RAUDONDVARIS (Lithuania) - Team Šakiai Gulbelė (LTU) won the Raudondvaris 3x3 Challenger at home on July 3-4, 2019.
The Lithuanians won their first event on the FIBA 3x3 professional circuit. Here's how they did it:
The winners: Šakiai Gulbelė (LTU)
The team started as an underdog as just the #9 seed in the tournament. They weren't total strangers either as they had already reached the quarter.finals both at the Novi Sad and OPAP Limassol Challengers earlier this season. They also represented Lithuania at the FIBA 3x3 World Cup and beat a couple of high-level teams there, including France.
Šakiai Gulbelė had a clean 5-0 record in Raudondvaris. They beat 3 of the top 4 seeds during the event. They held Ljubljana to just 6 points in the pool stage and beat Riga Ghetto (LAT) and Ralja Intergalactic (SRB) in the last 2 games.
The team ranked 1st in rebounds (by a wide margin) and 3rd in scoring on a per-game basis. The 6ft 9in (2.05m) Aurelijus Pukelis had a lot to do with this: he was both the top scorer and rebounder of the tournament.
The runners-up: Ralja Intergalactic (SRB)
The #13 team in the world impressed in Lithuania. They won their first 4 games, defeating the #2 and #3 seeds Ljubljana (SLO) and Vrbas (SRB) in the process. They ranked number 1 at the event in points (per game and overall), They also led the tournament in 2-pointers scored (21) and 2-point percentage (30%). Their 2 snipers Nebojsa Kilijan and Vuk Obradinovic went 1 and 2 in 2 points scored and 2nd and 5th respectively in the scoring charts.
The final: Šakiai Gulbelė 21- Ralja Intergalactic 19
The game was an absolute nail-biter with countless lead changes. Pukelis owned the paint. He finished in double digits... in rebounds (10) and also added 6 points in 3 highlights. Just as Šakiai built a 2-point lead in the money time, the tattooed sharpshooter Vuk Obradinovic pulled up from behind the arc to tie things up at 19. On the next possession, the Lithuanians went to Pukelis inside, who smartly kicked out to Marijus Uzupis, who calmly nailed the 2-pointer for the win. The 26-year-old had a game-high 9 points in the final.
The reward: 2 tickets to the Montreal Masters
Šakiai Gulbelė and Ralja Intergalactic will join 4 other teams, which already stamped their ticket to Canada: Liman (SRB), Novi Sad (SRB), Piran (SLO) and Zemun (SRB).
1. Šakiai Gulbelė (LTU)
2. Ralja Intergalactic (SRB)
3. Vrbas (SRB)
4. Riga Ghetto (LAT)
5. Sosnovy Bor CopRosatom (RUS)
1. Aurelijus Pukelis (Sakiai) 37pts
2. Karlis Lasmanis (Riga) 32pts
3. Nebojsa Kilijan (Ralja) 32 pts
4. Danilo Mijatovic (Vrabas) 28pts
5. Vuk Obradinovic (Ralja) 26pts
There were still 3'24" left on the game clock when Ralja Intergalatic beat Panevėžys Adorma (LTU) in the pool stage (Fastest game of the tournament).
Aurelijus Pukelis had 2 games with at least 10 rebounds.
Love a big man who can hit his free throws: Pukelis also shot 86% from the line.
Nauris Miezis (Riga Ghetto) topped all scorers with 17 in just 4 games. No other play had more than 10.
Mr Robot's little brother Strahinja Stojacic is a player to watch: he had 2 triple-fives over the weekend. He tallied 7 points, 6 rebounds and 5 highlights in the quarter-finals. Even better: he recorded 9 highlights, 6 points and 5 rebounds in the pool stage against Sosnovy Bor CopRosatom . The 26-year-old ticked all the boxes in that game: 3 blocks, 2 key assists, 2 drives, 1 dunk and 1 buzzer beater.
Next Challenger: Ekaterinburg Challenger (July 9-10)