Staying Alive


Posted by Salman Mitha

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Beko BBL Playoffs – Quarterfinals Blog

Salman Mitha at the Audi Dome, May 15 – With their backs against the wall, FC Bayern Basketball pushed back and continued their season for one more game.

Jared Homan notched his second double-double of the series with 20 points and 12 rebounds as Bayern defeated the Artland Dragons 82-71 to even their best-of-five quarterfinals series at 2-2.

Homan was also a force in the middle, blocking four shots and changing many others, and dished out four assists.  He opened the game with the first points for the hosts and his teammate in the paint chevon Troutman also scored to make it 4-4.

Sport Eagle Beko BBL Playoffs Bayern Basketball vs. Artland Dragons Game 4


Bayern jumped out to the lead when Je’Kel Foster, Steffen Hamann, and Jonathan Wallace hit three-pointers during a 15-5 run and Foster hit another trey right before the buzzer to end the first quarter up 30-16.

FCB shot lights out in the first 10 minutes, 11-for-15 from the floor including 4-of-5 from beyond the arc and threatened to blow this one out early.

The Dragons did not let the game slip away, slowing down the game, forcing Bayern into poor shooting, and making shots themselves.  Johannes Strasser hit two from downtown and Nathan Peavy woke up, scoring 6 points to cut the deficit to 44-39 going into the halftime break.

Artland continued their form at the beginning of the third quarter, consecutive three pointers by David Holston and Brandon Thomas got the visitors to 52-50 with 4:14 left.  But Homan and Foster were there to answer, each scoring 4 points to keep the Dragons at bay.

The red wave continued at the beginning of the final period, Wallace, Troutman and Aleksandar Nadjfeji completed the 11-0 run with scores and extended the lead to 69-57.

Wallace would hit an open trey that signaled victory at 74-60 and Hamann’s fall away bank shot with two minutes left put the final nail in the game.

Bayern Guard Steffen Hamann has taken it to the hoop throughout the series. Photo: Sperduto / Sport Eagle

Hamann finished with 13 points and 5 assists, Fosters also added 13 points with 8 rebounds.  Wallace (13 points), Troutman (12) and Nadjfeji (11) completed the balanced attack for the Reds.  Peavy scored 17 points in the losing effort, and Thomas hit four treys on the way to 14 points for Artland.

The deciding Game 5 is on Thursday, May 17th in Quakenbrück, the winner will earn the right to play defending league champion Brose Baskets in the Beko BBL Playoffs Semifinals.  If the trend from the first four games hold, the team that jumps out to the early lead will win.  The teams have done it both at home and on the road, one more game left to decide the winner.

Quarterfinals (Best of five)

Brose Baskets vs. Telekom Baskets, BAM win 3-1
Game 1 BON, 75-74
Game 2 BAM, 67-53
Game 3 BAM, 102-92
Game 4 BAM, 84-82

ratiopharm ulm vs. NY’er Phantoms, ULM win 3-0
Game 1 ULM, 101-79
Game 2 ULM, 96-94
Game 3 ULM, 85-76

ALBA Berlin vs. s.Oliver Baskets, WUR win 3-1
Game 1 BER, 75-67
Game 2 WUR, 79-66
Game 3 WUR, 91-84
Game 4 WUR, 66-60

Artland Dragons vs. FC Bayern Basketball, tied 2-2,
Game 1 FCB, 82-68
Game 2 ART, 92-84
Game 3 ART, 83-67
Game 4 FCB, 82-71
Game 5 May 17 Quackenbrück

Super Tuesday

Three teams face the end of the road tonight in the Beko BBL Playoffs, setting up an exciting triple-header of Game 4’s.

Defending league champions Brose Baskets experienced a hiccup losing Game 1 at home against the Telekom Baskets Bonn, but have gained control of the series and look to close it out on the road.  Brose head coach Chris Fleming promised that there would be a different team after that loss, and Bamberg have won Games 2 and 3 by a combined 24 points, not allowing any chance for a repeated upset on their way to a Freak-Peat.

