Ventspils breezes to league victory

  • 2004-05-20
  • By Karlis Berzins
RIGA - It's sometimes said that the only certainties in life are death and taxes. But the fact that BK Ventspils seems to win the Latvian Basketball League on an annual basis probably makes it a safe addition to that list.

Ventspils was looking for its fifth straight LBL title. After the third game in the first-to-four series of play-offs, the daily newspaper Diena ran the headline: "Ventspils can order the champagne." Considering that Venstpils was 3-0 up in the series, it didn't take a mathematician to figure out why.
The third and decisive game was held May 17 in the port city of Ventspils. Ventspils and Skonto are almost as serious in their basketball rivalry as they are in soccer. But with Ventspils leading the series 2-0 there was still a reasonable chance for Skonto to get back in contention.
Two of Skonto's leading players Kristaps Valters and Demetrij Hill were out due to injury, which was no doubt a blow. Valters was out with a broken toe and Hill sprained his knee in the second game of the series on May 14.
Guntars Endzels, Skonto's head trainer, told BNS before the third game that Hill might be fit enough to play in the fourth and final game on May 20.
But even with key players missing Skonto managed to keep the game tight, just as in the previous two games. Ventspils' lead never extended beyond 12 points, which shows that Skonto made its rivals work hard for its victory.
But Ventspils nevertheless led at the end of all four quarters, and never really looked threatened. By the end of the second quarter it comfortably led 46-34. But the game picked up toward the end thanks to some great scoring by Skonto's Daren Kelly. With just four minutes left in the game the score was tied 69-69. But Ventspils' skill and experience told on the night and it rallied well to win 80-72.
Lithuanian born Kestutis Sestoks was Ventspils' leading scorer with 25 points and nine rebounds. Daren Kelly was Skonto's best scorer with a reasonable tally of 21 points for Skonto, while his teammate Kaspars Berzins scored 12 points and seven rebounds.
Berzins was the only center over two meters left to defend the net against Ventspils' taller players. He played a great game, but couldn't stop Dan Maklintok's penetrating attacks. Maklintok didn't score much but was able to keep Kaspars Berzins harmlessly away from the other players.
The series will now head back to Riga for the formality of the fourth game on May 20. The battle for third place is between Riga's Barons and Valmieras Piens, who are currently tied at one game apiece. The final game is on May 21.