BASKETBALL IN EUROPE
|Ronalds Zakis and BK Ventspils did not have too many Christmas cookies and stayed in shape to extend their winning streak|
BK Ventspils picked up in the new year where they left off in 2012, by adding another success to extend their impressive winning streak to 18 games in three competitions.
The 18th consecutive victory of the Latvian EuroChallenge Group I side came in the form of an 105-59 rout of Jelgava on the road, in their domestic league (Aldaris LBL) on Saturday.
Ventspils dominated the contest from start to finish, establishing a comfortable 30-14 lead already at the end of the first quarter.
Center Ronalds Zakis led all scorers with 19 points and added six rebounds, while Folarin Campbell contributed 18 points and Martins Laksa 13 for the winners.
Ventspils improved to 9-1 and are in third place in the standings but with a whopping seven games in hand over BK Valmiera and BK Jēkabpils who have 11 and 10 wins, respectively.
The Latvians take on Joensuun Kataja on the opening day of Group I action on 15 January.
The Finns have hardly had any time to catch their breath since recovering from New Year's Day celebrations, as they have already played two Korisliiga games in 2013 and a third clash awaits them on Tuesday.
Last Wednesday, the Finnish EuroChallenge outfit fell 87-79 away to Tampereen Pyrintö, who had failed to reach the Last 16 of the European Competition.
Two days later they bounced back with a 99-88 victory over KTP-Basket on the road.
Kataja point guard Johnell Smith went 10-for-15 from the floor and led all scorers with 20 points while Jerald Fields picked up a double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds.
Kataja finally return home to take on mid-table side LrNMKY on Tuesday and if they were to win they would improve to 16-5 in the standings.
|Ernests Kalve's good offensive output could not prevent another Szolnoki Olaj loss|
EuroChallenge Group J side Szolnoki Olaj meanwhile have started the new year on the wrong foot.
The Hungarian side registered three victories in a row, between the Adriatic (ABA) league and the EuroChallenge, after new head coach Nedeljko Asceric took the reins in early December.
Their first winning streak of the season snapped two days before Christmas, when they fell 97-71 at Cibona Zagreb, but it was their first loss in 2013 that hurt the most.
Szolnoki played host to Bosnian outfit Široki Wwin on Saturday, knowing that a win would lift them off the bottom of the ABA league standings for the first time in the season.
The hosts however succumbed to a 75-69 loss, largely because of their poor performance in the third quarter, in which they only scored 10 points and gave up 22 to their guests.
Latvian forward Ernests Kalve led all Szolnoki scorers with 17 points while Hungary international Marton Bader had 10 points and eight rebounds in defeat.