The biggest surprise is second seed ALBA Berlin on the brink of being ousted by the s.Oliver Baskets.  After winning Game 1 as expected, Würzburg have gained control with convincing wins and will hope to make it an all-Bavarian semifinal against Ulm.  Berlin were thought to be Bamberg’s opponent in the Finals but they will have to win tonight just for a chance to stay alive.  ratiopharm ulm are the only team to sweep through their quarterfinal series and will rest up, awaiting the winner of this series.

The Artland Dragons have regained home court advantage by beating FC Bayern Basketball 83-67 without their suspended star David Holston.  The series returns to Munich and so does Holston, hoping to close out the series and move on to the semifinals.

Sport Eagle will have Salman Mitha tweeting live from the Audi Dome during Game 4 between FC Bayern Basketball and Artland Dragons.  Follow the game and action from the other matchups on Twitter @Sal_SportEagle.

Ulm Sweep Up

Beko BBL Playoffs – Quarterfinals Blog

Craig White in Ulm, May 13 – ratiopharm ulm overcame a start slow but come back to beat the New Yorker Phantoms Braunschweig 85-76 and clinch a spot in the Beko BBL semifinals after clean sweep in the best-of-five series.

The first quarter was all about the Phantoms, who started strongly.  Braunschweig who had made improvements over the first two defeats were playing great defence and taking advantage of all the space being created by Igor Milosevic and took an early lead.  The usual spark from Isaiah Swann and Per Günther couldn’t be seen for Ulm.

Luckily, some inspired blocking and rebounding from Dane Watts and Keaton Nankivil kept the first quarter competition.  Slowly but surely Ulm found their grove, scoring points from all areas of the key, and went on a 19-3 run to finish the first quarter up 31-17.

Start of the second quarter and Braunschweig needed to make things happen.  However, Ulm made changes by bringing on Tommy Mason-Griffin to replace Günther.  The timing of this couldn’t be better, NYP had just brought on LaMarr Greer and Michael Umeh who were playing like they were inspired, something needed to be done.

The moment Mason-Griffin entered the court, he started improving the creativity and explosive speed in which the offence could then attack, which was perfect for Ulm’s big man John Bryant who started to impose himself on the fixture scoring easy buckets and playing strong defence.  Ulm went into halftime leading 46-31.

Could coach Sebastian Machowski bring his team back from the brink?  The third quarter starts and both sides battle hard to impose themselves for the remainder of the tie.  Ulm’s Günther started to get more involved in the game and kept his team’s momentum, he suddenly appeared able to visualize complete plays from his first pass to points bring scored, which kept the home sides scoreboard ticking over.

However, Greer found his mojo, slowly and surely the away side started to bring themselves back into the game.  It had become a situation where, the contest would be decided by the strongest defence, who would take the responsibility to show their brute strength.  This would be determined in the final quarter, as the score after three quarters had Ulm leading Braunschweig by 58-51.

Its all Braunschweig at the beginning of the fourth as Greer and Immanuel McElroy were finding their way through to the hoop with much more regularity, mainly using brute force.  Although, there were a few touches of elegance.  Suddenly for the first time since the sixth minute of first quarter the scores were level.  Was the entire series going to be put under threat it in the last two minutes?

No, it didn’t matter how well the away side played, Swann, Günther and Bryant showed that “form is temporary, class is permanent.”  Ulm’s entire team were superb, led by the three stars who started to perform at the opportune moment and kept their side in front.

The Phantoms were game but Per Günther led his team with 18 points and five assists. Photo: Sperduto / Sport Eagle

The Phantoms were game but Per Günther led his team with 18 points and five assists. Photo: Sperduto / Sport Eagle
As the clock timed down for the final 10 secs, Ulm had done enough.  They had beaten Braunschweig 85-76, a clean sweep and a week off for the winners before they go into semifinals.  They await the winner of ALBA BERLIN and the s.Oliver Baskets.

Craig White is a sports reporter for Sport Eagle.  You can email him at and follow him on Twitter @Cags_SportEagle.

Artland edge Bayern, 92-84

The Artland Dragons season was on the brink.  They lost their home-court advantage after losing Game 1, but after returning the favor and ruining FC Bayern Basketball’s home playoff debut, they once again control the series.

