BK Xion Dukes Klosterneuburg finally returned to the top of Austrian basketball, beating Allianz Swans Gmunden 3-1 in their best-of-five finals series for their 10th national title and first in 22 years.
Curtis Bobb scored 23 points as Dukes won Game Four at home 67-55 for the club’s first crown since 1990.
“We got the monkey off our back,” said Bobb during the post-game celebrations at the Klosterneuburg gym, which is called both “Dukes Castle” and “Happyland”.
“We worked so hard all season. This was a team game.”
Austrian international Christoph Nagler added 10 points including an important three-pointer in the fourth quarter as Swans Gmunden tried to come back.
“I can’t believe this. We absolutely wanted to win this title at home in front of our fans. We had great chemistry all season and formed a great unit,” said Nagler, who was named Best Austrian of the season as well as MVP of the Finals.
Klosterneuburg’s 10 championships – which include eight in a row between 1983 and 1990 – ranks the club from just north of Vienna second in Austrian history, one behind 11 from UBSC Vienna.
The championship has a special meaning for Dukes’ 40-year-old captain Damir Hamidovic, who was playing his 20th – and final – season for Klosterneuburg.
“This game goes out to Damir Hamidovic. It’s his last game for Klosterneuburg. We did it for him,” said Bobb.
“This is unbelievable, indescribable,” said Hamidovic.
“We didn’t think it would be easy at all. We knew this would be the most difficult game of the series. Gmunden needed to win and didn’t have any pressure. And we knew if we didn’t win here it would be really difficult in Game Five in Gmunden.”
The title also has a huge meaning for Dukes coach Werner Sallomon, who has coached the club since 2000, including since 2004 as chairman.
“This is probably the greatest moment in my career,” said Sallomon, whose plays for him with the Dukes.
“This is a tribute to the unbelievable amount of hours everyone put into this club. This success is not mine but the entire fan community and volunteers. Without them, this could not be possible. It’s not right to call this title mine.
“I bow to this team. I love this Klosterneuburg team, the fans and the community.”
The victory also provides closure for the club, which suffered a major setback after their last title. In August 1990, the team bus crashed on a trip to a pre-season tournament in Hungary. No players died but all of the players were injured so badly that they couldn’t play for months – some even had to end their careers.
The club was then nearly bankrupt in 2004 before Sallomon took the Dukes under his wing in its entirety and brought them back to the top of Austrian hoops.
“We owe Werner Sallomon so much. He has worked so hard in so many areas over the last eight years. His fingerprints are all over this championship,” said Dukes general manager Roman Leydolf.
The Dukes GM said he and Sallomon will have to work on making the team stronger and younger next season as they will be playing internationally next season in the EuroCup.
Gmunden – playing in their eighth of the last nine Austrian finals – were hoping for their fifth title after winning all four since 2005.
Swans could not use another double-double by Dan Oppland, who had 22 points and 20 rebounds in both Games One and Two as well as 10 steals for a triple-double in Game Two. In Game Four, Oppland collected 16 points and 12 rebounds.
Morris Sharoud Curry had 16 points and 4 assists in the loss.
“They were the better team tonight. They rebounded the ball better than us. We had our chances but we didn’t take advantage of them,” said Curry, who was named season MVP.
“Despite adversity all season we fought all year. But I am still proud of my team. They are a good team and they deserve the title.”
“We played great all season. We finished the regular season as the top team. We started with a new team this season. But still, it’s disappointing to lose in the final,” said Swans head coach Mathias Fischer, who was named as the league’s Coach of the Year.