Brose Bamberg had drawn the right lessons from the narrow 92:88 victory over medi Bayreuth after overtime on Boxing Day. The German champions coasted to a commanding 75:52 win on the road thanks to an extremely focused performance. As a result, they have qualified for the cup’s Top Four tournament in Berlin on February 18 to 19, where they will face MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg in the semi-final.
As in the German league, Head Coach Andrea Trinchieri was able to use only six of his eight foreign players in the cup qualifier. Despite the close game against Bayreuth in December, he rested his experienced veteran Nikos Zisis and center Leon Radosevic. Elias Harris is back in individual training after his knee operation, but it was still too early to play him. Nevertheless, the 73rd Upper Franconian derby turned into a one-sided affair and a true show of force by the champions. And that was due to uncompromising, strong defending in the first half. Bamberg boarded up the door in defense from the outset and above all completely robbed the home side in the Oberfrankenhalle of the strong weapon it displayed on Boxing day, when medi drained eight buckets from downtown out of 23 attempts – compared with just a single one out of 19 on Sunday afternoon. Bayreuth needed almost five minutes to score its first points from the floor, but by then Trinchieri’s team had surged 14:1 in front thanks to threes by Darius Miller and two lay-ups from Maodo Lo. Three minutes later, after a further three by Miller and two lay-ups by top scorer Janis Strelnieks (13 points), the reigning champs had extended the gap to 21:4. Even though Bamberg went five attacks without scoring, it took a 23:9 lead into the second period. And it continued to dominate the encounter: The young center Leon Kratzer impressed with a block and two points, then top scorer Darius Miller (13 points) made it 40:15 after 18 minutes.
In the third period, Patrick Heckmann (10 points) put his side 54:26 ahead, its highest lead of the game, after which the visitors’ slackened a little in defense. The home side exploited a few slips in concentration in Bamberg’s defense to reduce the deficit to 59:37 by the end of the quarter. However, Trinchieri’s team did not let Bayreuth get any closer and, with eight minutes to go and the score standing at 63:39, the 300 Brose fans began to intone “Berlin, Berlin – we’re on the road to Berlin.”
Andrea Trinchieri commented: “It’s a disgrace that Bayreuth can’t continue to compete in the cup after the way it performed in the first half of the season. It plays well and is among the top teams in the rankings. For that reason alone, I can say just one thing: As they stand, the rules for qualification prevent Bayreuth from playing for their dream, as they ought to deserve. Germany’s the only country with top-class basketball where the cup has this system. You work hard, but for what? For a do-or-die game against a not so easy opponent? This is the third year in a row we’ve played a qualifier on the road, because it’s a lottery. We played and defended with great focus from the outset. We knew what we had to do and we did it, without playing brilliantly. Everyone was useful and defended well today. That’s all.”
Brose Bamberg faces its next tough game in the Euroleague on Wednesday, January 25, 2017, when second-placed Real Madrid come to the Nürnberger Versicherung Arena (tip-off: 8 p.m.).