Pilypaitis Emerges As Key Player At VICI


All signs pointed to VICI Aistes rookie Courtnay Pilypaitis playing basketball at birth.

A Canadian, Pilypaitis had Lithuanian grandparents.

Lithuania is a country where hoops is treated like religion.

Her name also begins with the five letters C-O-U-R-T.

The basketball court is where young Pilypaitis has spent most of her time when she's not been eating, sleeping or studying.

The 22-year-old, who just wrapped up her career at the University of Vermont, looks set to have a big career in the EuroLeague.

Because of her grandparents, she has a Lithuanian passport and that allows her to play as a European and not as an Canadian which is important because there are limits to the number of non-Europeans on rosters.

After not playing much early at the start for VICI Aistes, who moved from Vilnius to Kaunas after last season, Pilypaitis has worked her way into the line-up and on Wednesday she played a season-high 37 minutes and scored 14 points in an 80-77 upset of Group C leaders Halcon Avenida.

The win thrust VICI Aistes back into contention for a top-four finish, which is needed to play in the knockout stages of the EuroLeague Women.

The celebrations were not what they would have been, however, because Ausra Bimbaite, the star of VICI Aistes' upset of Sparta&K in the opening week, looks to have suffered a serious knee injury.

Nevertheless, there were plenty of smiles in the changing room because VICI Aistes still have a pulse.

Vita Kuktiene was one of the standout performers for the club against Avenida.

The 1.86m forward had season-highs in points (17) and rebounds (9).

""We wanted to win so badly, especially after five losses in a row," she said. "We needed this win to keep our hopes alive of qualifying for next round.

VICI Aistes caught fire.

When they walked off the floor, they had buried 15 of 30 shots from behind the arc.

Pilypaitis and Marina Solopova nailed four apiece.

"Pilypaitis and Marina Solopova played a huge game and they were scoring from three-point range with ease," Avenida point guard Silvia Dominguez said. "It was hard for us to defend them."

What was also impressive was the combative spirit on the boards of VICI Aistes.

They had 45 rebounds, including 17 on the offensive glass.

Giedre Paugaite had seven offensive boards.

There are now three games remaining for VICI Aistes as they attempt to earn a trip to the next phase of the competition.

They take on Galatasaray, ZVVZ USK Prague and Tarbes GB but likely will not have Lithuania international Bimbaite for any of them.

It's a huge loss because the shooting guard is the team's leading scorer at 15.7 points per game.

The 28-year-old does much more.

Bimbaite also averages 5.1 rebounds and 3.1 assists and ranks eighth in the EuroLeague Women at 2.3 steals per contest.

At least Mantas Sernius, the VICI Aistes coach, now has a new weapon to throw at opponents.

"Courtnay Pilypaitis is progressing very fast and today she was an important part of our victory," he said.



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