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s.Oliver Würzburg returns empty-handed from the North Sea coast

Bremerhaven, 02-02-2018

s.Oliver Würzburg suffered a setback in the battle for a playoff berth, losing 72:80 on the road against Bremerhaven Polar Bears on the 20th matchday of the easyCredit German Basketball League. The main reason for the defeat was the second period, in which the home side was able to open up a double-digit lead.

Head Coach Dirk Bauermann was without Kresimir Loncar and Leon Kratzer in Bremerhaven – Würzburg’s captain was ill and so not able to join his teammates on their longest journey to an away game of the season, while Kratzer has been missing for three weeks due to an ankle injury. Nevertheless, the club from Lower Franconia was brimming with confidence at the start: Although the Polar Bears went 6:2 ahead to begin with, Maurice Stuckey then drained a bucket from downtown off the board to spark a run of 12 points without reply by the visitors, forcing the home side’s Head Coach Arne Woltmann to call his first timeout with the score at 6:14 in the sixth minute.

Things then went better for Bremerhaven, who shed its initial nervousness and was able to fight back and close the deficit to 15:16 in the space of three minutes. Würzburg gave as good as it got and took a three-point lead going into the second period (17:20). The club from Lower Franconia also put up stiff resistance in defense in the opening minutes of the second quarter, but allowed the Polar Bears to throw it out of its stride in attack over large stretches.

With the exception of four free throws and a bucket from beyond the arc, all by Vytenis Lipkevicius, no shot dropped for the visitors between the 11th and 19th minute, whereas Bremerhaven grew in confidence and added 25 points in this spell. Dirk Bauermann spoke afterwards about a “disastrous second period that cost us the game at the end of the day.”

The Polar Bears took the lead back in the 14th minute with a lay-up by their captain Dominique Johnson (23:22) and then stretched it to 15 points, before Dejan Kovacevic made the half-time score 42:29. “Apart from on the first five minutes of the game, we didn’t do what we wanted to. We made it too comfortable for the Polar Bears at home and, with their fans behind them, they fully deserved to win,” said Robin Benzing.

After the break, things went better again in offense for the visitors, but Johnny Berhanemeskel produced the right response to every successful action by Würzburg in offense in the first six minutes of the second half. The 25-year-old Canadian added ten points in succession and so thwarted any sort of comeback single-handedly. Würzburg was also not able to reduce the deficit in the second half of the third period and so went into the last ten minutes trailing by 63:50.

The Polar Bears were also initially able to defend their double-digit lead in the final quarter – it was only when Cliff Hammonds and Robin Benzing drained two buckets from outside with four minutes remaining that the visitors managed to put the home side under pressure again, albeit briefly. However, the lead did not fall below six points and, with 33 seconds left on the clock, the Polar Bears’ playmaker Jordan Hulls drained two free throws to make the final score 80:72.

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