KAUNAS, Lithuania – Tadas Klimavicius has put in a man of the match performance to lead Zalgiris Kaunas to a 75-67 victory in the final of the Mastercard BBL elite division.
Playing the final in front of their home crowd for the first time, Zalgiris Kaunas were carried by their home fans who lived up to their billing as “green hell” for teams that travel to the aging Kaunas Sports Hall. It was a fitting farewell to the old sports hall with all major games now to be played at a yet to be completed stadium across the river.
Klimavicius was instrumental in his side’s win with 15 points and nine rebounds to go with a 26 point efficiency. He was especially clinical in the opening stages of the final quarter when the game still looked like it could go either way.
Zalgiris wasted little time at settling into their rhythm, quickly developing a 10 point lead as VEF insisted on shooting from outside on account of Artsiom Parahouski finding himself stifled under the hoop. To their detriment however, was their heavy fouling, allowing VEF to remain in touch via the free throw line. Through their free throw shooting VEF had the deficit back to six by the end of the opening quarter (20-14).
Zalgiris went cold for the first three minutes of the second quarter, failing to score a point and in the mean time allowing VEF to come back and tie the game back at 20. Tadas Klimavicius finally broke the drought by sinking a three, beginning a 10 point run which put Zalgiris back in control 30-20. But unlike an evening previous their opposition were not about to roll over as VEF fought back to be within five at the half (40-35).
Similar to the second quarter Zalgiris again began sluggishly in the third quarter with Trevon Hughes scoring a quick eight points including back to back threes to turn a five point deficit into a one point lead (45-44) with 6:17 still to play in the period. Despite tying scores up twice over the remainder of the quarter Zalgiris would not take the lead back as VEF took an unexpected two point advantage into the final quarter.
Zalgiris began to show their true class over the final ten minutes by wearing VEF down and forcing them into unprecedented errors. Martynas Pocius and Klimavicius took control at the offensive end of the court, working their side back into the lead with 7:54 to play (60:57). VEF Captain Kristaps Janicenoks would tie the game again at 60 with an off balance three pointer only for Paulius Jankunas to score five quick points and put the lead out to five. Although VEF would never stop fighting the task became to much when both sides began to intentionally foul, assuring the final minutes would be played out at the free throw line.
As a tribute to just how much every player in the Zalgiris lineup contributes to the team offensively only two players would finish in double figures as Jankunas finished with 12 to join Klimavicius.
Trevon Hughes led scoring for VEF Riga with 16 points while Janicenoks 12 and Tyler Cain 10 would also finish in double figures.