Probably the tightest race in European basketball as domestic leagues head into the stretch in approaching tournament time is that of the Austrian Bundesliga. Checking in with an update on recent happenings there is David Hein…
With four game days left in the season, nothing is decided in the Austrian Admiral Basketball Bundesliga as three games separate the top five teams. Both Allianz Swans Gmunden and Ece Bulls Kapfenberg have put together winning streaks at just the right moment while Xion Dukes Klosterneuberg cannot get out of their freefall.
Within four days, the 2011 runners-up Gmunden beat regular-season winner Klosterneuberg twice – at home and on the road – to perch themselves atop the Bundesliga table with a 20-6 record. Robert Arnold collected 20 points and nine rebounds while Dan Oppland chipped in a double-double of 13 and 10 as Gmunden won 74-68 on the road. Then four players scored in double figures, paced by Arnold’s 15 as Swans defended their home court 63-59.
Swans head coach Mathias Fischer has his balanced team peaking at just the right moment after taking some time to find the right mix following the off-season departures of stars Deteri Mayes (to Kapfenberg) and Ian Boylan (to Switzerland). But that also had a positive effect on the team.
“We had the goal of making the team younger and dividing up the responsibilities to many players. I think we have done that quite well thus far. We have five or six players who can score in double digits and do it as well. We are very balanced in rebounds and assists and the team functions very well as a team. And we are hard to stop for any opponent because we are hard to figure out,” Fischer was quoted on the team’s official website.
Kapfenberg the past week had the advantage of facing back-to-back games against sixth-placed Carefuel Güssing Knights, who are clearly a level below the top five at 11-15. And the Bulls’ sweep of the Knights increased their winning streak to four games for a 19-7 record and second-place standing in the league.
But the second game at Güssing was not easy, as Deteri Mayes made two free throws with four seconds left to ice Kapfenberg’s 78-77 road victory.
Meanwhile, after rolling through the first part of the season with a 17-3 record – two games better than Gmunden and WBC Raiffeisen Wels – Werner Sallomon’s Dukes just cannot get any breaks. The second loss to Swans extended their losing streak to six games and Klosterneuberg have dropped to fourth with a 17-9 record.
“At the moment we are just missing some stability in the offense. We just are not hitting our easy shots and you can’t afford that in these kinds of close games,” said Sallomon. “But these games against strong teams are good for us. It is a completely different intensity than in the regular season. Those were like friendly games. Now things are really tough. We are having problems with that but it’s getting better. I never said we were the most beautiful, biggest or best when we were winning and I will also not say now that we are bad. We will be there for the beginning of the playoffs.”
All six teams in the second stage H1 section of the league are already qualified for the playoffs along with the top two teams from the H2 section. But Klosterneuberg must try to find their game again if they want to hold the first-round home court advantage for the playoffs.
In fifth place with a similar 17-9 record are defending champions Oberwart Gunners, who lost at home against Kapfenberg and at Wels to snap an eight-game winning streak. But Neno Asceric’s team beat Wels at home, 66-59, to return to their winning ways.
Wels for their part are third in the league with an 18-8 record.
In the H2 section, BSC Raiffeisen Fürstenfeld have won six straight games for first place at 12-13 while BC Vienna are second at 10-14 – both teams on course for the playoffs at the moment, while UBSC Raiffeisen Graz still have a chance to sneak in though they are mired in a four-game losing streak.
Germany-based David Hein is often (justifiably, we think) dubbed by BiE as “the hardest-working man in European sportswriting.” Aside from contributing to BallinEurope, FIBA’s official website and the Bundesliga Basketball League official website, he also writes for numerous German- and English-language outlets on sports from soccer and basketball on down. Check out far-ranging samples of his work at heinnews.com.