiece.
For Ogre, Janis Antrops was the lone player to reach double-digit scoring with 15 in his account.
RAPLA - An exciting and high-scoring affair was carried out in Estonia, as the derby between AVIS Utilitas Rapla and Port of Parnu ended in an 88-94 victory for the visitors.
It went back and forth for most of the game, and neither side could feel really comfortable in their situation, with opponents pressing right from behind. Although after ten minutes of basketball, it was just a two-point advantage for the visitors, they managed to bring it up to 11 as the second quarter winded down.
Nevertheless, the Rapla did not let their hands down and after a 14-1 run were back within reaching distance. The hosts actually managed to tip the scales their way early in the final quarter, but not for long - several three-point plays later, Port of Parnu looked in control with seven points to spare. They finished the quarter with an array of free-throws and ended up on top.
The lion's share of the scoring came from the starting five for Parnu, as the bench was responsible for merely 12 points. Saimon Sutt led the way there with 23 points and five steals, as Mikhel Kirves added another 21. Karl Johan Lips put in a confident performance of 17 points and 8 boards, as Timo Eichfuss contributed 12 points.
Nolan Cressler had a great game off the bench for Rapla, as he dropped 21 points, 7 assists and also picked up 6 rebounds. Devonte Upson added 17 points and 7 rebounds, while Indrek Kajupank ended the game with 12.
SIAULIAI - A debut went wrong on the opening day of the season for Tsmoki, as the Minsk side fell at the hands of Siauliai by a margin of 16 points, 94-78, in their first ever BBL game.
The hosts weren't very welcoming towards their guests and it was apparent right from the start of the game, as they raced off to a 14-3 start, leaving Tsmoki far behind in the dust.
A 7-0 return run helped the Belorussians get back into the game for a minute, but Siauliai decided to put an end to it in the second quarter. A great offensive performance allowed Siauliai to score 29 points in a ten-minute frame and enhance their lead to 19.
Tsmoki managed to cut into the margin a little bit, but it didn't change the grim overall outlook, as it was a wide double-digit margin at the final buzzer.
20-year-old Laurynas Birutis was an exciting force under the boards and highlighted the boxscore with game-high 25 points and 9 rebounds. Nicholas Zeisloft added 14 points to the tally, while Omar Prewitt and Vytautas Sarakauskas contributed another 13 each.
On the other side it was Yauheni Beliankou standing out with 19 points, while another 18 points came from Roman Rubinshteyn.
The 2017/2018 Baltic Basketball League season is just about ready to tip off! Two groups of seven - 14 teams in total - will battle for the crown and represent five countries.
PASVALYS – Vytautas lifted the Triobet BBL Champions trophy after dominating throughout the entire second leg of the Finals series. They came out on top by a wide margin, winning 89-74 against the home side Pieno Zvaigzdes and more than making up for the first-leg loss.
Having won the first game by just three points, Pieno Zvaigzdes were not in a position where they could feel complacent and soon enough Tomas Delininkaitis wiped that away with a three-pointer to open up the game. A number of easy baskets followed and Vytautas found themselves up 17-2.
While the home side managed to regain some composure before the end of the quarter, the duo of Tomas Delininkaitis and Regimantas Miniotas, who combined for 18 points, had Vytautas in front 22-11.
Pasvalys struggled to open up the second quarter successfully, as the margin between the two clubs grew to 16. However, as the quarter reached its’ halfway mark, Pieno Zvaigzdes managed to turn up the intensity, bringing the game back within single digits.
Pasvalys was all fired up entering the second half, as they quickly chopped up the deficit and made it just a one possession game. Nevertheless, Vytautas responded with a 20-1 run and pulled back ahead.
A couple of threes from the home side gave them a glimmer of hope, but time was running out and the lead seemed too great to overcome. Vytautas finished out the game strong and went home victorious.
After doing half the work in Tallinn, University of Tartu finished the job at home, holding back Kalev/Cramo to just a one point win 67-68. This result was enough for Tartu to secure the third spot in the 2016/2017 Triobet BBL season.
University of Tartu had all the right cards entering the game – they already had a 12-point margin before the game and the backing of a loud home crowd to boost.
It was a battle between two equally matched sides and that was apparent from the opening minutes. While the hosts jumped ahead by a few initially, Kalev/Cramo responded with a 10-0 run and managed to reach a slim advantage after the first ten minutes.
Kalev/Cramo were up by five points early in the second quarter, but three consecutive three-pointers allowed the home side to get back ahead by four points. The two Estonian clubs went back and forth for the remainder of the game, and a close margin was clearly in Tartu’s favor.
The home team gained a five point advantage with just a couple of minutes to go and it looked all said and done, taking the first game into consideration. All Kalev/Cramo had left to fight for was victory that didn’t mean too much in the bigger picture.