David Holston scored 21 points and dished out five assists, Anthony King added 13 points and 12 rebounds as the Dragons jumped out early on FC Bayern and won 92-84 in an intense playoff game.   The loss was only Munich’s second loss in the league at home.

Sport Eagle Beko BBL Playoffs Bayern Basketball vs. Artland Dragons Game 2

Like Bayern did to them in Game 1, Artland led early, aided by a 17-3 run in the first quarter to take a 22-13 lead after the first ten minutes.  They continued to pour it on in the second, a 12-3 spurt took the lead up to 32-16 with 7:20 left before halftime.

Munich responded with an 14-2 run to cut into the lead, and the score stood 36-30.  But Holston sparked a 13-0 run for the Dragons to end the first half with 8 points, and teammate Brandon Thomas stole the ball on an inbounds play to score right before the halftime buzzer to extend the lead 49-30 going into the locker rooms.

At the restart, the team from Quakenbrück continued to control the game, up by 22 points with 7 minutes left in the third quarter.  Bayern made yet another run, spurred on by their home crowd, and set up what would be a memorable and possible series changing final quarter, only down 67-52.

John Strasser and Holston nailed treys at the start of the fourth quarter and the lead was now 20 points for the visitors.  A few minutes later Holston drove, scored a bucket and drew a foul to make it 79-59 with 4:49 left and perhaps ice the game.  However, he took a swipe and landed either his hand or elbow on the face of Bayern guard Steffen Hamann.  Tempers flared but luckily the referees kept matters under control.

David Holston may be shorter than most players in the league, but his shots were out-of-reach for Bayern. Photo: Sperduto / Sport Eagle (Editor’s Note: check out more pictures from this game on Sport Eagle TV’s Facebook page.)

But Nathan Peavy who had 10 points on the night got involved and was disqualified.  Holston was also ejected, which fired up both FCB and the crowd.  And from that point, Bayern made one last push to come back and win.

Strasser took Holston’s free throw but after that, the Reds went on an 18-6 run, Hamann, Je’kel Foster and Chevon Troutman hitting from downtown during the run, and lead was now only 7 points with a minute left.
Finally, holding on to a 87-81 lead with 24 seconds left, Homan turned it over and forced Bayern to foul and the Dragons held on by hitting free-throws.

Homan had 17 points and 12 rebounds, Troutman also had a double-double with 15-13, and Foster scored 16 points, 12 from three-pointers that came at the most opportune times.  But the big three were unable to overcome the Dragons’ resiliency.

The series is tied at 1-1 but Artland only have to win at home the rest of the series and they will move on to the playoff semi-finals.  The question is if they will have their leading scorer Holston who may face a suspension.  Game 3 will be on Saturday, May 12th at 14:00.  Teams return to Munich for Game 4 on Tuesday, May 15th.

Ulm Shoot Down Phantoms

ratiopharm arena, Ulm, May 5 – During the season, all the talk was about the Brose Baskets going for their three-peat, and facing off against ALBA BERLIN for that title.

Meanwhile, ratiopharm ulm quietly ended the season as the second-best team.  On Saturday night, they made a loud statement to all the teams in the Beko BBL Playoffs.

Isaiah Swann scored 23 points and All Stars Per Günther and John Bryant added 15 points each as Ulm blew out the New Yorker Phantoms 101-79.

Michael Umeh scored 23 points for Braunschweig in the losing effort as he was the only player who was effective on the night for the visitors.

Ulm lead their best-of-five series 1-0, Game 2 is on Thursday, May 10th in Braunschweig.

Despite a slow start by Ulm that saw the Phantoms take an early 8-2 lead and were ahead after the first quarter 21-16, Günther started to take the ball to the hoop.  The point guard scored 8 points during a 20-8 run that saw the hosts take control at 36-29.

“He had a huge affect on the game, he had tremendous energy on both ends,” said head coach Thorsten Leibenath about his playmaker.  “Not only the points helped us, I felt everybody could see now, hey, if we play with that same kind of energy, we can really put a job on them and that’s what happened, they followed what he did.”

