|09 October 2013|
| Veteran Sandis Valters led BK Ventspils past Barsy in their opening Baltic Basketball League game of the new season|
Tuesday was an excellent day for three EuroChallenge clubs that compete in the ABA Adriatic League and the Baltic Basketball League (BBL), as they all registered their first victories of the new season.
BBL defending champions BK Ventspils kick-started their 2014 campaign with a convincing 71-47 rout over Kazakhstan side Barsy at home.
The Latvian outfit took the lead shortly after the opening exchanges and held a relatively fragile 22-17 advantage at the first buzzer, but begun to pull ahead steadily in the second and had already established a 17-point lead at the half-time interval.
Coach Roberts Stelmahers' players did not take particularly good care of the ball in their season opener, as they committed 18 turnovers on their home court, but showed that their trademark aggressive defence of years past remains a staple of their play.
Ventspils forced Barsy to shoot 27% from two-point range and 19% from beyond the arc and Stelmahers could even afford to give more than 10 minutes of playing time to every player on his 12-man roster.
Center Ronalds Zakis paced the winners with 11 points, also adding six rebounds, while Sandis Valters and Akselis Vairogs contributed 10 points each and combined for seven assists.
The Estonians of Rakvere Tarvas were also playing at home in their BBL season opener and although their encounter with Jekabpils turned out to be a much more dramatic affair, they too managed to start their campaign on the right foot.
In a game where there was little to separate the two opponents, Tarvas went into the locker rooms at the interval leading by a single point but struggled offensively in the third and fell behind 64-58 going into the final frame.
Spurred on by the local crowd however, the Estonian side turned on the screws on defence and gave up just nine points to their guests in the fourth to grind out a 74-73 win.
Giedrius Gustas and Rait Keerles led Tarvas with a game-high 17 points each as Gustas also added seven assists while Keerles additionally collected six rebounds.
Laurynas Mikalauskas finished with 13 points and was the third Tarvas player to score in double digits.
Meanwhile in the Adriatic League, Szolnoki Olaj bounced back from their defeat away to Zadar in the opener at the weekend with an 81-69 victory over MZT Skopje Aerodrom at home.
The Hungarian outfit used a fantastic second quarter, in which they outscored their guests 20-8, to grab the initiative and establish a 35-24 lead at half-time.
Szolnoki increased the gap to 15 points by the third buzzer and despite the fact they were quite permissive on defence in the fourth quarter, the cushion proved more than enough to hold back a late comeback attempt by Skopje.
The Hungarian team's new recruit, American guard William Warren, had already presented his credentials as a reliable scoring option in a losing effort in the Zadar game.
On Tuesday however he was almost unstoppable and finished with a game-high 28 points on 64% shooting from the floor, also adding seven rebounds and seven assists.
Center Peter Lorant also put in an excellent display for the winners, as he collected a double-double of 19 points and 11 rebounds.
Szolnoki will do battle with Rilski Sportist, Tsmoki Minsk and BC Mures in Group H of the EuroChallenge Regular Season.
Tarvas were drawn in Group A, together with SPM Shoeters Den Bosch, Antwerp Giants and JDA Dijon.
Ventspils are in Group C and will go up against Tartu Rock, Södertälje Kings and BC Zepter Vienna.