medi Bayreuth has already clinched its place in the quarter-finals with one game day left in the second group stage in the FIBA Europe Cup. The team of captain Bastian Doreth defeated SL Benfica by 91:77 (34:50) in Portugal’s capital Lisbon on Wednesday evening thanks to a magnificent second half to capture its fourth win out of five games. As a result, the team of Head Coach Raoul Korner has not only reached the last eight, but is also certain of finishing top of Group I.
It is still not clear who the HEROES OF TOMORROW’s opponents in the quarter-final will be after their final group game at home against the Belgian club Spirou Basket Charleroi on February 4: The teams in Group J – Tsmoki-Minsk (Berlarus), U-BT Cluj Napoca, CSM CSU Oradea (both from Romania) and Ironi Ness Ziona (Israel) – are separated by just one win after the fifth game day. The quarter-final encounters have been scheduled by FIBA for March 4 and 11.
After the team of Head Coach Raoul Korner got off to a good start (12:5 in the 5th minute), the Portuguese club’s long-range shooters found their range more and more. Rafael Lisboa’s bucket from over nine meters out at the end of the first period was already the fourth (plus three free throws by Arnette Hallman after 3-point shooting fouls) his side drained, enabling it to take a 23:20 advantage after the first ten minutes.
The game remained evenly poised at the start of the second period, too, with the lead changing hands on just about every attack up to the 13th minute (30:29). Yet all of a sudden nothing seemed to click in the HEROES OF TOMORROW’s play. medi went a whole 5:54 minutes without adding a point and so trailed by 30:44 in the 18th minute. And that was not all: A further three by Anthony Hilliard to make it 32:50 meant its entire advantage from the home game between the two clubs had been canceled out with 1:20 minutes to go before the break.
The around 30 medi fans who had made the journey rubbed their eyes in disbelief at the half-time score of 34:50. Yet while some viewers in Germany may have already made their way to bed by that time, the HEROES OF TOMORROW fired each other up again in the dressing room. Raoul Korner’s players came back on court determined to close the deficit step by step and, as in the home game, produced a second half that deserved the grade “A+.” Bayreuth’s fans again had to rub their eyes as they saw their side tie the scores at 50:50 in less than five minutes. Simply everything was right in the third period: fight, passion and, above all, defending that allowed Benfica to add just nine points. However, Raoul Korner’s team had to wait until the last shot of the quarter to snatch the lead again, when Bryce Alford drained a bucket from beyond the arc to make it 61:59 for medi.
The HEROES OF TOMORROW were now ablaze, stepped up another gear and pulled 70:59 in front in just 2:10 minutes. All of the just over 500 spectators in the arena could now feel that medi would not let this game slip out of its grasp again. Bastian Doreth, the man of the evening for the HEROES OF TOMORROW, finally sealed victory with his three to make it 87:70 and give medi its highest lead.
Once more, the captain led by example and gave his side the boost of energy it needed at the start of the second half. Apart from displaying his usual unbridled commitment, the captain also put points on the board in this game: 16 in total, along with three rebounds and four assists, ensuring the number 10 ended up with the best efficiency rating (22) of all players on court.
Bastian Doreth (medi Bayreuth) commented: “At half-time, we kept on saying to ourselves that we had to step up our game a bit, especially in defense, which we failed to do in the second period in particular. Lisbon made some difficult shots in the first half, but we were sure they wouldn’t be able to keep that up in the second. In the second half, we moved the ball very well in offense and created open shots, which then dropped. We knew we had to keep cool and we definitely have the quality to turn a game around despite trailing by such a wide margin. Our objective was naturally to qualify for the quarter-final and we also wanted to make certain of that here in Portugal. We’re over the moon about the honor of representing the city and club internationally. It makes us mighty proud!”
The HEROES OF TOMORROW do not have much time to celebrate, as they face their next game this Sunday, when the team of Head Coach Raoul Korner travels to Hesse to play JobStairs GIESSEN 46ers. The tip-off in the Sporthalle Ost in Gießen is at 3 p.m.