Per Günther jump-started ratiopharm ulm on both ends with his energy. Photo: Sperduto / Sport Eagle (Editor’s Note: check out more pictures from this game on Sport Eagle TV’s Facebook page.)

“We were down, what we did early didn’t work,” said Günther, who only had 2 points in the opening quarter, then went 4-4 on the floor with 2 assists and a steal to jumpstart his team.  “We decided to speed the game up and after JB (Bryant) hits the three, you can see how the crowd is into it and everything goes back to normal and you can play basketball again.”

Braunschweig got back to 36-33 but Ulm was now on fire, especially from long distance.  Bryant, Swann and Steven Michael Esterkamp drilled consecutive treys to extend the lead to 45-33 and they never looked back.  On the night, Ulm shot 15-for-29 from downtown, the Phantoms only 6-19.

Leibenath won the league’s Coach of the Year award for taking Ulm from a relegation battle last year to their lofty perch this year.  It doesn’t hurt to have Günther and this year’s league MVP Bryant.

Bryant was the lone bright spot in the 1st quarter, hitting two three-pointers to keep it close.  As Ulm started their run, the center from California continued to exert his presence, showing why he made the difference this year – changing shots on defense, blocking shots, getting the loose ball, starting the fastbreak, and yes, a perfect night from three-point-land.

“That’s never happened to me – high school, college – never,” admitted Bryant about his perfect night from beyond-the-arc, going 4-for-4.  After three quarters, Ulm led 79-56 and Leibenath decided to sit his big man, along with Swann.

“I think we are deeper than teams think we are and we can play with a good rotation,” stated Bryant.  “We have other guys who can score and play defense.”

For the playoff schedule and travel, Ulm was already watching the team’s minutes.  “The more rest we can give our starters, the better it is,” added Leibenath.  “We managed everyone’s time and that really helps us and shows how valuable the guys off the bench can play for us.”

Keaton Nankivil scored 13 points on the night including a dunk that closed out the game. Photo: Sperduto / Sport Eagle (Editor’s Note: check out more pictures from this game on Sport Eagle TV’s Facebook page.)

Despite the Phantoms’ Michael Umeh scoring 13 points in the 4th quarter to try to get his team back in, Ulm was in control and closed out the game with flair.  Tommy Mason-Griffin hit a couple of treys, and Keaton Nankivil added a three-pointer and an emphatic dunk.  The lead was 92-72 and the game was over.

There’s still a long way to go in the playoffs before Ulm can crash the party and that sits fine with Leibenath.

“I’m happy if they forget about us.  We just take one game at a time and everything we’ll see after.”

But for the players, they are happy to make a statement to the other teams.

“They’ve always underestimated us the whole year and we get no respect,” said Bryant.  “We are in second place for a reason.  It’s gonna be a tough game for anyone we play.”

“Bottom line is that you gotta respect us,” added Swann.  “We are coming out to try to win this.  We’re gonna bring it every game.”

Freak Ending in Bamberg

Stechert Arena, Bamberg, May 4 – Bayern Basketball head coach Dirk Bauermann was talking about his team playing on the road in the playoffs, traveling to a tough environment against the Artland Dragons.

“The home team in the first game is under the most pressure.  They worked all year to get home court advantage, and then they can lose it all in 40 minutes.”

He might as well have been talking about all the teams, including the Brose Baskets, who have spent TWO years building a fortress that no German team has won in since June 2010.

Until last night.

The Telekom Baskets Bonn never let Bamberg get comfortable the entire game, and kept fighting till the final buzzer.

Benas Veikalas tipped in a missed drive by Talor Battle for the final score before the zeroes hit, giving Bonn the 75-74 win in Game 1 of the quarterfinals series.

PJ Tucker got Brose off to a flying start. Photo: Sperduto/Sport Eagle

Simonas Serapinas led all scorers with 17 points, while Bamberg’s PJ Tucker added 14 points and 9 rebounds.
“After the last game against Frankfurt, we were relieved of a lot of stress and we could play without pressure,” explained Bonn head coach Mike Koch about the game that helped them get into the playoffs.

“We did a great job (tonight), but at the end there was also luck involved, and my team earned the victory with their performance.”

