The 1951 season was Vytis’ best. Last year they lost only three games throughout a 23 game championship, plus the Adelaide Baltic Cup tournament, plus the championship of Australian Lithuanian clubs and plus interstate friendly matches.
In the championship Vytis started with a loss to OBI, which left the Lithuanians trailing a new ALS (Latvian) team until the end of the first round, when they met ALS and beat them.
In the second round the Latvians turned the tables and let the field until the last match of the third and final round with one loss only.
In a dramatic last round match Vytis defeated ALS by one point. Vytis trailed for most of the game but won by paralysing burst of attack in the last 10 minutes, a feature which has characterised many of their matches against first class opposition.
Even on wins with ALS (19-2), Vytis was declared minor premier on percentage of won and lost goals. During the minor round Vytis shot 1103 points (a record for SA), losing 575, the second team ALS, show 1011, and losing 528.
In the semi-final Vytis beat Estonians and in the final downed ALS boys, who were evidently dejected after their unfortunately defeat in the last game of the minor round.
Throughout the season Ignatavicius scored 343 and Urnevicius 305 points, a splendid tally which was surpassed only by 6ft 5in Latvian Juris (George) Dancis, who shot 380. Peter Sutton (OBI), fourth on the list with 287.
In 1950 Vytis, although premier, had been defeated by Latvians in the Baltic Cup competition. In 1951 the Lithuanians made sure to score a double victory. They played copy book basketball to defeat Estonians 58-37 and then overwhelmed Latvians in a trilling match by 49-42.
This last match was a classical example of Vytis variable style and excellent powers of adaption.
In the first half the tall Latvians watched the fast dangerous Vytis forwards closely. Gurskis used to score eight points with surprising long distance shots, a remarkably tally for a guard.
In the second half Latvians neutralised Gurskis, still maintaining a few points lead. Then Urnevicius, seeing that everything was orthodox had failed, produced some beautiful hook shots that he had seldom done before.
This brought the Latvians off balance and in the ensuing confusion the untiring Jaciunskas clinched victory by fast breaks.
Four Lithuanian teams from Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide held a carnival in Adelaide and Vytis won again, defeating Melbourne in the final, although the Victorians fielded all Australian team player Dargis.
Owing to the split with SAMBA early in 1951, none of Vytis players were considered for the SA side in 1951, as they were registered with the ABL.
That was why they missed out on the Perth carnival, where an inferior SA team did not have a hope of seriously troubling either Victoria or NSW.
When the SAMBA has finally affiliated ABL, Vytis will not be overlooked by the State selectors when they start looking for a State side, 1952.
Having plenty of speed and stamina, Vytis usually play the man to man defence. They can employ the zone defence, but it is not their favourite.
Looking superficially, it might appear that only speed and accurate shooting account for Vytis victories, yet the interwoven team spirit must not be overlooked. Without it a great team may finish on the rocks.
It is not enough to merely have five good payers together – only when they cease to be five separate men and become one team will they start on the road to success.
Vytis has that team spirit and the boys are also thorough sportsmen to other players. They could hardly be more popular both with their adversaries and the public.
That is perhaps the most important thing which makes Vytis a great credit to South Australian basketball. Even though the idea of ‘fair play’ was not invented in Lithuanian, the Lithuanians have adopted it quickly enough.
Sport Novels June 1952 Vol 13 no.3