EWE Baskets Oldenburg survived a David-like effort by HAKRO Merlins Crailsheim to book their second victory at the easyCredit BBL Final Tournament 2020 by winning 85-83 in a thriller.

In a game that saw 12 lead changes in the final five minutes, Rasid Mahalbasic carried Oldenburg over the line with 19 points and 10 rebounds while Nathan Boothe scored 16 points, Rickey Paulding had 11 points and Tyler Larson chipped in 10 points. The win gave Oldenburg a 2-1 record in Group A with a final showdown coming against FC Bayern Munich on Sunday June 14.

Crailsheim came into the game needing a five-point win to stay alive for the playoffs but also were missing six top imports from a magical season. But head coach Tuomas Ilsalo, whose contract extension for next season was announced at halftime of the game by GM Martin Römig, saw his men play inspiring basketball – once again.

Maurice Stuckey led the way with 17 points while Sebastian Herrera and Dejan Kovacevic both scored 16 points and David Brembly tallied 14 points with Fabian Bleck chipping in 7 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists. The loss was Crailsheim’s fourth – in just seven days – and means they will play on Tuesday June 16 for ninth place.

Paulding and Karsten Tadda drained three-balls early and Oldenburg were up 10-4. Brembly and Aleksa Kovacevic answered from the outside at the other end and Crailsheim were even 12-12. Boothe picked up his first basket and Oldenburg were up 20-16 after 10 minutes.

Brembly knocked down another three-pointer to get Crailsheim within 24-22 only to see Robin Amaize hit two triples for Oldenburg for a 32-24 advantage. Boothe added a long ball and the margin swelled to double-digits 39-29. Liam Carpenter and Stuckey both hit from long range and Crailsheim would not go away, down 44-38 at the break.

Oldenburg pushed the gap out to 10 points again early in the second half 48-38. Stuckey countered with two treys and Crailsheim was down just 51-50. Herrera would add two straight three-balls and Crailsheim were suddenly up 60-58 and led 62-60 after 30 minutes.

The fourth quarter did not disappoint as Boothe made it 66-64 for Oldenburg, followed by Stuckey and Paulding three-pointers before Bleck and Dejan Kovacevic scored as Crailsheim nosed ahead 71-69 halfway through the fourth quarter. The lead would switch hands seven times in the next 4 minutes – with both Bleck and Brembly missing two free throws – Tadda hitting a three to make it 77-75 but Bleck punching right back with a trey only to see Paulding sink his own three as Oldenburg led 80-78 with 49 seconds remaining. Mahalbasic missed two free throws of his own with 30 seconds to play and Stuckey and Herrera both buried threes and Crailsheim were up 83-82. Tadda managed an easy layup with 10 seconds left and Braydon Hobbs made one of two free throws and Oldenburg survived.

QUOTES: Oldenburg’s Rasid Mahalbasic: “Praise for Crailsheim. They never gave up. They have an active team that plays quick basketball and has confidence. We can see, four players who scored in double digits who normally wouldn’t have the chance to do so. And we are … shit. With a 12-player rotation that we play so bad, it’s unexpected. But at the end of the day, the main thing is you win.”

Crailsheim’s Dejan Kovacevic: “We fought and gave everything we had. I am so proud of the guys. We are doing all we can. And it was important for us that the fans see good games even though we have fewer players. I am so proud of the team. Now we want to win the game for ninth place.
“The confidence comes from Coach Tuomas. Every practice he comes in and says: ‘Hey Dejan, you are a young Vlade Divac.’ He says that all the time and it motivates me all the time.”

Crailsheim head coach Tuomas Ilsalo about his philosophy of there being two games: the one on the scoreboard and your own. And about his team winning the second one vs Oldenburg: “Not just today. But also against Ulm and Bayern. That is our goal in this tournament. It’s a shame that it wasn’t enough in the end.
About the game for ninth place: “It would mean a lot because we have a lot of respect for basketball and for this tournament and for one another and that’s what we are fighting for with this unbelievable intensity.
About the contract extension: “As a club, we are always going forward. And I think we have had a lot of development every year. I feel really good in Crailsheim, so does my family. And we have a great group there. And this development every year is very important. What can I say? It means a lot that I have the trust from the club.


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