“After the good start, we put ourselves under pressure,” said Brose head coach Chris Fleming.  “18 turnovers hurt us, especially in critical situations when we had the lead and could extend it.  If we give up 29 points in the final quarter, than most of times you will lose a playoff game.”

The game appeared over with 1:38 left when Tibor Pleiss, who scored 10 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, scored two buckets in a row and gave the home squad a 66-60 lead.  But Bonn rallied to tied it, Brose got back in the lead.  But Serapinas’ trey bought it back to 70-69.

At 72-71 Bamberg with 30 seconds left, the lead would change another three times.  Tony Gaffney scored on a drive for Bonn, and then Casey Jacobsen gave the lead back to the home side with :17 seconds left.

A frantic final surge by Bonn included a missed three pointer by Jared Jordan who grabbed his own rebound, passed it off to Battle to set up the winning sequence.  Battle took a look at the clock, drove, his shot hit the back iron and Veikalas was not boxed out, scored over Anton Gavel and Tucker.

Bonn able to crash the boards at the opportune times, a scene that would play out later in the final seconds. Photo: Sperduto/Sport Eagle

It’s the first loss by Brose at home in 48 league games.  The last time they lost was Game 1 of the BBL Finals, which they ended up winning.

“We are looking forward to Game 2, it will be tough, but we will be a complete different team.”

Game 2 is on Wednesday, May 9th in Bonn, tip off at 19:30.

Mission Freak-Peat

May 3 – The Beko BBL Playoffs tip off on Wednesday, as two-time defending league champion Brose Baskets host the Telekom Baskets Bonn.

Brose are also the top seed, finishing first in the standing during the regular season and thus have home-court advantage as long as they play in the postseason.

Since they haven’t lost in almost two years at Stechert Arena, the road to the title goes through Bamberg.

Beat them in Freak City, you have a chance at the title.

They may receive some resistance in the first round, as Bonn played Brose earlier this season in the Champions Cup Final, losing in a close game.  Brose won the Cup for the third consecutive year.

And that’s their goal for the league title – three-peat, or as we’ll call it, Freak-Peat.  This is the playoffs and Bamberg are focused on it.  Look for a sweep in round one.

Brose Baskets from Bamberg, a.k.a. Freak City are ready to defend their home court and titles. Photo: Speduto/Sport Eagle

Brose will likely face a beaten up Artland Dragons or FC Bayern Basketball team, the two other teams in this side of the bracket.  Artland and Bayern finished as the fourth and fifth seeds respectively and played two entertaining games against each other.

The key to this series will be the Dragons keeping home court advantage.  Bayern were their weakest on the road at the beginning of the season and that may come back to haunt them, especially as the trip to Quakenbrück is not easy.

To deflect their weakness, Bayern head coach Dirk Bauermann pointed out his team’s current form (winners of five of the last six on the road) and added some pressure to his opponents.  “The home team in the first game is under the most pressure.  They worked all year to get home court advantage, and then they can lose it all in 40 minutes.”

ratiopharm ulm are the surprise of the year, finishing second in the standings.  They are led by this year’s MVP John Bryant.  The big guy in the middle was second on the team, scoring 14.5 ppg, but always seemed to score the big buckets.  Bryant recorded 12 double-doubles on the season, eight other times finished with nine rebounds.  He was also the All Star Day MVP, helping the International team comeback for the victory.  Bryant is supported by a solid team, led by Isaiah Swann’s 15.2 ppg, and the coach of the year, Thorsten Leibenath.

Ulm swept the season series and won the third place game against Braunschweig, so expect more of the same in a 3-0 sweep.

ALBA BERLIN not only lost home court advantage if they make it against Ulm in the second round by finishing third, but they also gained a tougher opponent.  Like Bayern, the s.Oliver Baskets are newly promoted and made it into the playoffs.  They won’t be an easy lower seed for Berlin, as the team from Würzburg play tough both at home (14-3) and on the road (6-11).

Berlin and Würzburg split their two meetings this year, the Baskets winning big at home and making it tough at the o2 before ALBA pulled off the win.  Expect this series to be close.

The teams have been battling all year, preparing for the final run to glory, and hopefully end the Freak City domination.

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