This was a bitter defeat for Brose Bamberg. After being 10 points behind against Montakit Fuenlabrada on their Champions League debut, the Brose team fought its way back into the game and led 82:74 36 seconds before the final buzzer, helped by an outstanding 33 points from Tyrese Rice… only to lose the match against the Spaniards 88:89 in the last second thanks to an 11-yard “wonder shot” by Francisco Cruz.
It was obvious from the play in the first quarter that the game against the Spanish team from the Madrid region would be tough. There wasn’t much left of the energy and intensity shown by the Bagatskis team during the easy Würzburg victory four days earlier. Bamberg had no answer to the tight-packed defense of the visitors, especially in the first eight minutes... and the Spaniards were gifted too many easy points in defense. 8:18 was the score shortly before the end of the quarter – and Bamberg finally woke up. Tyrese Rice made five points himself, then made some great passes for Elias Harris to make 8 points... and the score was now 19:23. Harris then gave Bamberg the lead for the first time with a fine layup (28:27), and Bamberg scored points with almost every attack up to half time, but they just couldn’t shake off Fuenlabrada, who equalized again and again (41:41 at the break).
The second half resembled the start of the game, with the Spaniards scoring consistently – and after 26 minutes, the scoreboard showed 50:58. Tyrese Rice and Nikos Zisis (10 points) reduced the points gap to 4 before the last quarter... 59:63. And then Tyrese Rice, the Bamberg playmaker, started his one-man show with 33 points – the American opened the final quarter with three 3-pointers in a row and a layup – and Bamberg had a 70:68 lead. When Augustine Rubit (16 points) exploded into action just three minutes before the end of the match, scoring twice in a row with layups and with a bonus free throw, and Stevan Jelovac bagged his only 3-pointer of the evening to make it 80:72 100 seconds before the end, the game seemed to be won for Bamberg. Then things got really hectic: Fuenlabradra changed their tactics, stopping Bamberger attacks with fouls, forcing them to make free throws and stopping the clock. In response, the Spaniards suddenly scored some crazy points and a long throw from the jump of Ian O’Leary 36 seconds before the end gave the Spaniards a lease of new life at 82:77. Rice missed one of his two free throws, but the guests made 3 points 26 seconds before the end and the score was 83:80. Two free throws by Rice were countered by the Spaniards with another three-pointer and the score was 85:83 with 22 seconds on the clock. Rice again missed a free throw, and the visitors got it to 86:85 four seconds before the end. Maurice Stuckey put two free throws safely through the hoop to make it 88:85 – and now Bamberg also committed fouls to prevent Fuenlabrada from scoring any 3-pointers. The outstanding Francisco Cruz made the first free throw to make it 88:86 and deliberately missed the second, giving the Spaniards the opportunity to equalize with an offensive rebound and a fast throw. Augustine Rubit was on the spot, and he tried to grab the ball, but it slipped through his hands. The Spaniards had 2.2 seconds for their attack: Dan Clark threw the ball a long way back to Francisco Cruz, and despite Tyrese Rice’s defense, the Mexican was able to shoot from a good 12 yards – and the ball soared up and into the basket, 88:89 in the last second! The silence was absolutely deafening in the Brose Arena, apart for the celebrations of the Spaniards. That was one bitter defeat!
Head coach Ainars Bagatskis: “It was a really tough game. One good thing was that we didn’t get nervous even when we were ten points back, we continued to play our game. Near the end, we had the game under control, but then we played unnecessarily fast, didn’t put the ball through the hoop and got hit with points in return. In the end Fuenlabrada were lucky with that last 3-pointer, but that’s basketball. We made too many mistakes in the second half, allowed too many rebounds and lost the ball too often – and that all proved to be crucial.”