The semi-finals of both the JBBL (U16) and NBBL (U19) have been played this Saturday in Bamberg. For the younger ones, it was a first-time event while the NBBL went already in its fourth season. Here we go for the round-up of the first day.
- The first game of the day was between the JBBL Title favorite from IBBA Berlin and ALBA Urspring. And it was the team from Berlin that took an early lead behind the elegant scorer Mauricio Marin who had already 16pts and 5rebs in the first half. The Urspring trio Malik Müller, Kevin Bryant and Kalidou Diouf was really quiet and could only combine for 3 points. The team from the South remained in the games through the accelerations of their PG Zaire Thompson who scored 9 of the Urspring 18 first half points. The game level improved in the second half and IBBA driven by their vocal PG Oben Ebof-Etchi could guard their lead in the third quarter but a last minute spurt by Urspring behind the efforts of Müller and Diouf made it close in the final seconds. But it was once again Marin who sealed the deal with yet another jump shot to finish the game. Marin had 28pts (10/21 FGs – 6/12 3FGs) and 7rebs while Malik Müller lead the scorers for Urspring with 14pts (3/13 FGs), 12rebs and 2blks. Urspring missed 15FTs in the game which is certainly one of the reasons why they never could take the lead in the end.
- The second semi-final of the JBBL Top4 was between the hosts of TSV Tröster Breitengüssbach and ALBA Berlin. The locals were the favorites for this one but ALBA Berlin managed to qualify for a Berlin-only final. It was however Breitengüssbach that had the better start and lead at half-time 36-30 behind 9pts 5rebs and 6stls of Philipp Winter. But in the second half, Andrej Pavicevic, the son of ALBA Berlin head coach Luka Pavicevic, stepped up and took the game in his hands. The guard was on the ball on nearly all the big plays and he made the right decisions all the time. After a Technical foul for Breitengüssbach, he made 4/4 FTs in a crucial moment and had a multitude of assists to give his team mates the open looks. ALBA won the game in the end 73-67 and Pavicevic finished with 17pts (6/16 FGs), 8asts and 3stls while Winter had 20pts, 9rebs and 8stls for Breitengüssbach.
- The first game of the NBBL Top4 featured the defending champion ALBA Berlin and the surprise from Franken Hexer Nürnberg. The underdog remained in the game during the first half behind an excellent work of Dennis Ogbe who had 13pts and 8rebs at half. But this close game was also the result of quick three fouls of Niels Giffey who could only play 5 of the first 20 minutes. With him of the court, it was Malte Ziegenhagen who elevated his level and scored 14 first half points. ALBA started the second half strong and with their variations on defense, Franken Hexer had a lot of trouble to score and Giffey started to become factor on offense for ALBA. The game was nearly decided after the third quarter and Franken Hexer could not come back anyone at the end of a season that was however a major success for them. Giffey finished with 19pts (8/12 FGs, 2/2 3FGs), 4rebs and 2stls in just 21 minutes while Ziegenhagen had 21pts (8/16 FGs, 3/9 3s), 7rebs and 5stls. Ogbe could not do a lot anymore in the second half and finished with 23pts (9/17 FGs, 2/8 3s) and 9rebs while big men Daniel Stawowski had 12pts, 10rebs and 3asts.
- The last game of the day will be remembered for a long time by the few people that remained in the JAKO Arena. The finalist from last year, Paderborn played a nearly perfect game for about 39 minutes but had to go home after the final buzzer. The team from the North started really well against ALBA Urspring behind an unstoppable Lars Wendt who scored 20pts in the first half going to the FT line 14 times. Behind him, Paderborn lead 37-23 at halftime executing their offense very well and putting a lot of defensive pressure on an Urspring team that looked close to implosion. In the second 20 minutes, Paderborn’s offense started to struggle as Kevin Bright took now care of Lars Wendt but they remained in the game trough their excellent defense. But the last quarter was a real nail-biter as Urspring manage to cut the lead point by point and you could feel that Paderborn was on the edge of exploding physically against the growing pressure of Urspring. But still three minutes before the final buzzer, Paderborn was up 67-56. And then emerged Kevin Bright in the offense after having played excellent defense throughout the second 20 minutes. The 1992 born forward nailed two important threes to cut the lead and after two made FTs by Engel, Urspring was there again with only a two point deficit. In the following in-bounce play, Paderborn was unable to play the entry pass as it landed on the foot of Lars Wendt and went out of bounds. With 10 seconds on the clock, the ball came to Kevin Bright who nailed the three-point shot from 45 degrees with a hand in his face and 0.2 seconds left. The last attempt from Paderborn was not successful and Urspring really stole this one to go back to the NBBL Final after last year’s absence. Lars Wendt finished with 22pts (4/13 FGs, 2/5 3s), 6rebs and 2stls while Dominik Malinowski had 7pts, 10rebs and 3asts. For Urspring, Justin Raffington did a great job in the paint and scored 18pts, had 10rebs and 2blks while Kevin Bright had 14pts (4/6 3s) and 6rebs.
- The general level of the tournament looked to be a little lower than last year. The absence of Breitengüssbach in the NBBL Top4 is certainly one of the reasons for this as the team around Philipp Neumann would have been a competitor for the National Title. Paderborn came with the same team except Robert Hülsewede and was therefore even smaller on the inside rotations but played certainly the best basketball with the most limited player material in terms of potential. Lars Wendt showed that he can be a brilliant scorer but he struggled to put something on the line when being defended by a taller player. The Final today between ALBA Berlin and ALBA Urspring looks to be a clear case for Berlin but Urspring showed an incredible will to win in the semis and might either be totally pushed and go for it all or mentally so washed out after the win in the semi-finals that Berlin gets it easy.
- The attendance this year was a bit disappointing after the major popular success of last year. The multitude of other events going on at the same time (German Soccer Cup Final, Beko Bundesliga Playoffs, German U18 National Championships,…) as well as the absence of the the hosts in the NBBL tournament may be an explanation for this. However, you could see that as the day went on, the arena got less crowded. The 4 games in a row were probably too much for a lot of locals as they had their “highlight” already in the second game of the day with the hosts of Breitengüssbach playing.
- Niels Giffey told us that right now, he has not made any choice regarding next season. He did not want to confirm that he is going the NCAA way nor that he will stay in Germany. He told us that he has multiple options and will discuss them within the next weeks with his parents and take a decision later on. The “race” for one of the most promising German players is still ongoing.