Zalgiris downs Lietuvos to ‘Three-Peat’ in BBL

SIAULIAI, Lithuania – Zalgiris have become the first team in the history of the BBL to claim a three-peat, defeating old foes Lietuvos Rytas 74-70 in Sunday’s gold medal game.
Lead by Mantas Kalnietis from the point, the game defining moment for Aleksandar Trifunovic’s team came at the end of the opening quarter and the beginning of the second, with the guard helping his team turn a seven-point deficit into a seven point lead.
Kalnietis finished the night with a team-high 19 points on six-for-nine shooting from the field.
The game was not always going in favor of Zalgiris with the red-and-blacks making the first significant break of the game, going up by eight on a Predrag Samardziski jump-shot with under a minute remaining in the first quarter.
However, Zalgiris answered back with the final four points of the frame, beginning their 16-1 run that continued until midway through the next quarter.
Lietuvos Rytas finally awoke following a colorful timeout from Lietuvos Rytas coach Aleksandr Dzikic and managed to keep the deficit to six points at half time.
Kalnietis ended the opening half with 12 points.
In the battle of the national teammates, the old guard in Robertas Javtokas had the upper hand over Jonas Valanciunas in the first half, forcing Dzikic to ask for bigger minutes from Samardziski.
Samardziski responded strongly and with five straight points midway through the third quarter, the back up centre had amassed 15 points and brought the deficit back to three points.
But just when he was on fire, Dzikic opted to sub the Macedonian out and replace him with Valanciunas.
Samardziski finished the game with 15 points and eight rebounds.
Despite Valanciunas soon after giving Lietuvos Rytas back the lead with a crowd-pleasing dunk, Zalgiris answered back and when Saulius Kuzminskas hit his third three of the night, the green-and-whites were back out to a seven-point buffer.
Kuzminskas only missed once from outside, ending the game with 11 points. Also picking up 11 was Marko Popovic.
When Tyrese Rice went on a late scoring run to pick up seven points in a little over a minute, there was a glimmer of hope for Lietuvos Rytas with the deficit back to five points.
Rice’s late heroics saw the American finish with a game-high 20 points.
However, the run had been left too late as Zalgiris maintained cool heads to complete the four-point win.

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