BASKETBALL IN EUROPE
|Latvian international Armands Skele chipped in with 13 points for Kalev/Cramo in Game 4 of the finals|
Estonian side Kalev/Cramo and Belarusian club Tsmoki Minsk have concluded the season by further extending their utter dominance in their respective domestic leagues.
Kalev/Cramo swept Tartu Rock 4-0 in the Estonian Korvpalli Meistriliiga (KML) finals to win their third consecutive, and sixth in their history, national league title.
The KML champions have now become the first team since Tallinna Standard, who had won five consecutive domestic championships from 1986 to 1990, to successfully defend their title for two seasons in a row.
Kalev/Cramo and Tartu had finished tied in first place in the Regular Season with a 28-4 record, and both swept aside opposition in the first two rounds of the play-offs to reach the title series with a perfect 6-0 record in the post-season.
In the finals however, Kalev/Cramo ruled with an iron fist and only came close to losing on one occasion, in Game 2, until Estonian international Tanel Sokk hit an incredible buzzer-beater to gift them a come-from-behind 72-71 victory and demoralise Tartu for the rest of the series.
To clinch the title, Kalev/Cramo won 81-69 on the road in Game 4, behind 16 points by Ty Abbott and a double-double display of 15 points and 12 rebounds by Frank Elegar.
Former Latvian international Armands Skele meanwhile, who is hoping to make a return to the national team at the EuroBasket after overcoming serious health problems, contributed 13 points, five rebounds and three assists.
MINSK MAKE IT FIVE IN A ROW
Tsmoki Minsk, a club that regularly competes in the EuroChallenge, conquered their fifth consecutive Belarus Premier League title by sweeping Grodno-93, their main rival in the last four seasons, 3-0 in the finals.
The champions had clinched comfortable victories in the first two games of the series at home, winning Game 1 by a 24-point differential (99-75) and Game 2 by a 22-point margin, 101-79.
In Game 3 on the road, they pulled ahead 21-18 at the end of the first quarter and took a firm grip on proceedings already in the second quarter behind an excellent defensive effort, as they outscored their hosts 24-5 in that period to go into the half-time interval holding a 45-23 lead.
Grodno, playing with their backs to the wall, attempted a comeback in the third frame and reduced the gap to nine points but they would not get much closer than that as the experienced Minsk side managed to keep them at arm's length the rest of the way and celebrated a 74-66 success.
On the winners' side, power forward Aliaksei Lashkevich finished with a team-high 17 points on an almost perfect 8-for-9 shooting from the floor and fellow Belarusian internationals Aliaksei Trastsinetski and Pavel Ulyanko chipped in with 14 and 11 points, respectively.
For Grodno-93, a veteran and former member of the national team, 37-year-old Dzmitry Kuzmin, led all scorers with 20 points in defeat.