University of Tartu couldn’t convert on numerous free-throw attempts and that gave Kalev/Cramo the keys to a one-point victory. Nevertheless, the Tartu players were the happier ones leaving the court.
Kalev/Cramo head coach Alar Varrak: "I can't say the series was done with the first game. I definitely believe we had our chances tonight, but even if we got the game under control for a bit, Tartu always found a way to come back. Of course I can't be happy with the result - I believed that this season, we could take the Triobet BBL gold medal, so anything below that is certainly not what I would have wanted. But tonight, the bronze went to Tartu. Congratulations to the winners!"
University of Tartu head coach Gert Kullamäe: "A classic second half in the series. We tried to keep the score low tonight, knowing well we had the +12 base, but also that if we let the opponents loose, that doesn't mean too much. I'm happy we succeeded in that category, and of course that we won the bronze. Even though it's a slight step down from last season, a medal is a medal. The only slight prick of tonight is that we didn't win the game, there were some definite issues in the last few minutes, but we won the series and that's what matters tonight."
It could be argued that both results were slightly unexpected this week, as Pieno Zvaigzdes got the better of Vytautas on the road in Prienai, while University of Tartu secured quite an easy win in Tallinn against Kalev/Cramo. Our Player of the Week is from the latter game, as Janari Joesaar was a beast in the paint for Tartu.
Joesaar excited his team‘s fans with 14 points and a whopping 16 rebounds, as his team mounted an impressive road victory in the first game of two for bronze. The forward also added 3 assists to the tally and all in just 23 minutes.
The 23-year-old‘s play has been very impressive in the play-offs so far and he’s been a vital part of any of the team’s success. Joesaar has reached averages of 13.1 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.4 steals, proving to be very versatile on the defensive end as well.
Thursday marks the end of the Triobet BBL season and Joesaar and University of Tartu will be hoping they can hold their end of the bargain at home and win bronze.
Tomas Delininkaitis was highlighted as the key player in the finals series for a reason. The sharp-shooting 34-year-old was ever-present and helped his team lift the Triobet BBL Champions Trophy and earned Finals MVP honors along the way.
Delininkaitis had 18 points in the trophy-clinching Game Two of the series, as put the building blocks to victory with 10 points in the opening segment. The former Lithuanian National Team player also accounted for 6 assists and 4 rebounds in the return leg.
However, if it wasn't for his heroics in the first leg, Vytautas might not even had a chance to be fighting for the trophy on Wednesday evening. In Game One, Delininkaitis dropped 7 long-range bombs, totaling 30 points and helped the Prienai side get back within just three points in the game.
The shooting guard, who's also played for top Lithuanian sides Lietuvos Rytas and Zalgiris, averaged 24.0 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.5 assists in the series against Pieno Zvaigzdes, quite a step up from his Play-off averages as a whole.
Delininkaitis was the team's top scorer throughout their Play-off run, nevertheless, as he put up averages of 15.9 points, 4.9 assists and 2.4 rebounds, whilst shooting at a 42.9% clip from beyond the arc (averaged 3.4/8.0 three-pointers per game).
PRIENAI – The first leg of the Triobet BBL Final turned into a thriller, as Pieno Zvaigzdes held back Vytautas 88-85 in a very exciting match-up between the two Lithuanian clubs.
Pieno Zvaigzdes could not miss in the first quarter, making 12-of-12 from inside and that allowed them jump ahead by a wide margin. Vytautas survived mostly due to Tomas Delininkaitis’ long-range prowess, as he kept bombarding his opponents, but despite his input, the visitors reached a double-digit lead before the opening quarter ended.
Delininkaitis continued his marvelous play after the break, putting up a couple more threes to trim the deficit to just 4. However, Vytautas’ pick-and-roll defense was woeful to say the least, and even 19 points in the first 15 minutes from the veteran was far from enough to put the home side in the driver’s seat.
The visitors continued attacking the paint and regained a double-digit deficit for a while. Nevertheless, the lead didn’t stand for long, as Vytautas rushed back to tie the game up right before halftime. Both teams were led by their guards, as Tomas Delininkaitis accounted for 19 of Vytautas’ points, while Derrick Low had 14 for Pasvalys.
Vytautas continued their run after the break, as they locked down the paint with stifling defense and enjoyed an eight-point advantage mid-way through the third quarter. Tomas Delininkaitis continued his impressive performance, as he added another eight points to the tally in the third quarter.
The visiting side finished the quarter on a great run and entered the final ten minutes already up by two points, 68-66.
The fourth quarter was just as close, both sides trading lead one after the other, before Pieno Zvaigzdes got out on a nice run. They jumped ahead by seven halfway through the quarter and looked very much in control.
However, Vytautas made a last-minute surge soon after and the game was once again level. The visitors put the final nails to the game, as managed to get their final baskets to fall and enjoyed an 88-85 victory.
The return match will be played in Pasvalys on the 5th of April.