Bronze after the long wait

The German players stood exhausted on the floor and marveled at their bronze medals. The dry spell of the German Basketball Federation (DBB) lasted 17 years, including major disappointments, such as the ignominious loss of the preliminary round at the 2015 European Championships at home. At that moment everything was forgotten: the national team has the game for third place against Poland on Sunday won with 82:69 points. And thus, despite a moderate performance in the last appearance, rewarded himself for an excellent tournament performance. Captain Dennis Schröder, once again the best German player with 26 points, summed it up: “I think we’ve made German basketball a bit sexier again.”

The first thing to do was to get over the narrow 91:96 defeat in the semi-finals against the ripped-off Spaniards, who had left the team in great disappointment. On Friday night they were still leading by double figures early in the final quarter before Spain’s Italian coach Sergio Scariolo used a tactical trick to turn the game around. By taking the outstanding Schröder out of the game with a kind of man marking, the German attacks stuttered from then on – and Gordon Herbert’s team couldn’t find a suitable answer. After all, the surprised colleague had the size to admit his complicity, he had left individual actors on the floor for too long: “I’m disappointed in myself.”

The Poles, on the other hand, had no reason to grieve over any omissions after their semi-final against France. The outsider was presented by the Olympic silver medalist at 54:95 in such a way that the only thing the team had to do was forget about bankruptcy as a collective failure. In addition, the Polish selection could hope to be underestimated after this performance.

Even after the break, the hosts find it difficult to build on the performances of the past few days

That won’t happen, the German build-up player Andreas Obst had promised, they would also meet this recently indisposed opponent with the necessary seriousness, which only worked in the first few minutes. The threes from Johannes Voigt and Obst meant the quick 6:2 lead, but after that the German team switched to economy mode. Which can be explained with the efforts so far, but was not nice to look at. In addition, the 2.15-meter Polish center Alexander Balcerowski blocked a number of opposing throws, which increased the uncertainty in the German game, as Johannes Thiemann admitted: “We were nervous and it was really difficult to muster the necessary energy, that was tough.”

Nevertheless, it wasn’t even necessary against this opponent, it was enough to test one’s own skills sparingly to win the first quarter with 19:15. When Schröder, after a slow start, managed to dribble a few lightning-fast dribbles, the Poles were soon overwhelmed and were two digits behind at the break (23:36).

But even after the break, the hosts found it difficult to continue the brilliant performances of the past few days. Although the Germans repeatedly hinted at their great potential, nothing more. Which posed a great danger: because up to this point, the Poles were far worse, despite the manageable performance of their opponents. But when the underdog’s shooting odds got a little better and especially Michal Skolowski, his team’s top scorer with 18 points, hit a few threes, things immediately became dangerously close.

Basketball EM: brought energy to the defensive and hit important distance shots: Johannes Voigtmann.

Brought energy to the defensive and hit important distance shots: Johannes Voigtmann.

(Photo: Tilo Wiedensoler/camera4+/Imago)

Before the last quarter, the lead had shrunk to five points (54:49), shortly afterwards the Poles were finally back in the game with the equaliser. The good thing about it: Suddenly the game was exciting, suddenly it was worthy of an EM. And the German team kept the pressure on – also because Johannes Voigtmann took over: The co-captain (14 points) brought energy to the defense and hit important long-range shots. The spark jumped over to the 12,913 spectators in the arena – which, by the way, was not completely sold out, which is not surprising given the ticket prices of more than 100 euros.

The last five minutes were again a reflection of the performances that had carried this selection so brilliantly through the tournament. The defense grabbed, Franz Wagner and Nick Weiler-Babb fought for balls, and the throws were made up front. Even the mediocre performance in the last game could not cloud the excellent impression of this German team, which deservedly rewarded itself with bronze. What does the medal mean for the team? Again the captain preceded: “the world.”

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