BASKETBALL IN EUROPE
|Güssing Knights, 2014 Austrian champions (photo: Pictorial/M.Filippovits)|
UBC magnofit Güssing Knights surprised even their most ambitious fans at the weekend as they stunned Kapfenberg Bulls to conquer their first ever Austrian ADMIRAL Bundesliga title.
The Knights, who had finished in seventh place last year, overturned a 2-0 deficit in the finals series and claimed a 76-72 triumph on the road on Saturday to be proclaimed champions.
Kapfenberg had won the first two games of the finals at home and, even after the Knights claimed a first success in Game 3, 79-73, when the series moved to Güssing, they still looked liked the hot favourites.
In the fourth game, also in Güssing, the Knights found themselves trailing by as many as 13 points during the first half but made big shots from behind the three-point arc in the third frame to turn the tables and pick up a 79-73 win, behind a game-high 25 points from Marcus Heard.
The Bulls still had the luxury of playing Saturday's deciding fifth encounter at home though and once again got off to a better start to lead 40-35 at the half-time break.
The Knights never allowed their hosts to pull away however, unleashing their assault in the final quarter, outscoring a nervous Kapfenberg 21-13 to pick up their historical win.
Anthony Shavies and Travis Taylor scored 15 points each and pulled down a combined 16 rebounds for the winners, while Heard and Thomas Klepeisz chipped in with 13 and 12 points, respectively.
Shavies was voted as the MVP of the finals series, while Güssing boss Matthias Zollner was named coach of the year in Austria.
Zollner, who served on the German national team coaching staff under Svetislav Pesic during the EuroBasket 2013 Qualification Round, had worked for FIBA Europe's FECC Programme during a number of years prior to moving to Austria to take the reins of Güssing last summer.
Mark Sanchez of the Bulls was named season MVP and his team-mate Martin Kohlmaier received the award for the best Austrian player of the season.
In order to compete in the title series, the Knights had to knock out in the semi-finals none other than reigning champions BC Zepter Vienna, who competed in EuroChallenge last season.
Güssing accomplished the feat in a similar come-from-behind fashion, as they overturned a 2-1 deficit to win the series.
They first evened the series to 2-2 by stunning Zepter 69-58 in Vienna in Game 4, behind an 18-point, 10-rebound double-double display by Taylor.
The Knights then prevailed 78-65 in the tie-breaking fifth game as Heard erupted for 21 points and MVP Shavies registered a double-double of 17 points and 11 assists.
In a survey conducted by the ADMIRAL Bundesliga at the start of the season, the majority of the head coaches of the participating clubs had predicted a seventh-place finish for the Knights again this year.