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Brose Bamberg goes ahead in the quarter-final against title-holders Athens

Bamberg, 03-27-2019

Brose Bamberg has taken the lead in its quarter-final encounter with AEK Athens in the Champions League: The team of Head Coach Federico Perego won the first leg by 71:67 to create a promising springboard for the second leg in a week’s time. Only “promising” because Bamberg missed a number of shots in its strong opening spell (8:0) and in crunch time and so failed to build a more comfortable cushion.

Bamberg suffered a shock going into the encounter: Elias Harris, who has recently been in impressive form, injured his neck after the final training session and was not able to play. However, the 28-year-old watched on as his teammates got off to a strong start against Athens. Cliff Alexander made three slam-dunks in the first two minutes to give his side a lightning start (6:0). However, Bamberg was subsequently too negligent with its attacks and free throws (in particular Tyrese Rice was prominent in that regard with four bad passes and seven missed shots) and so only led by 8:0 after eight minutes instead of by what should have been a double-digit margin – because Bamberg was flawless in defense in the opening phase. Athens were not given any easy attacks, missed 12 shots and conceded six turnovers against the home side’s defense. Toward the end of the first period, the Greek club capitalized on its chances, cut the deficit to 11:10 and, despite the fact that Bamberg led by 20:14, went 28:30 ahead at half-time.

After the break, the title-holders under Bamberg’s former Head Coach Luca Banchi added two lay-ups to extend the gap to 28:34. Yet the visitors were not able to pull further than six points in front (36:42). Cliff Alexander (19 points), who was unstoppable under the basket, and Ricky Hickman (12) with a lay-up and bucket from downtown tied the scores at 47:47. Augustine Rubit (15 points) put Bamberg 49:47 ahead, but Athens struck back with a three to make it 49:50 at the end of the third quarter. Perego’s players stepped up a gear in the final period. Patrick Heckmann (8 points) and Bryce Taylor drained shots from beyond the arc to put the home side 61:56 in front. When Cliff Alexander made another slam-dunk after a fine pass by Rubit, Tyrese Rice stole possession to add a lay-up (67:58) and Alexander crowned his performance with his next slam-dunk (69:60), it looked like Bamberg would win by a pretty clear margin with two minutes remaining. However, the visitors now played extremely aggressively, forced Bamberg to miss shots and concede turnovers and so were able to reduce the deficit to four points going into the second leg.

Federico Perego commented: “We went into the game with the right mindset and defended strongly over the whole 40 minutes. We missed a number of easy shots at the start because we were too hurried, but that happens. We knew it would be a tough battle. We’re happy with the result and the way we played against the reigning champions.”