Being a rookie is not an easy task for any player in any competition. All the more so for youngsters. But, for Lietkabelis Panevezys forward Panagiotis Kalaitzakis, his debut season in the 7DAYS Eurocup has been nothing short of great so far. After going for 12 points against Slask Wroclaw on opening night, he netted 22 points at home against Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar in Round 2. And, against Dolomiti Energia Trento, even though he fell shy of a career-high scoring by ‘just’ scoring 20, his performance was crucial for Lietkabelis.
Kalaitzakis was the visitors’ main weapon in the first quarter when he provided 9 points without missing a shot. He shot 3 for 3 on two-pointers and added a triple that helped his team to a comfortable margin, 8-18, after 6 minutes. Such a good beginning proved very important for Lietkabelis, which never trailed for the rest of the game.
“You are always at an advantage if you get some points in your pocket, so for sure, for our team it was important that we were leading all the time," said Lietkabelis Coach Nenad Canak, recognizing how valuable his team’s start had been.
The game was not over so soon, though, as Trento limited its opponent to just 14 points in the second quarter to reduce the gap to 34-38 at halftime, then tied it early in the third quarter, 38-38, behind a couple of buckets by Jonathan Williams. A new game was born and, again, Kalaitzakis rose to the challenge.
After being held scoreless in the second quarter, Kalaitzakis came on strong when Trento tried to take the reins. He scored 11 points that snuffed out the home team's reaction. First, he nailed his second three to get the lead back to his team, 38-41. Later he added a couple more to extend it to 44-51. Finally, he netted a couple of free throws that boosted Lietkabelis to a 49-57 edge entering the last quarter.
“As I said at halftime, we made a lot of turnovers. We had like 10 turnovers in the first half, so we had to control that, and once we did it, we took the rhythm, we didn’t allow fastbreaks. It’s a great win for us, really a great win”, Kalaitzakis said after the game, proving how well he can read the game despite his young age.
Kalaitzakis wasn't needed to score more for the rest of the game, as his team found the invaluable help of Gediminas Orelik when Trento made one last push in the fourth quarter. Led by Diego Flaccadori, the hosts recovered their momentum and came within 57-65, right after a timeout, with still 5 minutes remaining.
It was then when Orilik took over to complete the job. He was the only Lietkabelis player to score in the next 4 minutes, but the visitors didn’t need anyone else. He scored 7 points in a row - including a three-point play - that restored a double-digit advantage, 61-72, entering crunch time. Soon after, he stole a ball that turned into a corner three by Vytenis Lipkevicius, a dagger that virtually terminated Trento, 61-75, with 1:04 to go.
Both, Kalaitzakis and Orelik, the youngster and the veteran, formed a terrific duo that allowed Lietkabelis to seal its first road win of the season, and the first once since December 13, 2017, when it defeated another Italian club, Grissin Bon Reggio Emilia, 82-85. Almost four years later, Lietkabelis Panevezys smiled again in Italy thanks to Kalaitzakis and Orelik.