Inspired play from Zelionis against old club Ventspils fires Neptunas to big win
VENTSPILS (Basketball Champions League) - Edgaras Zelionis led the charge for Neptunas Klaipeda in a winning effort against former club Ventspils on Tuesday night in the Basketball Champions League.
The 28-year-old center poured in a game-high 19 points and also corralled 7 rebounds as the Lithuanian outfit prevailed, 84-69, snapping a two-game losing streak.
Zelionis was in top form for Neptunas
The visitors endured a difficult start and trailed 17-11 at the end of the opening quarter but turned things around in the second frame and took a 37-31 lead to the locker room.
Twice early in the third quarter Ventspils closed the gap to just four points after baskets from Julius Jucikas but Neptunas, trying to chart a new course after the departures of former stars Mindaugas Girdziunas and Arnas Butkevicius to Lietuvas Rytas, won for the sixth time in nine games to strengthen their bid for a top-four finish.
Every time you play against your former team, you want to show them they did a bad thing by letting a person go. I spent a whole year here last year so it was sort of a home game for me.Zelionis
"I'm very happy for my team, my players and coaching staff," Neptunas coach Kazys Maksvytis said. "Despite two big losses, we won this game and everything started from defense."
Zelionis, who had 2 blocks and 1 steal, admitted he had some additional incentive to play well against Ventspils.
"Every time you play against your former team, you want to show them they did a bad thing by letting a person go," he said, smiling. "I spent a whole year here last year so it was sort of a home game for me."
Zelionis and his teammates played hard from the start and clinched a very important win.
"We did everything the coach asked of us," he said. "We gave it our all."
Ventspils, who won at defending champions Iberostar Tenerife just last week, dropped to 4-5.
"It was a terrible game for us," said Ventspils' leading scorer with 16 points, Ingus Jakovics. "We had started very well but I don't know what happened. In the second quarter, we started to panic, to play a little selfish and they played more like a team. They also started making some tough shots."