ANGT Kaunas MVP Azoulas Tubelis helped U18 Rytas Vilnius find redemption by defeating their archrival U18 Zalgiris Kaunas in the first-place game after losing the same game to the same club one year ago.
Azoulas Tubelis already experienced what it felt like to lose to an archenemy in the Euroleague Basketball Adidas Next Generation Tournament. And he made sure that he and his U18 Rytas Vilnius teammates didn't feel that again in beating U18 Zalgiris Kaunas in the ANGT Kaunas first-place game.
Tubelis collected 25 points and 15 rebounds plus 12 fouls drawn for a performance index rating of 37 in Rytas's 63-84 victory over Zalgiris in the ANGT Kaunas first-place game to earn a ticket to the ANGT Finals, which will be Tubelis's third trip to the end-of-the-season highlight.
"The motivation was there because it was Zalgiris. You never need much extra motivation," said Tubelis, who was named MVP of the tournament.
"They knew us very well. We play them in the Lithuanian League and we made the adjustments at halftime and they worked."
Tubelis knows what it’s like facing Zalgiris in the ANGT Kaunas first-place game as he and Rytas lost at the same point last season - a 92-79 defeat in which he collected 15 points, 7 rebounds, 4 steals, 5 blocks and 8 fouls drawn for a PIR of 31. "There were so many people there and the support was amazing for Zalgiris. We were not as motivated as this time," said Tubelis, who was named to the All-Tournament Team last season as well.
The 2.06-meter forward was determined to not be denied this time around as he averaged 20.5 points, 12.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 2.0 steals and 1.8 blocks for a PIR of 34.5. He ranked fourth in scoring while leading the competition in PIR, rebounds and two-point shooting (66.7%) and placing third in blocks.
"He’s very, very talented. We have played on the same team for the last five years. I am really happy with how he is improving. His IQ is really good and he's really grown up," said Tubelis's teammate Augustas Marciulionis, who also garnered a spot on the All-Tournament Team.
Rytas is heading back to the ANGT Finals for an eighth time in 18 editions, including three of the last four. The club from the Lithuanian capital won the continental championship in 2012 and 2018. Tubelis was part of the 2018 title-winning team in Belgrade, where he collected 3 points, 1 rebound and 1 block in 10 minutes of Rytas's 76-71 thrilling victory over U18 Stellazzurra Rome.
"I remember only Sirvydis's last shot. He's insane," Tubelis said, referring to Deividas Sirvydis's three-pointer to give Rytas a 72-69 lead with 35 seconds to play. "I didn’t play that much two years ago, but the emotions from that game were amazing."
Tubelis has started taking the next step at the team level at Rytas, playing in five top division LKL games and averaging 3.8 points and 1.4 rebounds in 7.4 minutes, including 11 points against Siauliai on February 1. On December 18, Tubelis also made his 7DAYS EuroCup debut; he played 12:55 minutes against Umana Reyer Venice in Round 10 of the regular season, though he missed his 2 field goal attempts and finished without points, though Tubelis managed to record 3 rebounds and 1 block.
Tubelis played in Rytas's two domestic league games before ANGT Kaunas and will undoubtedly start to gain more playing time with the senior team as he awaits a trip to Cologne, Germany, in May for the ANGT Finals at the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Final Four.
"We want to try to win the trophy again. There is no other way: only first place," Tubelis said.
Spoken like a true champion.