BASKETBALL IN EUROPE
|Christopher Kramerwent 4-of-5 from three-point range on his way to a game-high 24 points|
EuroChallenge semi-finalists EWE Baskets Oldenburg took a big step on Wednesday night towards solidifying themselves as the second-placed team in the German BEKO Bundesliga standings.
Oldenburg claimed a 78-74 win away at New Yorker Phantoms Braunschweig and improved to 20-8 on the table, while leaders Bamberg stand at 22-5 and third-placed ratiopharm Ulm are at 19-9.
They now need two more wins in their remaining six games in the Regular Season to secure, at the very least, a top-four finish and the home-court advantage in the first round of the Bundesliga play-offs.
Coach Sebastian Machowski and his players though will have to negotiate a quite hectic schedule in order to accomplish this, as they are playing a game every three days from now on and until their EuroChallenge semi-final against Final Four hosts Pinar Karsiyaka, on 26 April.
On Wednesday, against Braunschweig who are fighting tooth and nail to stay out of the relegation zone, Oldenburg countered the home team's enthusiasm with a solid defensive effort in the two middle quarters.
The hosts, propelled by the home crowd, started off very lively and led 25-20 at the end of the first quarter.
Oldenburg however gradually forced the home cheeriness to subside by tightening the screws on the defensive end and giving up only eight points to their hosts in the second quarter.
The guests turned the game around and went into the half-time interval up 37-33, further increasing the gap to eight points in the third quarter.
Their experience and deep rotation then enabled them to hold on to the lead in the final frame, when Braunschweig attempted their comeback but only managed to reduce the distance to four points, by outscoring Oldenburg 24-20 in that period.
The two teams shot an identical 10-for-26 (38.5%) from behind the three-point arc and their stat lines in general were quite similar, with Oldenburg effectively winning the game thanks to their experience and a slight edge in rebounds (39 to 35) and assists (14 to 10).
Shooting guard Christopher Kramer was on an exceptional night on the offensive end and led all scorers with 24 points, including 4-of-5 three-pointers, and also added four assists and three rebounds.
Small forward Rickey Paulding contributed 14 points and seven rebounds while big man Robin Smeulders finished with 12 points and eight boards.
A second consecutive game on the road awaits Oldenburg on Sunday, when they travel to Frankfurt to take on the Fraport Skyliners, before they go back home to face Bayern Munich in a big game next Wednesday.
Meanwhile Telekom Baskets Bonn, who reached the EuroChallenge quarter-finals and fell to Krasnye Krylia in the battle for a spot in the Final Four, were also in domestic league action on Wednesday.
Bonn outgunned Phoenix Hagen 100-96 at home, behind 23 points from David McCray and an impressive double-double of 17 points and 15 assists by playmaker Jared Jordan, who also added seven rebounds.
Michael Koch's team improved to 15-13 and are now in seventh place in the Bundesliga standings, maintaining excellent chances of making the play-offs.