|04 March 2014|
|Vilmantas Dilys and Tartu Rock have breezed into the BBL quarter-finals|
EuroChallenge Group I winners Tartu University Rock swept Jekabpils 2-0 with characteristic ease and have punched their ticket to the quarter-finals of the Baltic Basketball League (BBL).
Tartu had enjoyed an 84-53 rout on the road in the first game of the play-off series and on Monday night they cruised to an 84-63 victory at home over the Latvian side.
The Estonian hosts' performance during the first quarter on Monday was perhaps their most discreet at any point of this series and the fact they were only leading 19-18 after the first 10 minutes gave their visitors hope of an upset.
Veteran guard Valmo Kriisa drilled a three-pointer 32 seconds from the half-time buzzer to send Tartu to the locker rooms with a 35-32 advantage but Jekabpils pushed ahead, 39-38, two minutes into the third quarter.
Vilmantas Dilys and Vincent Simpson however combined for 11 points until the end of the period and Tartu reclaimed a 52-46 lead at the third buzzer.
A three-pointer from Augustas Peciukevicius capped off a 10-1 Tartu run at the start of the final period which increased the gap to 62-47 with 7:53 left to play and effectively killed off any aspirations by Jekabpils to prolong the series.
Tartu lost the battle on the glass as they were out-rebounded 39 to 36, but defended well and forced their guests to commit 18 turnovers and shoot only 26-of-64 from the floor.
Dilys, as is customary since he joined the team mid-way through the season, paved the way for Tartu with a game-high 21 points and also six rebounds, while Peciukevicius and Timo Eichfuss finished with 11 points apiece for the winners.
Tartu will now go up against Lithuanian side Pieno zvaigzdes in a (also best-of-three) quarter-final series that gets under way on Friday.
UNLUCKY MINSK BRING IN REINFORCEMENTS
|Keith Benson Jr has been ruled out for up to three weeks, dealing a major blow to Tsmoki Minsk|
Tsmoki Minsk were informed in the wake of their final game in the EuroChallenge Last 16 on Tuesday that forward/center Vincent Hunter will be sidelined with injury throughout March and would therefore miss their quarter-final play-off series against Royal Hali Gaziantep.
It seems however that the Belarusian club is even more unfortunate than they initially believed and now it appears that Keith Benson Jr, the other half of their frontcourt duo as well as their leading scorer and rebounder, will also likely miss the important clashes with Gaziantep.
Benson had picked up a minor injury in last Tuesday's game against Bakken and although the initial diagnosis was that he would be back on the court within a matter of days, he has now joined Hunter on the treatment table and is unable to practice.
For the time being, it is certain that Benson will not feature in next weekend's VTB United League encounter with Khimki, but his full recovery could last up to a further three weeks.
In light of these misfortunes, Minsk have moved swiftly to at least cover the confirmed absence of Hunter.
The Belarusian club have signed 24-year-old center Jason Washburn on a temporary contract that runs until the end of March, with the option of extending their collaboration further if both parties are satisfied.
The 2.08m Washburn spent the first half of the current season with Ukrainian side Cherkasy Monkeys and averaged 14.1 points and 6.3 rebounds in his 16 games in the domestic Superleague.