RIGA - Riga saw an exciting game last week when Latvia's top two SEB teams, Ventspils and ASK Riga came face to face on Dec. 2. A close game from start to finish, the home team came out the victor, beating Ventspils 68-61. The stadium was packed with excitement as last year's champions Ventspils played ASK Riga for the first time this season.
"I anticipated this game, because I wanted to see how my team looks compared to Latvia's champions," said Ramunas Butautas, head coach of ASK Riga.
The game was intense from the start, with both teams running the floor. Yet ASK Riga put in a slightly stronger defense, with a number of dunks by America's Curtis Millage. By the end of the first quarter, the home squad was in the lead 23-12.
ASK Riga's determination didn't let down in the second quarter, throwing Ventspils into a whirl of frustration and exhaustion. The away players often fumbled the ball and found themselves continuously stuck in a tangle of ASK defenders. By the third minute, the scoreboard read 30-15. It was at this point when Ventspils turned its act around, with forward Uvis Helmanis showing off his three-point talents. The coastal city team continued its comeback, closing the gap to 40-30. Yet Riga ended the first half 14 points ahead, 46-32.
The game slowed in the second half after Millage collided with Ventspils' Eddie Shannon and was out on injury. Despite losing one of their strongest players, Riga picked up the pace and finished the third quarter ahead 57-49.
The final stretch of the game showed little more than tired players. By the sixth minute, ASK was ahead 65 's 53, confident they were going to win. The home team's luck ran high as Ventspils player Helmanis fouled out and spent the rest of the game on the bench. Riga took up every last chance to score, finishing the game 68 - 61.
"We had a good game, especially in the first half; in the second half we started playing individually, and the ball did not move around well," said Butautas. "I was especially satisfied with [Sandis] Buskevics' performance today. He fits into my basketball philosophy perfectly, and I am looking forward to future games with him on the roster."