PARNU – Siauliai began the new Baltic Basketball League (BBL) season by thrashing Group B rivals Parnu 87-56 on the road in Estonia on Tuesday evening.
Parnu had a 12-10 advantage in the first quarter, but the visitors from Lithuania finished the period with an 11-3 run to take a 21-15 lead.
The second quarter proved to be decisive in the game, as Siauliai won the second ten minute stretch by 16 points and heading into halftime up 45-27.
Nothing changed in the second half, with Siauliai continuing to make long-range shots and Parnu struggling to score.
Siauliai finished the night, making 13-of-26 three-point attempts and shared the ball extremely well, making 22 assists.
Eigirdas Zukauskas had 16 points for Siauliai, Darius Pakamanis collected 14, while Arunas Sajavicius added 9 points and 7 rebounds.
Janis Vahter was the top scorer for the losing side with 16 points and 8 rebounds, as Rannar Raap added 13 points.
PASVALYS – Pieno Zvaigzdes started their 2013-14 Baltic Basketball League (BBL) campaign with an easy 77-53 victory against Caspiy Aktau, who now dropped to 0-2 in Group C.
The visitors from Kazakhstan had lost to Juventus two days ago and will continue their Lithuanian trip in Prienai on Thursday, where they will be hoping to get the first win.
Pieno Zvaigzdes answered most questions with a strong start, which allowed them to get a double-digit lead already before the end of the first quarter, as the scoreboard showed 16-6.
However, it wasn’t the end of troubles for Caspiy, as the Kazakh side conceded another 10-0 run on top of that to fall behind 26-6, before Kris Richard ended the scoring drought with a jumper.
The home side was up 39-20 at the half, with every single player scoring at least once, while the biggest problem for the Aktau team was taking care of the ball, as they committed 14 turnovers.
The story of the game didn’t change in the second half, as Pieno Zvaigzdes continued to dominate and confirmed their serious contentions for the season with a big opening win.
Egidijus Dimsa led the Lithuanians with a spectacular double-double, scoring 16 points and grabbing 13 rebounds, Rolandas Alijevas collected 15 points, while Zygimantas Jonusas chipped in with 10.
For Caspiy, Kris Richard had a team-high 12 points and 6 rebounds, while Vadym Matukevych was the only other player in double digits, having scored 10.
UTENA – After a spectacular offensive showcase in the first quarter, Juventus opened up their season with a 87-72 victory against the Baltic Basketball League (BBL) debutants Caspiy Aktau. The home team secured a double digit lead early on and managed to keep hold of it until the final buzzer.
Karolis Petrukonis scored 10 of his 16 points in the first five minutes and helped ignite a 15-4 run for Juventus. The Kazakh team faced a 12 point deficit at the end of the first quarter.
Strong play inside allowed the Lithuanians to stay in front and enter the halftime with a 45-32 lead. They scored 36 points inside the paint in the first half, while shooting at a 68% clip.
Caspiy made strides to get back in the game, but they were rebuffed outright. Although the gap was cut down to only seven before the fourth quarter, the home team rose to a 16-3 run and gathered an insurmountable lead.
Keyron Sheard was the top scorer for the Lithuanian team, tallying 17 points on 6-of-8 shooting. He also dished out 4 assists and collected 4 rebounds.
Karolis Petrukonis added 16 points and 7 rebounds in 19 minutes of playing time, while Edgaras Stanionis ended the game with 15 points and 6 rebounds.
Four players were in double digits for Caspiy, with Vadym Matyukevych leading his team with 16 points and 6 rebounds.
Richard Jameill contributed 15 points, while Zhanysh Erns Uulu added 11. Pavel Mikheev ended up scoring 10.
KEDAINIAI – Nevezis marked the start of the season by winning the Vikonda BBL Cup at home in Kedainiai after easing past Tartu Rock in the final. The home side triumphed 82-64 after breaking away in the second quarter.
Despite still playing without the big man duo of Povilas Butkevicius and Darius Silinskis, the Lithuanian team had no troubles against last year’s Estonian league runners-up, making 50% of three-point attempts.
Neither team gained a significant advantage in a low-scoring first quarter, as Rock had a 13-12 edge after the first ten minutes. However, after a 12-0 run in the second period, Nevezis shot ahead into a 32-21 lead.
Vilmantas Dilys, who was chosen as the MVP of the tournament, was the instigator of what proved to be the decisive run, scoring 10 of his 18 points in the five minute stretch.
The home side carried the momentum over to the second half and won the third period 33-19, bombarding the visitors from Estonia with successful long-range shots, before eventually calmly closing out the game in the fourth.
In addition to the 18 points by Vilmantas Dilys for Nevezis, American point guard Tyrone Brazelton collected 15 points and dished out 6 assists, Valdas Dabkus added 13 points, while Gintaras Leonavicius finished the game with 11 points and 9 rebounds.
Rock’s playmaker Augustas Peciukevicius was the top scorer for the visitors with 12 points, Vincent Simpson scored 11, while Kent-Kaarel Vene and Uros Lukovic added 9 points apiece.
KEDAINIAI – Ventspils bounced back from a semifinal upset by Tartu Rock by finishing the Vikonda BBL Cup on a high note, as the Latvian team took a 63-59 victory against Prienai to secure third place.
Having led from start to finish, last season’s BBL champions had the control of the game in their hands from the early going, breaking away to an 18-6 lead six minutes into the game.
Although the Lithuanians had erased the deficit to a single point after Vaidas Cepukaitis knocked down two free-throws to make it 19-20, Ventspils struck back and pulled ahead once again.
The gap between the teams was only a few points, but Prienai couldn’t make the final push to turn the tables around, with Ventspils leading 37-33 at the half.
After two three-pointers in a row by Maris Gulbis in the third quarter, the Latvian side increased the advantage to 12 points, and Janis Timma soon made it 50-36 with a mid-range jumper.
Prienai did win the fourth quarter 21-12, but the last run came too late to put any pressure on Ventspils, as a very long three-point heave by Zygimantas Janavicius made the final score seem closer than the game actually was in the end.
Maris Gulbis was the top scorer of the game with 15 points on 3-of-4 three-point attempts, Sandis Valters scored 13, while no other Ventspils player reached double digits.
Dainius Salenga and Zygimantas Janavicius collected 11 points each for Prienai, while Martynas Linkevicius chipped in with a double-double of 10 points and 10 boards.
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.