RIGA - The first season of the newly formed Baltic Basketball League got underway on Jan 8. Ten teams are participating in the league - two from Estonia, three from Latvia and five from Lithuania - and will be fighting it out over the next four months to be crowned the best team in the Baltics.
The first ever BBL game was fittingly held in Kaunas, with its outstanding tradition in the sport, and the Lithuanian giants duly dispatched its Latvian opposition, Barons/LU, 128-63. But despite the crushing final result, Zalgiris only led by the narrow margin of 29-27 at the end of the first quarter. This seemed to shock the hosts out of their complacency and they then went on to slice, dice and quarter their opponents by the time the final quarter was up.
Antonio Grant contributed 22 points as Klaipeda Neptunas clinched an 89-82 victory over the Estonian champions TU/Rock in their opening game in Tartu.
It was tight throughout, with TU/Rock leading 44-43 at the half-time buzzer. However, the visitors got the upper hand in the third quarter and maintained that advantage to claim an impressive victory.
In Latvia, the curiously named Valmiera Piens (Valmiera Milk) got off to a sour start in its opener against the Lithuanian side Sakalai. The visitors romped to a 20-5 lead in the opening minutes, although Valmiera fought back strongly in the second quarter. But the Lithuanians were simply too good in the end, and they won 88-77 without ever really needing to break into a sweat.
Current Lithuanian Basketball League leaders Lietuvos Rytas lost its opening game against Latvian champions BK Ventspils 75-62 in a surprise result.
But they managed to atone the next day by beating Siauliai 76-58 at the Siemens Arena. Frederic House contributed 13 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in just half an hour, while four other players chipped in with the rest of the points
In the other game so far, the Estonian side Ehitustooriist lost 93-71 against the Lithuanian side Sialiai. The next round of games will be held on Jan 15.