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Brose Bamberg defeats Alba Berlin in a thrilling cup final

Bamberg, 02-17-2019

Crazy! In a thrilling cup final, Brose Bamberg captured its first title for more than one-and-a-half years with a wafer-thin 83:82 victory over hot favorites Alba Berlin to lift the German cup for the sixth time in the club’s history. This title will be a milestone for the team of Head Coach Federico Perego.

Five weeks – that is how short a time it has taken Bamberg to climb out of a hellish situation and scale the basketball heights: The embarrassing 67:85- home defeat against Vechta in which it produced a woefully desolate display in defense, resulting in the dismissal of Head Coach Ainars Bagatskis, was just 36 days ago. Five weeks in which the new Head Coach Federico Perego also went through small ups and downs, but in which he also instilled his players with a new identity and intensity, especially in defense. And that was precisely the crucial factor that won them the cup – and against a Berlin side that in the last one-and-a-half years has given young players a lot of time on court under its new Head Coach Alejandro Garcia Reneses and boasts stable, tough defending coupled with the most accurate strike force in the German league (an average of 91.3 points a game). Yet one Bamberg youngster robbed Berlin of its big advantage “on the fly”: Louis Olinde. His influence in offense was modest: a meager two shots, one bucket and two points. But in his 15 minutes on court, Olinde almost completely shut Berlin’s Luke Sikma out of the game. Olinde so unnerved last season’s most valuable player (MVP) that the latter missed seven of his nine shots and made just four instead of his usual average of around 12 points.

With tough defending that probably took Berlin by surprise, Bamberg forced the visitors to concede nine turnovers in the first period and, also thanks to nine points by Elias Harris, who finished with a total haul of 15, led 20:12 in the first quarter and then went in at half-time 44:37 in front. Bamberg could have decided the encounter in the third period if it had kept up its focus in defense even longer. Although it repeatedly harried Berlin into taking last-ditch shots, the visitors were able to snap up 11 rebounds under the home side’s basket and so made 16 out of their 17 points at the second attempt. Nevertheless, Bamberg extended its gap a little and took the period 19:17 to move 63:54 ahead. Augustine Rubit opened the final quarter by giving his side its first double-digit lead (65:54), but Berlin hit back with a number of wild threes that slashed Bamberg’s lead to 78:76 with 90 seconds remaining – and with 51 seconds to go, Bamberg slipped behind again for the first time since the third minute (79:80). Top scorer Tyrese Rice (20 points) made his first free throw, but missed the next. Bamberg grabbed the offensive rebound, but then lost possession, allowing Berlin to make a slam-dunk – 80:82 with 29 seconds left. Bamberg still had one attack – would it be defeat or the cup? Nikos Zisis initiated the attack, passed to Tyrese Rice as the shot clock ran down, but his shot from downtown with five seconds remaining only hit the hoop. Augustine Rubit snapped up the offensive rebound, moved the ball quickly to Patrick Heckmann, who – harassed by a defender – passed right across the court to the free-standing Nikos Zisis (19 points) – and the stalwart drained his fifth three of the game to make it 83:82 with 2.4 seconds left on the clock. Bamberg defended strongly against Berlin’s last attack and so took the trophy!

Federico Perego commented: “It was a great game. Our team has come on incredibly in the past month, so we were able to match such a strong side like Alba Berlin and beat it in the end. We played very solidly in defense and controlled Berlin with its great talent. That was a great victory and the support from our fans was outstanding. In the end, we were helped by the experience of a number of players. It’s a big advantage in such situations to have a Nikos Zisis and Tyrese Rice in your team.”