Over the weekend the edel-optics.de Arena hosted the Champions League Final Four in the Wilhelmsburg area of Hamburg, Germany. The venue which will also host the Wheelchair Basketball World Championships from August 16th-26th.
The first semi-final saw Spain’s CD Ilunion take on Italy’s Unipol Sai Briantea84 Cantu, with Ilunion hoping to retain their title. The game got off to a flying start as Ian Sagar won the tip. The teams went basket-for-basket, making the first quarter evenly matched; ending 19-16 with the three-point advantage going to Ilunion. The second quarter remained close, and at halftime it was just a one-point game, 38-37. In the third quarter, the Spanish side slowly edged ahead by five, 58-53, but it wasn’t until the fourth quarter that Ilunion secured a solid lead as the game ended 71-64. Australia’s Bill Latham contributed to Ilunion’s lead, top-scoring with 28 points. Cantu’s Argentinian international, Carlos Esteche tried to combat this scoring power as he scored 12 points from 3-pointers alone which added to his 20-point total.
Post-match, CD Ilunion’s Terry Bywater, and Bill Latham commented on the game;
Bywater said: “It was the toughest game we’ve had all season, the speed of the game and the contact levels made it an amazing game of wheelchair basketball.”
Latham said: “Cantu is a very tough team, we played them last year in the final. They were very well conditioned. We were lucky to come away with the win as we played quite well for the full 40 minutes.”
It was the German derby between RSB Thuringia Bulls faced RSV Lahn-Dill, which closed out day one. By the end of the first quarter Thuringia had already established a six-point lead 18-12 and for the remaining quarters Thuringia showed their class as they forged ahead winning the second 27-10, and third 24-11, resulting in an 85-47 victory for the Bulls. Thuringia’s Alexander Halouski was top scorer with 22 points. Behind him were three Team USA members, Jake Williams (21pts, RSB Thuringia Bulls), Michael Paye (17pts, RSV Lahn Dill) and Matt Scott (14pts, RSB Thuringia Bulls)
The two defeated semi-finalists, Briantea84 and Lahn-Dill, matched up against each other in the opening game of day two in the 3rd/4th playoff. Much like the last game featuring Briantea84 the game was close throughout as the quarter scores for the first half were 18-20 and 18-17, with Briantea84 taking a one-point lead into the halftime break. In the later stages of the game, the Italian side pulled away and extended their lead to 14 points to eventually come away with the victory 64-72 and claiming third place.
Following the tough loss, USA international Brian Bell, who transferred from Briantea84 Cantu to Lahn-Dill last season said:
“Cantu are a tough team, they’re my old team so I knew they were good beforehand. We just came up short. I think we played really well offensively and just need to get a little bit better on defence.”
The final saw defending champions Ilunion battle German League Champions, Thuringia Bulls. A small scoring run at the end first quarter gave the German team the edge, to take a nine-point lead into the first break, 19-10. Despite their best efforts in the second quarter, Thuringia couldn’t quite pull away and Ilunion kept the deficit within 10 points (35-25) through the shooting prowess of Terry Bywater. However, Thuringia came out with vengeance in the third quarter and outscored Ilunion 22 points to 4 to end the third quarter, 57-29. With a 28 point advantage, Bulls comfortably finished the game to take the win, 74-39, and claim the Champions League trophy in the process.
After securing the victory, top scorer with 25 points, Matt Scott, spoke about what it felt like to be a part of the best club team in Europe, he said:
“I feel fantastic, our team has been working so hard all year. We had an amazing opponent, Ilunion have been the top team for many years. Many teams wanted the opportunity to beat them, today we had that opportunity and we rose to the occasion. I’m very proud of my teammates, this club and this organisation. I’m very proud to have represented RSB Thuringia Bulls today.”
All-Star 5: Jake Williams (2.5, RSB Thuringia Bulls), Alejandro Zarzuela (3, CD Ilunion), Pablo Zarzuela (3, CD Ilunion), Ian Sagar (3, Unipol Sai Briantea84 Cantu), Terry Bywater (4.5, CD Ilunion)
Article written by Dylan Cummings, IWBF Junior Writer. Photo Credit: MSSP – Michael Schwartz