By Vytautas Kaminskas
Two lithuanian grands keep writing history as they will meet in another, this time BBL final. In the first Final 4 game, hosts Lietuvos rytas beat Ventspils by 86-75, while Zalgiris blew out Siauliai with the final result 89-61.
Rytas and Ventspils started their match very carefully. As fans were just taking their spots in Siemens Arena, Javtokas scored a few points and then Stelmahers started his own stretch to make it 11-6 to Rytas. The latvians then found their leader in Bruno Petersons who scored a few consecutive baskets and kept Ventspils close after the first 10 minutes. The next quarter already belonged to Rytas. Simas Jasaitis shined. He scored two triples and a great dunk with a foul to help Rytas taking off at 42-31. Ventspils reduced the margin to 9 points when Lenzly managed to scored 2 and a foul after a stupid defensive mistake by the opponents.
In the second half, Rytas stayed stable and kept their advantage. Ventspils tried to use outside shots to come back, but weren't successful enough in hitting them. The margin rarely got below 10 points and Rytas finally proved their edge over the Latvian champions.
Robertas Javtokas had a great game, scoring points whenever his team needed it most. He colected 18 points, 8 rebounds and blocked 5 shots. Nesby contributed with 16, collecting half of his points with free-throws. Jasaitis scored 15 points and grabbed 7 rebounds. Aaron Lucas, who has just recovered after injury, scored 9.
Justin Love showed a game-high scoring performance - 27 points plus 8 rebounds. Petersons scored 13 points, most of it in the first half, and added 9 boards, while Wright posted a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
After the game Tomo Mahoric said he is happy about the victory but admitted that his team is now thinking only about ULEB Cup final on Tuesday and it was hard for the players to concentrate on BBL Final 4. Ventspils coach Karlis Muiznieks said his team wanted this win very much but had to lose agaisnt a stronger opponents.
The other game was much easier to predict. Siauliai, knowing they are underdogs, started the match with energy and Zalgiris was completely dominating in the paint, but struggled long to make the margin safe. However, in the last quarter, Siauliai didn't have any more reserves to fight against stronger opponent and gave Zalgiris an easy victory. Bagatskis nailed his first triple in the last seconds to complete the 19th in a row BBL victory for Zalgiris.
Tanoka Beard, after few weeks of rest, showed his usual supremacy, scoring 22 points and grabbing 15 rebounds in 26 minutes. Ginevicius scored most of his 17 points in the last quarter, while Timinskas and Jankunas scored 13 and 12 respectively. Lavrinovic scored 8 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and blocked 4 shots.
Pakamanis was the only Siauliai player who scored in double digits - 11 points. Urbonas, Giedraitis, Anisimov and Velius added 7 poitns each.
Both teams were shooting free-throws terribly - Zalgiris missed all of its first 8 free-throws and only 23 of 42 in the whole game, while Siauliai were shooting even worse, 13 of 26. Zalgiris coach Antanas Sireika explained the bad shooting with a physical preparation camp his team had jsut before the Final 4 tournament.
Siauliai coach Ramunas Butautas, despite of the last quarter, was happy about his team's performance against a Euroleague team.
Looking forwards to the final, Lietuvos rytas, surely, are thinking more about the upcoming ULEB Cup final game against Makedonikos Kozani and can't fully concentrate on this game. Mahoric said his team wants to win, eventhough he will try to save his players and separate the playing time equally. Meanwhile, Zalgiris, after an empty Euroleague Top 16 campaing must win something, and the BBL as a priority, so will give all what it has for the first title this seaosn.
Zalgiris and Lietuvos rytas already met 4 times this season. Rytas won the first game in Vilnius, but Zalgiris won all the rest, including both BBL regular season matches. The last match between these two teams in Kaunas was won by Zalgiris after a last second free-throw by Robert Pack.