German champions Brose Bamberg go into the 2017/2018 playoffs with home court advantage after finishing fourth in the table. With three straight wins over the long weekend – 85:80 against Rockets Erfurt, a clear 82:55 victory over Braunschweig and a 76:74 win on the road at Mitteldeutscher BC – the team of Head Coach Luca Banchi slipped past Bonn and Bayreuth to end the regular season in the German league in fourth place. The reigning champs now face Telekom Baskets Bonn in the playoff quarter-finals and have home court advantage in the first game on May 6, 2018.
Despite the three wins on the long weekend, however, Bamberg showed that it still repeatedly blows hot and cold during a game. In the encounter against relegation-threatened Erfurt Rockets, Banchi’s players produced an extremely strong second period after an evenly poised first quarter. Backed by tenacious defending, the home side forced the Rockets to make difficult shots, as a result of which the visitors chalked up just eight points. Top scorer Daniel Hackett turned on the heat in attack: The Italian scored seven points and so created the foundation for a clear 50:31 lead at half-time. However, Bamberg took the game far too easily after the break, gave the Rockets too much space in offense, and Erfurt gratefully seized its opportunity. The Rockets reduced the deficit to 64:53 going into the final period and, after the fifth bucket from outside by the former Bamberg player Andreas Obst, Bamberg suddenly trailed 77:78 with two minutes remaining. It was only thanks to stalwarts Nikos Zisis and Daniel Hackett that the home side was able to turn the game around and run out winners by 85:80.
In their final home game of the regular season against Braunschweig, the champions again began with more energy and opened up a 20:11 gap with slam-dunks by Dejan Musli and a three from the recuperated Ricky Hickman. Yet Bamberg was not able to hold on to its lead. The club from Lower Saxony stood solid at the back, Bamberg lost confidence in its shooting, and the visitors left the home side trailing by 23:26. Maodo Lo and Daniel Hackett recaptured the lead at half-time with two threes to make it 41:35. After the break, Bamberg’s youngster Louis Olinde began to take control of the game. The 20 year-old scored 17 points in the third quarter, including two threes and five lay-ups. The top scorer’s gala performance decided the game with the score standing at 62:39, and Bamberg went into the final period with a comfortable 75:45 cushion. Since Head Coach Banchi now paid greater attention to preserving his players’ strength and so put his young talents on court, the final quarter was pretty uneventful and lacking excitement and was won 7:10 by Braunschweig. However, Bamberg was never in danger and strolled to victory.
In the final game of the regular season on the road at Mitteldeutscher BC in Weißenfels, Bamberg got off to a poor start. Banchi’s team was 9:20 behind after the first quarter, and it was only then that the visitors slowly got into the encounter. Maodo Lo sparked Bamberg’s comeback, in which Louis Olinde and Lucca Staiger added two buckets from beyond the arc in the space of five seconds to put their side 25:24 in front. Top scorer Dorell Wright stretched the gap to 38:32. However, the MBC was not to be shaken off, equalized again in the third quarter and almost tied the scores again shortly before the end after Bamberg had led 71:63 at one stage. However, the final shot from outside by the home side only counted for two points, since Lamont Jones (27 points), whom Bamberg never got under control, was standing on the line. As a result, the visitors remained 75:74 ahead with one second left. Lucca Staiger sealed victory with a free throw.
Luca Banchi commented: “We played well against Erfurt in the second period, we moved the ball well, carved out open shots and defended well. But what we showed on court in the third period was unacceptable. We played the game against Braunschweig with the right focus and energy to match. I was able to spread the time on court among the whole team. It’s important for players like Ricky Hickman to get more playing time and so regain confidence after being out through injury. The game at the MBC was very tight and evenly poised. We didn’t get off to a good start, but our comeback was then all the better. We were able to win the game with a lot of fight and despite our performance in offense. When I took over at Bamberg, we were in tenth place. We’ve captured home court advantage, but even if it had finished eighth, the team would have summoned up all it could and will now also squeeze out its last drop of energy to defend the title.”