Lietkabelis escapes with victory

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LKL Round 11 Recap

       Lietkabelis escaped with a narrow victory Wednesday, defeating LKL league rival LSU-Atletas by a 76-72 margin in Kaunas. With the win Lietkablis skips Atletas in the standings, entering Round 12 at #10. Lietkabelis was led by Ryan Olander’s 17/11 night battling 7’3 Lithuanian center Tomas Urbonas- the league leader in rebounds/blocked shots at 8.9/3.0 respectively. Olander finished with 17 points, 11 rebounds and a team-leading 18 efficiency rating countered by Urbonas’ 9 points, 12 rebounds and 3 blocked shots for an efficiency rating of 20. Olander was able to draw Urbonas out of the middle, knocking down two first half 3’s and secured a major defensive rebound battling his opposition in the final two minutes. Lietkabelis as a team shot 47% from deep while holding the trigger-happy LSU-Atletas to a lowly 32%. In a game that featured 25 lead changes, with no team gaining more than a 6 point advantage at any time, the play of the game came on a defensive effort late in the fourth quarter.

       Up one with 2:15 remaining in the game, #9 Maya Kariniauskas stripped #4 Carol Babkauskas on a clear path to the basket leading to an easy fast break layup for #77 Jacob Gintainis. Babkauskas had a step on Kariniauskas with a chance to put his team back on top, a true game-changing play. The layup put Lietkabelis up three and they never looked back. Kariniauskas later blocked a 3-point attempt with 42 seconds on the clock to keep Lietkabelis up for good. An offensive foul on the ensuing in-bound gave LSU-Atletas another look from distance, but the shot rimmed around into the hands of Olander. Missed free throws coupled with a rainbow 3-pointer kept the game interesting until the final buzzer. All things considered it was a league win on the road- huge for any team, in any league, in any country. Play resumes Wednesday, December 18th when Lietkabelis hosts #9 Dzukija in Panevezys. Lietkabelis could move into the #9 spot with a win, keeping in mind the top 8 qualify for the playoffs. Dzukija features American shooting guard James Lewis, a 2010 Fresno Pacific graduate who played for the Maine Red Claws in the D-League and most recently for Los Mochis in Mexico.

Round 11 action can be watched here:

http://lkl.lt/lt/top/rungtynes/?game_id=2787911&season_id=87901

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Update from Lithuania

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December 11th, 2013 marks Round 11 of the premier domestic basketball league in Lithuania (LKL). Panevezys-Lietkabelis enters play fresh off a 69-61 defeat at the hands of P. Zaigzdes, a club featuring former Louisville Cardinals/Los Angeles Lakers draft pick Derrick Caracter. The LKL regular season consists of 31 games culminating in three rounds of playoffs involving the top eight teams*. Today, Lietkabelis finds itself at the bottom of the eleven team league with a record of 2-9 however, with fifteen league games left there remains plenty of time to secure a playoff berth.

     Lietkabelis is led by 7’0 (213cm) center Ryan Olander out of Mansfield, CT who enters Round 11 averaging 15.4 ppg/7.4 rpg – good for fourth and fifth in the league respectively. Olander previously played for Juventus/Palanga, also of the LKL, averaging 13/7 in his first year abroad. Lietkabelis resumes play this afternoon on the road against #10 LSU-Atletas with a chance to move up in the standings. Atletas handled Lietkabelis by a score of 90-84 back on November 5th in their only matchup of the young season.

 More to come following the action…

 *OF NOTE: While Lietkabelis is a member of the LKL, their schedule consists of clubs from three leagues spanning much of eastern/northern Europe:

  • Baltic Basketball League (BBL): Estonia, Finland, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Sweden
    • Notable Americans: Derrick Caracter (UTEP/LA Lakers), Derek Needham (Fairfield U)
  • VTB United League (VTB): Belarus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, Ukraine
    • Notable Americans: Julian Wright (Kansas/Toronto Raptors), Paul Davis (Michigan St/LA Clippers), Derrick Brown (Xavier/Charlotte Bobcats)
  • Euroleague (NBA of Europe): 41 different countries represented, notable clubs- Real Madrid (Spain), CSKA Moscow (Russia), Maccabi Tel Aviv (Israel) and Olympiacos (Greece)
    • Notable Americans: Marcus Williams (UCONN/NJ Nets), Scotty Hopson (Tennessee), Justin Dentmon (Washington/Dallas Mavs), Omar Cook (St. John’s/Denver Nuggets)

UCONN- Florida 12.2.2013

You knew Shabazz Napier wouldn’t lose. Standing in Section 218, I had a clear view of his ear to ear smile after knocking down yet another big three. A smile as assertive as it was provoking; he was daring Florida to stop him. And they couldn’t. Drawing 6’8 Will Yeguete on a switch with 10:08 remaining in the second half, Shabazz went to work. Yeguete bit on the initial up-fake, but, in a move straight out of the book of Shabazz, he waited for the bigger defender to reset before pulling up to bury the trey. Shabazz Napier has grown from freshman to captain, point guard to leader. Afforded the fortune of working closely with the team during the 2011 National Championship run, I can’t help but draw comparisons between the two floor generals.
Kemba Walker entered the 2011 season with a clear understanding of his role in the winning formula. Armed with confidence built from hours of offseason sweat, he approached practice with an attitude that he could not be stopped. The work he put in translated through his performance and won him the respect of the team far before his Maui heroics. 2011 started as Kemba’s team from Day One. You couldn’t stop him. He was a man among boys, flying to the rim at will. His fearlessness resonated deeply with his understudy.
Shabazz Napier entered the 2013 season with a Kemba-esque attitude. His summer fling with the NBA only increased his focus on developing the skills necessary for success at the next level. This understanding, matched with unparalleled confidence has proven lethal to opponents thus far. Although I am not nearly as involved this year, there is no doubt this is Shabazz’ team. Games will be won and lost in his hands. There will be ups and downs as there is during any learning curve however make no mistake, this team has what it takes to reach another Final Four. The chemistry is there. The faith in leadership is there. The ability to win close games is there.  The will to battle for every rebound fighting bigger/more athletic opponents is there. I don’t care that we lost the rebounding battle- Florida is as long as they are big- we fought to secure defensive rebounds in crunch time and tipped as many offensive boards as possible to keep the possession alive. These are elements of the winning formula no statistics or rankings can accurately measure.
As Shabazz backpedaled down the court smiling in the face of Wilbekin, I felt an overwhelming sense of reassurance. I had seen that face before too many times. Kemba Walker had the same type of look. The I-know-you-can’t-get-past-me-but-I-can-get-past-you type of look few players can relate to. Shabazz took the Florida game over as he watched his counterpart do time and time again two years ago. Now it’s his turn. And he did not disappoint.