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Brose Bamberg knocks the title-holders out to advance to the Final Four

Athen, 04-03-2019

It was a 67:69 defeat in a tough, fiercely contested encounter at AEK Athens, but Brose Bamberg’s 71:67 lead from the first leg was enough for it to advance. The team of Head Coach Federico Perego pulled off a shock in its first season in the Champions League to knock the title-holders out of the competition in the quarter-finals. The German cup winners will therefore play in the Final Four on May 3 and 5, 2019, when the semi-finals and final will be staged on one weekend.

A tight game ensued from the outset in front of 15,000 Athens fans, some of whom fired on their team frenetically, in the OAKA Olympic Indoor Hall, as the defensive ranks thwarted the attacking efforts of the two sides: They both missed a lot of shots, but Bamberg allowed the home side to snap up too many offensive rebounds in the first period and so Athens opened up a 4:9 gap midway through it. Bamberg was then increasingly able to set up Cliff Alexander under the basket and so catch up. The home side was hardly able to stop the center (8 points, 9 rebounds) and it was he who put the visitors ahead for the first time (13:12). Both teams then fought tenaciously for every ball and the lead changed hands frequently (17:20 and 23:22). Shortly before the break, Bamberg trailed by six points for the first time (24:30), which would have meant it had the poorer aggregate and so would be eliminated. Yet Bamberg was not to be shaken off and reduced the deficit to 32:36 by half-time.

However, simple mistakes began to creep into the visitors’ game more and more at the start of the third period and Athens pulled 37:45 ahead. Tyrese Rice got his side back into the encounter almost single-handedly with two buckets from downtown and a lay-up (45:46), after which Ricky Hickman put Bamberg ahead again (47:46). However, two threes by Athens snatched the lead back at the end of the period (49:54). And the visitors were caught completely napping at the start of the final quarter: They conjured up too few good moves in offense and then conceded an unsporting foul in defense, as well as a needless foul as an Athens player was attempting a three-pointer. The defending champions produced a 12:2 run to surge 51:63 in front and had one foot in the Final Four with six minutes remaining. But Bamberg unfurled all their passion: Bryce Taylor (11 points) drained three successive buckets from beyond the arc in the space of two minutes to cut the deficit to 60:65 and put Bamberg back in contention. Trailing by 61:67 with three-and-a-half minutes to go, Perego’s players defended with all their strength and smartness and prevented the home side from making easy points. Augustine Rubit and Tyrese Rice cut the gap to 65:67, then Athens stretched its lead to 65:69 (which would have meant overtime), but top scorer Tyrese Rice (25 points) made it 67:69 with eight seconds left on the clock. Bamberg defended against the home side’s final attack skilfully, with the result that Augustine Rubit (9 points) was able to snap up the rebound and ensure Bamberg advanced to the Final Four.

Federico Perego commented: “The congratulations go to my team, the staff, the physiotherapist, the Team Manager, the Media Director, and to all those who are around the team everyday and do such an incredible job. It wasn’t easy to survive here. The OAKA is one of the loudest arenas in the world and the fans are boisterous. We managed to keep our cool and make the right decisions, even in tough moments. Once again: congratulations to the team. It’s deservedly in the Final Four!”