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News / Cocks and Serviti emerge as group-winners

Baltic Handball League

2018.02.26 17:54

Cocks and Serviti emerge as group-winners

There is still two games to play in the regular season of the the 2017/18 Baltic Handball League and one quarter-final place up for grabs, but seven quarter-finalists are now clear. Cocks Riihimäki and Serviti Põlva are the two teams that go into the play-off stage of BHL as top-ranked teams, having won their respective groups.

Group B is completely finished and Serviti edged ahead of SKA Minsk only due to the better overall goal difference, as both teams finished with 16 points and played a draw in both encounters between them. Last year's runner-up ZTR Zaporozhye placed third in the group, while Granitas-Karys Kaunas held off Celtnieks Riga's challenge and qualified as fourth.

Granitas-Karys secures place in the quarter-finals with a draw

There was still much to play for during the final weekend in Group B with the top three positions and the fourth quarter-finalist to be determined. ZTR travelled to Estonia and took an expected win on Saturday over HC Tallinn by 33-26 (Maksym Karamyshev 8 – Robin Oberg and Marko Slastinovski 5 goals).

The day later it was Serviti who hosted ZTR and was trailing behind Ukrainians for the most of the game. After being 1-0 up, the hosts managed to get ahead again only in the 54th minute. And just like in the opening match between two closely matched teams, Serviti edged out as the winners by 24-22 (Carl-Eric Uibo 6 – Andrii Akimenko 10).

"We had huge problems with penalty shots and missed our first four," admitted Kalmer Musting, head coach of Serviti. "We are not yet in top form, so considering this it was a good team performance, especially in defence, where our main defensive rock Indrek Neeme returned well from injury and goalkeeper Eston Varusk made some crucial saves."

Another important match was played in Kaunas, where Celtnieks needed a win over Granitas-Karys in order to overtake them in the group standings. No wonder it was very tight throughout the match. Granitas started better and was 5-2 up, but the Latvians fought back and by half-time it was 11-11.

In the second half the difference between teams was basically never more than one goal, until Lithuanians took a 24-22 lead with two minutes to go. Celtnieks equalized, but could not get more and the 24-24 draw meant Granitas-Karys finished fourth, leaving Celtnieks outside the quarter-finals.

Cocks on top, Tenax failed to use its chance to go second

In Group A we still have two games to play, but the top three are clear. Cocks Riihimäki secured the group win already, despite having one match left. On Monday, they defeated Dragunas Klaipeda at home 36-24 (Bojan Zupanjac 10 – 4 players with 4 goals). It was Finnish club's third game inside five days with another one in EHF Cup coming up on Wednesday.

Lithuanian champion Dragunas is currently second and ZRHK Tenax Dobele third. Unless VHC Šviesa Vilnius takes four points from two remaining games, it will stay like this, but the fourth place is still open. Tenax had a chance to go past Dragunas, needing a win in Viljandi on Saturday. However, already eliminated Viljandi HC has picked up form and on Estonia's 100th Independence Day was not going to give it easily.

The hosts started very well and led by 8-4 and 11-6, winning the first half 14-10. Tenax came back aggressively after the break and scored nine goals inside first dozen minutes, taking the lead 19-18. Viljandi's head coach Marko Koks took a time-out and his team regained control, enjoying a 8-1 spell before winning the match 29-24 (Andrey Khapal 10 – Oskars Arajs 7).

Dramatic win for Kehra over Dragunas

The battle for the fourth place in Group A and search for the name of the last quarter-finalist will culminate this weekend. VHC Šviesa Vilnius is currently fourth with seven points, but HC Kehra/Horizon Pulp&Paper is two points behind. The two teams will meet eachother in Kehra on Saturday, while Šviesa also have a game the following day in Riihimäki.

Šviesa beat Kehra at home in November by 27-23, which means the Estonian side has to win by five goals and hope Cocks manages to beat the Lithuanians in the middle of their busy schedule. Of course, for all this situation to emerge, Kehra had to beat Dragunas at home on Sunday and they took a dramatic win by 27-26 (Mikita Yermashevich 10 – Laurynas Palevičius 6).

Hosts started poorly and fell 4-0 behind, but Belarussian bomber Yermashevich initiating the come-back by scoring all four of Kehra's first goals. Soon it was 7-7 and by half-time 14-14. Kehra seemed to slip away midway through the second half, taking a three-goal lead, but then allowed Dragunas to score seven unanswered goals and in the 54th minute Lithuanian side was leading 26-22.

Incredible ending saw Kehra closing its goal, throwing away the key and equalizing 26-26 by the final minute. Head coach Kaupo Liiva took a time-out with half a minute to go and the "Kempa-trick" by David Mamporia's pass and Abdel Djalil Machou's throw brought the hugely important winning goal for Kehra.