- National Teams
Middlesex LTBC held on for a 63-62 win over Team Birmingham Elite to claim the Division 3 Playoff title at the National Basketball Performance Centre in Manchester on Saturday afternoon.
Alex Anderson’s potential game winning three pointer for Birmingham fell short just before the buzzer sounded as Middlesex’s celebrations began.
Marius Talijunas picked up MVP honours with a stellar defensive effort, finishing with 19 rebounds and 7 blocks to go with his 9 points. A number of his blocks were key plays down the stretch to keep Birmingham at bay.
“My job was to do defensive things,” Talijunas said. “I’m last guy against another team and I try to do my best, today I showed 7 blocks, and I don’t even know how many rebounds, I just tried to do my best for the team all the time.”
Both captain Tadas Bagdonas (23 points, 14 rebounds) and Modestas Krasauskas (24 points, 6 rebounds) also put in performances worthy of MVP honours, as Team Birmingham relied on more of a team effort as four players reached double digits led by 13 points and 14 rebounds from Meris Mazalovic.
“It feels brilliant,” said Middlesex Head Coach Aurimas Kolesnikovas.
“I would say it was the game of a Final. It was a tough game, we were lucky we pulled out in the first half and they came out with very tough defensive. We struggled without our main point guard today who was away on family business, but we did well.”
It was Middlesex who got the better of the early stages, led by a blistering hot opening quarter from Krasauskas who had 13 of his 24 points in the opening ten minutes. Bagdonas took the reigns in the second quarter, scoring 14 points personal to put the Lithuanian side up 40-28 at the break.
The tables turned in the second half, as Team Birmingham held LTBC to 8 points in the third, and led by Anderson and Lacitis’ hot shooting from beyond the arc pulled to within 5 heading into the final quarter.
In the fourth, Birmingham opened the period on a 10-1 run across the first four minutes, taking their first lead of the game as they had Middlesex on the back foot. Neither team could gain separation from there on out.
A Talijunas hoop for LTBC with 2:40 remaining broke the 59-all tie, and he would follow it up with three more blocks in the final stages of the game to keep Middlesex in front and see them to the title.