Xion Dukes Klosterneuburg reached the finals of the Austrian Admiral Basketball Bundesliga for the first time in 22 years as the nine-time champions roared back to beat ECE Bulls Kapfenberg, 98-90, to clinch their semifinals series 3-1 and set up a finals date with Allianz Swans Gmunden.
Trailing 87-80 on the road with just over four minutes left, Curtis Bobb nailed a three-pointer to start an 18-3 Dukes run and put Klosterneuburg back in the finals.
“The team was mentally very strong today. We were down later and many didn’t believe any more in us. But everyone in the team only thought about the victory. And now we are overjoyed to be in the finals,” said Dukes coach Werner Sallomon.
Ramiz Suljanovic paced the Dukes with 23 points while Bobb, who tallied seven points in the final Klosterneuburg surge, ended with 21. Christoph Nagler added 21 points and five assists.
Demetrius Nelson scored 21 points in a losing effort for three-seed Kapfenberg, who had stolen the home court advantage in game one by winning at the second-seeded Dukes. Larry Gordon had 18 points while Jeremy Fears – playing for the first time since mid-April – added a double-double of 13 points and 11 assists.
After reaching six straight Austrian finals (1999-2004) and winning four straight from 2001 to 2004, the Bulls once again failed to reach the finals.
The finals will be a showdown of the top two seeded teams, as top seed Allianz Swans Gmunden swept no. 4 WBC Raiffeisen Wels 3-0 to reach their fourth straight finals and ninth in the past 10 years. It’s the 19th time in the 26th playoffs that the top two teams are facing off in the finals. The top seed has won 13 times – but the last time came in 2005 when Gmunden beat Oberwart Gunners. Since then, the second seed has won the last three 1-vs-2 matchups.
The Swans, who will be without two of their top scorers in Richard Poiger and Robert Arnold, will be looking for their fifth title following the threepeat of 2005-2007 and the 2010 championship. The Dukes will be going for their 10th crown and their fifth since the inception of the knockout playoffs in Austria in 1987.
Game one of the best-of-five finals – with a 2-2-1 format – takes place on Saturday at the Volksbank Arena in Gmunden with game two on Wednesday, May 16, in Gmunden.
In other Austrian league news, there have been two coaching changes as Neno Asceric stepped down from 2011 champions Oberwart Gunners, who were swept in the first round of the playoffs by Wels; and after leaving Arkadia Traiskirchen Lions, Andrea Maghelli moved to BC Vienna to replace Heinz Gaisrucker, the first coach to lead BC Vienna into the ÖBL playoffs, and takes over as the club’s sports boss and youth coordinator.
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.