In Austria today will be held what is certainly Europe’s latest all-star festivities; indeed, the Bundesliga playoffs begin on Sunday. BallinEurope contributing writer David Hein updates us on the playoff picture and well as a rundown on all-star event participants.
The 2011 finalists Allianz Swans Gmunden have secured home-court advantage over the course of the Austrian Admiral Bundesliga playoffs while defending champions Oberwart Gunners must steal a road game in their best-of-five showdown with fourth-seeded WBC Raiffeisen Wels.
The first quarterfinal round of the playoffs tips off on Easter Sunday, April 8, while Swans open their series against BC Vienna on Monday. Swans finished the second part of the season as regular season winners with a 23-7 record while Vienna grabbed the second playoff spot from the H2 section with a 12-16 mark.
Having already locked up the top seed in the playoffs, Gmunden won their final game before the post-season, knocking off UBC Carefuel Güssing Knights 78-60.
“I am very happy that nobody got hurt,” said Swans coach Mathias Fischer. “It was a positive close to the season. We only lost seven times, and I am very proud of how this team developed.”
Swans and Vienna split their two games this season with both teams winning at home.
Xion Dukes Klosterneuberg secured the no. 2 seed in the playoffs – and a date with BSC Raiffeisen Fürstenfeld – by beating Wels on the road, 79-69, thanks to 17 points and 11 rebounds by Ramiz Suljanovic, and extending their current winning streak to four games for a 21-9 record.
“We deserved to lose. Klosterneuberg is a title candidate for me. And they proved that again today,” said Wels coach Pete Miller about Klosterneuberg, who won the first section of the season but had lost five games before the most recent winning streak.
Klosterneuberg swept the two games against Fürstenfeld this season.
The third seed is ECE Bulls Kapfenberg, who improved to 21-9 with an 84-80 win at home over Oberwart and will face Güssing in the first round. The Bulls went 4-0 against the Knights during the season, winning the first three games each by 11 points and the most recent matchup on March 11 by one point in Güssing.
“This was a good finish to an excellent regular season. We are confident going into a difficult quarterfinal series against Güssing Knights,” said Kapfenberg general manager Michael Schrittwieser.
The most heated showdown in the playoffs will likely be fourth seeded Wels against five seed Oberwart. The teams split the season series with all four games being won by the home team. The closest margin was seven points, the game won by the Gunners on March 12.
With the loss to Kapfenberg, Gunners head coach Neno Asceric has seen his team drop their last four games. Regardless, the defending champs are looking forward to the playoffs.
“We still are going into the playoffs with a good feeling. We are ready to beat Wels,” said Asceric.
Before the playoffs tip off Easter weekend, however, the Austrian All Star Day will take place on Wednesday April 4.
The Austria team’s starting five includes Moritz Lanegger from Klosterneuberg as well as Romed Viedier and Davor Lamesic from Wels and Thomas Klepeisz and Aleksandar Djuric from Güssing. The bench players are Thomas Schreiner and D.T. Mayes from Kapfenberg, Gmunden’s Matthias Mayer, Stjepan Stazic of BC Vienna, Benedikt Danek from Arkadia Traiskirchen Lions, UBC St. Pölten’s Martin Speiser and Hannes Ochsenhofer from Oberwart. Klosterneuburg head coach Werner Sallomon is the Austria boss while Asceric is the assistant.
The International team starting five are Jean Francois of BC Vienna, Klosterneuburg’s Curtis Bobb, Ali Farokhmanesh and Joe Werner from Wels, and Gary Ware of Fürstenfeld. The reserves for head coach Mathias Fischer of Gmunden and his assistant Pete Miller of Wels are Kapfenberg’s Jeremy Fears, Klosterneuburg’s Ramiz Suljanovic, Dan Oppland and Sharaud Curry from Gmunden, Joey Shaw of Gunners, Samo Grum from UBSC Raiffeisen Graz and Fürstenfeld’s Anthony Shavies.
The All-Star Day will also include a dunking contest with Gmunden’s Reggie Arnold, BC Vienna’s Bryant Matthews, Larry Gordon and Jeremy Fears of Kapfenberg, Todd Brown from Wels, and Mike Hauer from the second-division team Sportunion Harreither Amstetten Falcons.
The three-point shooting contest includes Stjepan Stazic of BC Vienna, Curtis Bobb and Damir Zeleznik from Klosterneuburg, Wels’s Ali Farokhmanesh, Gmunden’s Sharaud Curry, D.T. Mayes and Thomas Schreiner from Kapfenberg, Arkadia Traiskirchen Lions’ Jurica Blazevic, Stefan Ulreich of second-division side BK Mattersburg Rocks, second division Sportunion Harreither Amstetten Falcons’s Stefan Kerschbaummayr, and Austria Women’s Basketball League’s players Annika Pansy from UBI Graz and Flying Foxes’ Petra Steger.
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.