Berlin Drop Ulm in 2-0 Hole
Ratiopharm Arena, Neu-Ulm – Levon Kendall scored 23 points and David Logan added 19 points as ALBA Berlin held off ratiopharm ulm 90-89 in Game 2 of their quarterfinal series in the BEKO Basketball Bundesliga Playoffs. Berlin now lead the best-of-five series 2-0 and look to close it out Thursday night at home.
Unlike Game 1 that turned into a blowout for ALBA, this game was back-and-forth throughout, each team gaining control during stretches only to give it up minutes later to the other. Ulm were hoping to ride their home court support to victory and it started out that way. Cameron Long made all his shots, his 7 points gave the Orange a 21-18 lead after the first quarter.
Edgar Sosa was the story in the second quarter, scoring 10 points on 4-for-4 shooting, as Ulm held onto a 44-40 lead at halftime. But Kendall was heating up with 10 points and kept the two-time defending German Cup champs close.
After the break, Logan joined the party, hitting two three-pointers early in the third as Berlin retook the lead for the first time since early in the first quarter. Per Günther then took over, answering immediately with trey of his own. Another bucket and three-pointer, Günther had helped Ulm build a 59-52 lead. Kendall then converted a three-point play with dunk, and then six more free-throws – the last two thanks to a technical foul on Ulm head coach Thorsten Leibenath – and Berlin were back ahead 61-59. Logan finished the quarter the way he started, two more three’s and 13 points alone in the 10 minutes, ALBA held on to a 70-69 lead. Logan finished shooting 6-for-10 from beyond the arc.
Sosa and the BBL’s Under-23 Player-of-the-Year Daniel Theis were intent on making the final quarter theirs. Ten points combined by the two players gave Ulm a late 82-77 lead with 5:50 left in the game. Kendall was the thorn on the home team’s side, stopping Ulm’s momentum with a bucket and free-throws – he finished 11-for-11 from the charity stripe. Clifford Hammonds hit Berlin’s final and 13th three-pointer to secure the lead 86-82.
Mark Howard had a solid game up to that point, and he added two scores to give Ulm one final shot at winning, down 87-86 with :19.7 seconds left. After Reggie Redding’s two free-throws to give ALBA a 89-86 lead, Ulm set themselves up for a possible game-tying three-point shot. But Howard ruined an 18-point, 9-rebound effort with a turnover and, who else, Kendall picked up the loose ball and got it Redding, who got a free throw and an insurmountable lead with :05 seconds left. Adam Hess’ buzzer-beating three-pointer was not enough and Berlin can look to wrap up the series with a sweep.
“You could see the character of this team, especially in the last couple of minutes when we start to defend physically and strong and the way we want,” said Berlin head coach Sasa Obradovic. “I was not happy with the way we played but in the end, the win counts in the playoffs and that is the most important.”
“We’ve done it all year,” agree Jan-Hendrik Jagla with his coach regarding his teammates’ character. “We kept at it, never put our heads down, we never thought for one second that we would lose this game.”
And to sweep away Ulm? “Close out games are always tough, they are going come to Berlin with nothing to lose,” added Jagla. “We are going to play at home in front of our fans, so it’s very hard to beat us.”
On the other side, Theis pointed to not only Howard’s turnover but the entire team letting victory slip away. “We had too many turnovers at the end. You can’t have that at the end against Berlin.”
Will it change on Thursday? “We saw today that we can beat Berlin,” added Theis. “Our goal is to play 40 minutes and finish the game off.”
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