“Sometimes you just have to take a step back to move two steps forward.” That was how medi Bayreuth’s Head Coach Raoul Korner summed up the response his team showed in its first game in the Champions League playoffs after the recent weak performance in Berlin. In the first leg in the Champions League’s round of 16, the Heroes Of Tomorrow showed themselves at their best, just as their fans like to see them.
Bastian Doreth and his players produced their familiar strong all-round team performance in the first playoff game against Beşiktaş Sompo Japan Istanbul in an Oberfrankenhalle that was packed with 3,021 spectators and deservedly defeated the Group D winners by 81:76 (34:29). Medi Bayreuth was ahead throughout the encounter and managed to create a 5-point cushion for the second leg in Istanbul this Tuesday.
Energy and passion – those were the two attributes that were missing in Berlin, especially in the second half. The Heroes Of Tomorrow returned to their home turf and, from the word go, displayed the reaction their fans had hoped for. The very first shot was extremely important – and Gabe York drained it from beyond the arc. The home side dominated the run of play in the opening minutes. With the score at 11:2 in the fourth minute, Beşiktaş’ Head Coach Ufuk Sarica was forced to call his first timeout. After the visitors added five points, medi was wide awake again and did not let the Turkish club grab second chances to score thanks to strong rebounding in defense. The encounter remained fast-paced and the Heroes Of Tomorrow went into the second period 20:14 ahead thanks to threes by Nate Linhart and Gabe York.
Although more fouls were now called in the second quarter, the pace remained high, which initially gave Beşiktaş advantages. Although the Heroes Of Tomorrow missed a number of chances in offense, they managed to stay in front. When Erkan Veyseloğlu was able to exploit a visible gap in defense for the first time in the 17th minute to make it 23:29, Raoul Korner also responded by calling his first timeout. Although the referees then controversially failed to call two fouls in favor of the Heroes Of Tomorrow, the team kept its cool and so was able to go in at half-time leading by 34:29.
The man of the third period was then De’Mon Brooks. The power forward chalked up ten of his 15 points in the quarter and four of them right at its start. And when there was the threat of the game tilting the visitors’ way after a 3-point play by D. J. Strawberry (38:40), De’Mon Brooks added a slam-dunk to make it 46:43 and give his side an extra boost of energy, after which Gabe York buried another bucket from downtown to get his side out of a dicey situation. The Heroes Of Tomorrow even stretched their lead further, as Assem Marei increased the gap to ten points (58:48).
The final period got underway with a three-pointer by York from a long way outside. The visitors from the Bosphorus again stepped up the pace after that and the former Bayreuth player Kyle Weems cut the deficit to 59:67 with four quick points. Beşiktaş then succeeded with its inside game. Kenan Sipahi reduced the gap to 66:71, but although the top-class Turkish club threw all it had into the fray at the death, it was not able to turn the game around. The Heroes Of Tomorrow resisted with all their might and, after an even second half, held on to their five-point cushion and what was ultimately a thoroughly deserved victory.
The gates to the Oberfrankenhalle are open again in two days when Bayreuth welcomes Basketball Lions Braunschweig in the easyCredit German Basketball League. The game this Friday tips off at 7 p.m.