Bronze party with champagne drinker Nowitzki: DBB team crowns EM

Berlin (AP) – Superstar Dirk Nowitzki treated himself to a glass of sparkling wine after completing the bronze coup, leader Dennis Schröder went straight to his retired predecessor Robin Benzing: The German basketball players won a medal at the home European Championship and thus a 17-year period long lull ended.

Immediately after the 82:69 (36:23) victory over outsiders Poland, the party began in the well-attended arena in Berlin. “It’s really cool. I think it’s nice that we were rewarded for a great six or seven weeks. It was really fun,” said young NBA star Franz Wagner about the coup.

With 26 points, Schröder led the hosts to bronze and their first podium finish since 2005, when Nowitzki and Co. won silver in Serbia. The 29-year-old playmaker was at the center of the lavish celebrations, but he directly thanked his predecessor Benzing.

Schröder wants to give Benzing his medal

“He’s the real captain. Actually, he should get this medal,” said Schröder. “I’ll probably give him mine.” The veteran who was sorted out in August came to the arena for the small final and looked like a permanent part of the team after the end of the game.

“I’m very, very proud of the boys. They’ve all grown and matured. Like my children, I’m very proud of them,” praised Benzing. The Germans received their medals immediately and before the final. Schröder then did a lap of honor in the press gallery, threw his socks into the audience and signed jerseys and scarves from screaming fans. “Nobody would have thought it. What we delivered, nobody would have thought,” said Schröder after his greatest success in the national jersey. Bronze still feels “quite difficult” at first.

Franz Wagner: “The sky is the limit”

Teammate and friend Daniel Theis celebrated the coup on the floor with his kids and the official mascot. The entire team came together on the podium for a jubilant photo before the bronze heroes with their medals around their necks euphorically bid farewell to the dressing room. “We had hoped for a bit more, but I think we can be super satisfied and super proud. The medal also belongs to Robin a bit,” said Andreas Obst, referring to ex-captain Benzing. Wagner said cheekily: “The sky is the limit.” The 2023 World Cup in Japan, Indonesia and the Philippines will be the next big goal for the bronze medalists from Berlin.

The ninth German EM game in 18 days was marked by struggle and cramps over long stretches, but that didn’t matter in the end. In front of officially 12,913 spectators, the Poles in particular seemed exhausted and overplayed. Germany still struggled at first and only really got going just before half-time.

In contrast to the basketball festival evenings against Greece (107:96) in the quarterfinals and Spain (91:96) in the semifinals, the mood in the arena during the game was a bit more subdued. A piece of basketball euphoria had arisen in Germany in the past few days – also because RTL broadcast all three German games on free TV from the quarterfinals onwards.

Gordon Herbert with a large part in the medal coup

The medal coup in his first tournament is to be credited to national coach Gordon Herbert. “I might have a beer,” said the 63-year-old, who has faced many adversities since taking office a year ago. He competed in the World Cup qualifiers with a B-Team, and there were also no solid components like Maxi Kleber, Moritz Wagner or Isaiah Hartenstein for the European Championships at home. But Schröder carried the functioning collective into the semi-finals and thus further than the NBA stars Nikola Jokic (Serbia), Luka Doncic (Slovenia) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (Greece) their teams, which were traded much higher at the beginning.

In order to leave the European Championship happily and proudly, the small final had to be won. Head coach Herbert relied on the same team that narrowly lost to Spain on Friday evening. “Not only the physical recovery was important, but also the mental one,” said Herbert. He also blamed himself for the defeat in the semifinals.

Benzing: “Then pee came into my eyes”

The game against Poland was initially characterized by a lot of lack of concentration and mistakes. A free dunk by NBA professional Theis, who didn’t put the ball in the basket but carelessly put it on the ring, was symbolic. Captain Schröder, who was so strong in the tournament before, also needed some time to warm up, but was again Germany’s top pitcher at halftime with twelve points – and in the end outstanding.

His predecessor Benzing sat in the first row and kept clapping good actions. “The boys all greeted me before the game, and pee came into my eyes,” said the 33-year-old at half-time at Magentasport. The sorting out in August did not go peacefully, but Benzing was back in time for the medal game – at least as a spectator and fan. Of course he was disappointed, but he watched all the games, Benzing added.

Now he could cheer. “We somehow managed to be one unit, no matter what happened. That can be the beginning of bigger things, but the bronze tastes very, very good,” said co-captain Johannes Voigtmann. The Germans survived a shock in the last quarter when the score was 59:59 again, and then the party could begin. “I would never have dreamed that I would stand there with a medal,” said three-man specialist Obst.

© dpa-infocom, dpa:220918-99-809455/7

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