BASKETBALL IN EUROPE
|Folarin Campbell and BK Ventspils picked up BBL silverware ahead of the Latvian league play-offs|
EuroChallenge club BK Ventspils have been crowned as the 2013 Baltic Basketball League (BBL) champions for the first time in the club's history.
The BBL is a continental club competition, incorporating 23 teams from Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Kazakhstan. This season, for the first time, Euroleague clubs Lietuvos Rytas and Zalgiris Kaunas, along with Eurocup team, VEF Riga, did not participate in the competition, opening the door for a new champion.
Losing just one game during the 16-game regular season, Ventspils rightfully entered the post-season as competition favourites and did not disappoint.
Taking on a new format this season, each round of the play-offs was contested as a home-and-away series. In the quarter-final round, the Latvian club knocked out last season's Final Four hosts and participants Siauliai, losing the first leg by three points, 78-81, before coming back to take the second leg by seven to advance to the semis.
There they came up against reigning Estonian domestic champions Kalev/Cramo. Again, Ventspils lost the first leg on the road by three (61-64), before blowing the Estonians away back at home, 78-65 to move into the finals.
Eurocup regular season participants Prienai of Lithuania were waiting for Ventspils in the finals. Ventspils had learned from their mistakes of the two previous rounds and were not about to go behind on the first leg once more as Folarin Campbell threw down 18 points in the opening half to all-but secure the victory - and the championship - as the guests went on to win 91-69.
On the return leg on Saturday night, and with a 22-point buffer, Ventspils could be excused for becoming complacent and starting the party early as Prienai were allowed to restore some of their pride, taking out the game 73-70.
Kalev/Cramo edged out Barons kvartals Riga for third place.
Focus for Ventspils now turns to winning the Latvian Championship. They currently sitting in second spot behind VEF Riga.