Audi Dome, Munich – The goal for FC Bayern Basketball as with their football brethren is to win the German league championship. In their second year, they have taken a major step to accomplishing that goal in the BEKO Basketball Bundesliga.
Tyrese Rice led all scorers with 30 points and Lawrence Roberts added a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds as Bayern relied on sizzling shooting all night to burn the Phoenix Hagen 119-83 and clinch a spot for the playoffs.
“I think we were all in the zone,” admitted Rice with a smile about his performance. “The whole team did a lot of things well that made it easier for me.”
“My team gave it all here, but Munich is the toughest place to play in the league,” said Phoenix head coach Ingo Freyer. “We may have to play in Bamberg, Ulm, or Oldenburg in the playoffs, and that will be easier now that we’ve played here. It’s great to have played against a team like Bayern before the playoffs to gain some motivation and confidence.”
Hagen came into the game on a two game win streak and winners of six of their last seven, hoping their form would overcome the fortress that the Audi Dome has become. Bayern had won their last 11 home games by an average of almost 20 points per game. Make that 12 in a row now.
Bayern jumped out to early 13-7 and 20-14 leads but Hagen kept it close with key three-pointers by Mark Dorris and Ole Wendt. The teams battled back and forth, FCB holding a 27-23 lead after the first quarter.
Bernd Kruel started the second quarter with a bucket to get within 27-25, but that ignited Bayern coach Svetislav Pešić who earned a technical for arguing, which in turn ignited his team. Bayern went on a 28-5 run to blow up Phoenix and blow open the game to lead 55-30. Abe Lodwick scored all eight points for Hagen’s 8-2 run to end the half, but the damage was done as the hosts led 57-38.
Hagen’s shooting was ice cold during the first half, struggling for 6-of-19, while Bayern 11-of-16 during 10-0 and 11-0 runs where it seemed everything was falling in from everyone on the court. Rice had 13 points by the break, Brandon Thomas with 10 points including two three-pointers.
“We missed some shots that we normally make, and we broke down defensively,” said Hagen’s leading scorer David Bell (17 points) about their struggles in the second quarter.. “When we make some shots, we are uptempo and we get energy from that. We came in here to steal a game, we just didn’t do it.”
Rice kept on cooking in the third quarter, 11 points in the period and added a sweet alley-oop to Roberts who finished with a slam – as early as an exclamation point a game can have, midway during the quarter and Bayern led 70-49.
Despite the big lead, Pešić did not step off the gas, giving the soldout home crowd a proper send off in the regular season, leaving the starters in to get 100+ points and put on a dunking display by Roberts, Thomas and Jared Homan. In the fourth, Hagen went on a technical foul streak, allowing Bayern to cash in on the foul line. In the game, the Reds were 34-for-41 from the charity stripe, Phoenix only 16-of-19.
“They (the referees) let them play physical; we foul, they flop, they call a foul,” explained Davin White. “If you get angry, you get a technical foul. We can’t allow the refs to take us away from our game. We got be aggressive and knock down some shots.”
Bayern (20-12) will hope to end their five-game slide on the road as they travel to Ludwigsburg and Bonn and clinch home court advantage for the first round. The key will be the play of Roberts, who has played more minutes since All Star Chevon Troutman’s injury. FCB are 3-4 since Troutman went out of the lineup. Roberts is averaging 10.6 points per game (ppg) and 8.6 rebounds per game (rpg) in the wins, only 5.25 ppg and 5.25 rpg in the losses, including zero points at Trier and Artland.
“We have people down, especially now in the crucial moment of the season heading into the playoffs,” explained Roberts. “People have to step, I’ve been fortunate enough to step in.”
Rice agreed, especially with the contribution from Roberts. “He’s starting to feel healthy and jump a lot more, a healthy Lawrence is going to help in the long run us for sure.”
The team’s leading scorer is frustrated however with the losing streak on the road. “It’s very frustrating to even think about it, we gave away five games on the road and we were winning in all of them. It’s just pure concentration and finishing these games,” admitted Rice. “Every game on the road, we’ve been in it the whole game and then had a meltdown the last 6-7 minutes. We have to be ready for this in the playoffs.”
As for Hagen (17-15), they are just fighting to stay in the playoff hunt. There’s a four-team race for the final three spots, and the Phoenix would lose the tie-break at the moment. They are fortunate to have both final games at home where they are 10-5.
“All the teams are under pressure in the next games to make the playoffs,” said Freyer. “We’ve played well at home, we’ll have our crowd behind us for our last two home games. We have to continue to improve in practice and then it will come in the game.”
Freyer’s men will host the Artland Dragons next Saturday, another team fighting for the playoffs and will be playing their third consecutive road game vs. Hagen after visiting teams at the top of the standings in Ulm and Bamberg.
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