Following the triumphant victory against the Vilnius Wolves, Giedrius Žibėnas reveled in multiple significant aspects of the game. The intense derby showcased the team’s resilience and masculinity, marking a notable rebound after the recent European setbacks. The celebration was particularly sweet as the win coincided with the inauguration of the second floor of the Avia Solutions Group arena.
There were several reasons for the Vilnius Rytas coach to wear a satisfied grin. The team’s outstanding defense was on full display, dominating the first half with an impressive 19-0 run and decisively determining the outcome of the second Vilnius derby. The final score spoke volumes, with “Rytas” emerging victorious at 89-72.
Expressing his gratitude for the win, Žibėnas emphasized the pivotal role of defense. “When you make an extra effort in defense, everything becomes simpler in offense,” he remarked. Despite the joyous occasion, Žibėnas acknowledged the looming playoffs with Utena, underscoring the need for serious preparation due to Utena’s formidable strength this year. Additionally, the effective defense that halted Sulaimon and Taylor, who missed numerous shots, played a crucial role in securing the victory.
Regarding the impressive run during the game, Žibėnas pointed out that the team maintained composure during a brief lapse, recognizing that missed free throws would eventually find their mark. He stressed that the absence of psychological setbacks was a testament to the team’s defensive efforts, highlighting the symbiotic relationship between defense and offense.
The coach expressed satisfaction with the players’ physical condition, despite a short break. The team’s resilient response to the previous defeat was evident on the court, showcasing their determination and resilience.
Addressing discussions following the loss to Peristeri, Žibėnas downplayed their significance, stating that such conversations were common but not overly emphasized. He praised the abundant motivation displayed by the team during the derby, especially among foreign players, showcasing an incredible and unique reaction compared to other teams.
Žibėnas attributed the demand for robust defense to the players themselves, noting their disappointment after the last game. Recognizing the defensive lapses in the first match, the team adjusted its strategy by denying opponents shots from their comfort zones, showcasing a controlled defensive performance.
Highlighting the collective effort, Žibėnas expressed his preference for team celebrations after defensive stops. The visible energy throughout the game was credited to the players’ commitment and teamwork.
Marcus Foster’s stellar performance was acknowledged, with Žibėnas recalling Foster’s expressed desire to be more versatile this year. The coach commended foreign players, asserting that their performance serves as an admirable example of unwavering motivation.
The significant fan presence, exceeding 7 thousand, was lauded by Žibėnas. Despite being a formal away game, the overwhelming support showcased the deep love for the club, the city, and the team’s colors. The coach expressed joy for the fans, especially since, until the opening of the second floor, they had not secured a victory.
Looking ahead, Žibėnas addressed the challenge of maintaining a positive attitude until the season’s end. While expressing the desire to answer affirmatively, he acknowledged that time would be the ultimate judge. The coach outlined plans to navigate the FIBA windows, aiming for the quarterfinals and setting new goals post-FIBA.
When questioned about the possibility of maintaining the same lineup for the rest of the season, Žibėnas praised the team’s deep rotation, talented players, and youthful energy. At present, there is no contemplation of adding new players to the roster.
Closing the conversation, Žibėnas left the question of adopting the ASG arena to the fans, expressing hope for continued support. As the team navigates the highs and lows of the season, the coach underscored the importance of defense and emphasized the role of home advantage in local championships, drawing lessons from the experiences in the Champions League.