KEDAINIAI – Timo Eichfuss hit a three-pointer with the sound of the final buzzer, as Tartu Rock surprised the defending Baltic Basketball League champions Ventspils by winning the second Vikonda BBL Cup semifinal 71-68 to join the hosts Nevezis in the final.
On the previous possession, Akselis Vairogs had hit a game-tying shot from beyond the arc for the Latvian side, but the joy of Ventspils players didn’t last long, as the pre-game favorites will now have to fight for third place against Prienai in a rematch of last season’s BBL Finals after Eichfuss denied an overtime with a triple of his own.
During the first quarter, neither team managed to go up by more than three points, as the lead changed hands nine times, before settling down with Ventspils at 17-16 after the first ten minutes.
The story was very much the same in the second quarter, but it was the Latvian team once again with the edge at the half, leading 32-29.
However, Rock caught fire in the middle of the third period, as Timo Eichfuss, Gert Dorbek and Vincent Simpson nailed a three-pointer each to give the Estonians a 48-42 edge.
The Estonians maintained a slight lead for the majority of the final quarter, but Ventspils fought until the end and were one successful defensive possession from forcing an overtime.
Lithuanian guard Augustas Peciukevicius had a game-high 15 points and 8 rebounds for Rock, Uros Lukovic collected 12 points, but the hero of the day was still Timo Eichfuss, whose last triple put his point tally at 11.
Ronalds Zakis was the key man for Ventspils with 13 points and 7 rebounds, while Lorenzo Williams and Janis Timma collected 10 points each, with the latter also adding 7 boards.
KEDAINIAI – The final of the Vikonda BBL Cup 2013 is set to be played in great atmosphere after the hosts Nevezis eased past last year’s BBL finalists Prienai and took an easy 85-72 victory in the all-Lithuanian semifinal.
The second finalist will be decided in the other semifinal between the defending BBL champions Ventspils and Tartu Rock, with the winner of the pair facing Nevezis in the trophy game on Sunday.
With four minutes played in the first quarter, Prienai had a 5-4 advantage, but Nevezis went on an 11-2 run to go up by eight points. Although the visitors managed to get back in front at 21-17, but it was their last lead of the game.
The game was still close at the half, with Nevezis having a slight 44-42 lead. However, after a strong third quarter, the hosts broke away by double digits and never looked back.
Arvydas Siksnius led his side to the victory and was the top scorer of the game with 17 points, also adding 6 rebounds and 4 assists.
Simas Buterlevicius finished the game with 15 points after going 3-of-10 from three-point range, while Vilmantas Dilys and Gintaras Leonavicius chipped in with 14 points each for Nevezis.
An impressive all-around performance by Zygimatnas Janavacius, who had 14 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists, wasn't enough for Prienai to get a spot in the final.
Dainius Salenga and Vaidas Cepukaitis had 13 points apiece for the visitors, as well.
KEDAINIAI - With the start of the season on the very tip of our noses, the Vikonda BBL Cup 2013 will not only mark the start of a new campaign for the players, as coaches, too, will have a new set of puzzles to find the answers to on the court in Kedainiai.
Three of the four participating clubs have kept their steersmen and most eyes will look in the direction of Roberts Stelmahers, the head coach of the defending BBL champions Ventspils, who stayed at the helm of the club and will be aiming to expand his trophy cabinet even more this season.
“We will try to do our best and we have to remember that we hold the BBL title and that we have to defend it,” said the 38-year-old specialist.“We have kept the players who wanted to stay here and that is important – to work with players who really want to play for your team.”
Stelmahers pointed out that he wants his side to play defense-oriented basketball and be aggressive on both ends of the court. He continued by adding that he expects three things from his players: “Team spirit, unselfishness and positive attitude.”
Having had to acknowledge defeat to the Stelmahers-coached Ventspils in last season’s BBL Finals, Virginijus Seskus will secretly hope to topple the champs in the BBL Cup with a new-look Prienai team.
“We’ve managed to keep Gintaras Kadziulis, Arturas Valeika, Zygimantas Janavicius, Paulius Ivanauskas and Domantas Seskus, in addition to adding Dainius Salenga, Laimonas Kisielius and Vaidas Cepukaitis,” the Lithuanian coach said.
Despite the departure of two of the team’s leaders Gediminas Orelik and Arturas Milaknis, to Lietuvos Rytas and Zalgiris respectively, Seskus insists that the goals for the upcoming season remain the same.
“The BBL Cup is like the grand rehearsal for the upcoming season. We’re here because of last year’s accomplishments and it’s a big honour. We have always aimed to be amongst the four strongest teams – this year is no exception,” said Seskus, who assured that his team will try to stick with its trademark up-tempo game.
Tartu Rock is going to be the team representing Estonia in the tournament under the guidance of coach Gert Kullamae, who already has one BBL Cup under his belt from 2010.
“Our team has changed a lot since last season. We’ve kept only five players in our roster. Of course, everything is connected with the budget, so we have to be satisfied, with what we have,” said the 42-year-old coach.
Having changed more than half of the team, the biggest concern for Kullamae is to get his team playing as a coherent unit. Team play and versatility is what the coach, who is also at the helm of the Estonian national team, highlights the most.
“The team needs to be able play different styles. Of course, you have to play smart, but sometimes you need some run-and-gun as well. Even this style can be smart sometimes,” said the young, but already quite experienced specialist.
Kullamae smiled and laughed, when asked about the goals for his team in the BBL: “To make the Final Four in both competitions, so we’ve got one already!”
From the four participating teams, only the tournament hosts Nevezis have reshuffled their coaching staff by bringing back Gintaras Leonavicius, who will try to lead an almost entirely rebuilt roster to new heights.
The 56-year-old specialist has already served as the head coach of Nevezis for five years from 2004 to 2009, before he left to Panevezys. Having added an array of well-known Lithuanian names and an American point guard in Tyrone Brazelton, the hosts will want to show the home crowd what this group is capable of.
“We understand that this only the introduction for the season, but we really want to give the fans some positive emotions,” said the team’s general manager Karolis Kalvaitis, who revealed that Povilas Butkevicius and Darius Silinskis should both be ready to help the team’s frontcourt.
The hosts Nevezis will face off against Prienai in the first semifinal of the BBL Cup on Saturday at 17:00, while Ventspils will meet Rock in the second game, which is scheduled to start at 19:30.
In the second day of action on Sunday, the losing teams will play for bronze at 13:15, while the semifinal winners will fight it out for the BBL Cup straight after, at 15:45. All four games from the Vikonda BBL Cup 2013 will be broadcast live on Viasat Sport Baltic.
After finishing the preparation period for the new season, four Baltic Basketball League (BBL) teams are set to start the season slightly earlier than the others in the Vikonda BBL Cup 2013, which will take place in the brand new Kedainiai arena on September 28-29.
The BBL season will tip off with four teams stepping on the floor in Kedainiai on September 28-29 to compete for the Vikonda BBL Cup 2013.
The field is set for the 2013/14 edition of Baltic Basketball League (BBL), as 21 teams from Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Finland, Sweden and Kazakhstan confirmed their participation in the 2013/2014 BBL season.