Zalgiris Kaunas is the first finalist of the Kaunas NIJT Qualifying Tournament after downing USK Future Stars Prague 74-80 on Saturday. Zalgiris goes into the title game as the undefeated Group A winner, while USK dropped to 2-1 and will play in a third-place match on Sunday. Kristupas Zemaitis had 25 points and 8 assists to lead Zalgiris in victory. Martynas Sajus scored 10, while Martynas Echodas finished with 8 points. On the other side, Marek Mares scored 20, David Skanc amassed 15 points, 13 rebounds and 3 blocks, while Jakub Jokl scored 14 for USK which opened the game with back-to-back triples, and jumped to an early 11-5 lead. Rokas Mazionis got the host’s offense going, and Zalgiris converted 7 of its next 8 possessions, run that included four three-pointers. Back-to-back-to-back threes, a pair from Zemaitis and one from Raimundas Zuklevicius, put them in front for the first time late in the first quarter, 22-24. Zalgiris opened the second quarter with a 2-13 run that included triples from Matas Ragauskas, Martynas Varnas and Zemaitis, pulling away to 26-37. USK answered with three consecutive baskets from Mares, before a triple from Krystof Chaloupka and a layup from Ondrej Sehnal cut it to 39-43. Teams exchanged buckets in the final 2 minutes of the first half, as Zalgiris held 41-47 halftime lead, and the same trend continued at the start of third quarter. Zuklevicius hit a triple for 45-54, but USK was successful going inside often, and used an 8-0 run to come within 53-54. But Justas Vazalis hit a three-pointer, and Echodas helped keep the hosts in front, leading 61-66 after three quarters. At the start of the fourth, Zalgiris kept USK scoreless for more than 4 minutes, opening up 61-72 lead, and back-to-back triples from Zemaitis kept the margin in double figures, 67-78 before Zalgiris’ defense sealed the deal.
Saturday, February 8, 2014