Medi Bayreuth has actually managed it: The Heroes Of Tomorrow are in the round of the last eight in the Basketball Champions League.
They again produced a magnificent display in the second leg of their last-sixteen game at Beşiktaş Sompo Japan to draw 84:84 and advance to the next round thanks to their five-point cushion from the first leg. In the quarter-finals, the Heroes Of Tomorrow now face a first-leg away game against MHP RIESEN Ludwigsburg, who were able to defeat EWE Baskets Oldenburg in the round of 16.
All the spectators in the well-filled Beşiktaş Akatlar Arena in Istanbul were only able to rub their eyes in amazement at the composed way in which Medi Bayreuth played. From the outset, the team of Head Coach Raoul Korner was extremely focused on their task and refused to be disconcerted by the very boisterous atmosphere. On the contrary: It even seemed sometimes as if the Heroes Of Tomorrow drew energy for their own game from the chants of the Turkish fans. They were repeatedly able to strike back after runs by Beşiktaş and ended up drawing an extremely hard and fiercely contested game and so deservedly qualifying for the next round on aggregate.
As in the home game a week ago, an end-to-end affair ensued between two teams who were bent on advancing to the last eight. The first small highlight was produced by Gabe York with a bucket from beyond the arc to make it 7:3 after 2 minutes. D. J. Strawberry struck back right away for the opposing side to equalize. Midway through the period, it was again a bucket from outside, this time by James Robinson, that put the Heroes Of Tomorrow 14:9 in front. They retained this lead until the final minute of the quarter when Jon Diebler, who missed the first game due to illness, cut the deficit to 18:20 with a three-pointer.
Two quick threes by Kyle Weems and Cody Lalanne in the opening 80 seconds of the second period made it 24:20 for Beşiktaş and also forced Bayreuth to call its first timeout. Back on court, Medi quickly equalized, and the game remained open. It was mostly Beşiktaş who took the lead up to the 17th minute, when the Heroes Of Tomorrow hit back. A 7:2 run stretched the gap to 37:32 after a slam-dunk by Sanli, meaning the scores were tied on aggregate. However, a shot from downtown by Robinson on the next attack wriggled its way through the hoop and so Medi Bayreuth trailed by just 37:39 at half-time.
After the break, it was again Gabe York who scored Bayreuth’s first points from beyond the arc. Spurred on by that, James Robinson made it 44:43 in the 22nd minute – and now it was again the Heroes Of Tomorrow who were able to move ahead. In this strong spell, it was in particular Nate Linhart who shouldered responsibility in Medi’s game, making it 52:47 with six important points. Assem Marei then took over, giving his opponents hardly any chance to defend against him. His points to make it 57:53 were followed by the next three from York. Yet the home side also drained its shots from outside: Two buckets by D. J. Strawberry enabled Beşiktaş to reduce the deficit to 59:63 by the end of the quarter.
The first two minutes of the final period were likewise dominated by the Heroes Of Tomorrow, who chalked up the highest lead of the evening after a further three by Gabe York (70:62). However, that did not greatly perturb the top Turkish club, who stepped up its intensity again – with success: A run of seven points without reply, finished by Kyle Weems, made it 69:70 by the 35th minute and, following a timeout called by Bayreuth, Earl Clark put his team back ahead again for the first time in a long time. However, the Heroes Of Tomorrow still had energy in reserve and so De’Mon Brooks put his team in front by 80:74 from the foul line with 122 seconds remaining. Beşiktaş threw all it had into the fray again, but strong resistance by Bayreuth meant that was no longer enough for the Turkish club. Although Josh Adams drained a three to put the home side ahead once more with eight seconds left on the clock, it was James Robinson who sealed an extremely rare result – a draw – with his free throw and so ensured Medi Bayreuth advanced to the quarter-final.
Raoul Korner commented: “First of all, I have to congratulate my team for the fact that they were rewarded for the strong performance today. Looked at over the entire 80 minutes, we deserved to advance. It was a strenuous tussle against a top team. It’s a historic win for us. After almost 30 years, a Bayreuth team has again reached the last eight of an international competition. We’re very proud of that!”