Medi Bayreuth’s incredible basketball journey in Europe this season is over. After putting up a magnificent fight, the Heroes Of Tomorrow lost to MHP RIESEN Ludwigsburg by 163:170 on aggregate in their quarter-final playoff in the Champions League. After winning the first leg 86:81, the team of Head Coach Raoul Korner was defeated by 77:89 on Wednesday evening by the team that is currently third in the German league in front of 3,400 spectators in the completely sold-out Oberfrankenhalle, meaning that MHP RIESEN now advances to the FINAL FOUR.
The fans in the Oberfrankenhalle saw a thrilling Champions League encounter from the very first minute. After De’Mon Brooks and Adika Peter-McNeilly had scored five points apiece, both teams displayed intensive defending, with the visitors often exerting a touch more pressure. The Heroes Of Tomorrow initially coped well with that and went 12:7 in front after a bucket from beyond the arc by Robinson. Elgin Cook snapped up an offensive rebound to make it 14:16 in the eighth minute. After Medi called a timeout, Ludwigsburg turned up the pressure, but was not able to do more than tie the scores at 20:20 after winning several turnovers.
The game remained open in the second period, in which Adam Waleskowski gave the visitors their first lead since the opening spell (25:24). Ludwigsburg kept up its intense pressure at the other end. However, the visitors also increasingly chalked up fouls. The Heroes Of Tomorrow were not able to add all too many points in this phase, with the result that MHP RIESEN, who was again in accurate shooting form, surged 33:24 ahead, also thanks to five points by Kerron Johnson. After another timeout by Medi, Ludwigsburg soon exceeded the team foul limit, which led to important points from free throws up to half-time. Things also went better from the floor: Threes by Nate Linhart and James Robinson made it 34:39. Andreas Seiferth even cut the deficit to 42:43 from the line with 21 seconds left in the half after an unsporting foul by Dwayne Evans.
The Heroes Of Tomorrow benefited from two aspects after the break. Ludwigsburg initially no longer scored as much and did not exert such strong pressure in defense as it did in the first half. Nevertheless, the visitors stayed in front and also struck back when York drained his only bucket from downtown to make it 49:52: After calling their own timeout, they stretched the lead to 59:51 after a three-pointer by Kerron Johnson and a steal by Adika Peter-McNeilly. However, the final spell went to Medi Bayreuth, who cut the gap to the magic difference of five points – 54:59 – through De’Mon Brooks. Medi then reduced the deficit further with free throws, before a wild shot from outside by McCray wriggled its way through the hoop off the board (57:62). Steve Wachalski hit back with a three-point play, but the recuperated Dwayne Evans drained a further three on the buzzer. After a brief consultation between the referees, however, it was disallowed as having been scored after the buzzer.
Fired on by the crowd, Medi came back out and tied the scores at 62:62 with free throws by Assem Marei. David McCray again responded with a bucket from outside for MHP RIESEN, who now had the momentum again. Five points in a row gave Ludwigsburg a boost it capitalized on. Justin Sears, who was almost unstoppable in the final period, gave his team the first double-digit lead of the evening from the foul line (66:76) to cap a 14:4 run by the club from Swabia. De’Mon Brooks struck back quickly with a bucket from beyond the arc, but after that the Heroes Of Tomorrow no longer found an effective means of breaking down Ludwigsburg’s defense, which was now solid again and did not reveal any crucial gaps.
Medi Bayreuth’s disappointment after the game was naturally huge. It would have wanted nothing more than to advance to the round of the final four teams. However, it has now played a total of 22 games more than at the same stage of last season, an additional burden that repeatedly takes its toll and that no one could have expected before the season due to the club’s incredible success in the Champions League. As a result, Medi Bayreuth slightly lacked the freshness needed to pull off another sensation in the second leg of the quarter-final against a Ludwigsburg team that has eight contingency players.
Even though their club did not manage to pull off a big shock and qualify for the Final Four, all Bayreuth basketball fans can be very proud of their team, which has already surpassed its achievements from the past season.
Raoul Korner commented: “That hurts. It’s very disappointing for us, as we wanted to write a further bit of history. We have to accept that Ludwigsburg was the better team and deserved to advance. Once again, I’m very proud of the team. It did a magnificent job. We’ve already played 22 games more than at this time last season. The way this team is performing is fantastic. Now we have to summon up all our energy for the next game. We’ll again work as hard as we can on Friday. I’d also like to thank all the fans who got behind us in this historic game.”