From: 21/04/2022 20:22
One rarely sees a climber in the final of the championship in sports. But after an excellent season, the Rhineland Lions’ basketball players even go into the matches as favorites. From Friday (April 22, 2022) they meet Eisvogel USC Freiburg in the best-of-five series.
“I definitely want to be German champion with this team. We worked so hard for it,” said Romy Bär, a longtime German national team player and one of the best players at the Rheinland Lions.
Your team has already had an extremely fantastic season. Clear first round, only three defeats in 24 matches, undefeated in quarter and semifinals.
This record is particularly impressive when you look at where the club was a few years ago. Although there is a basketball tradition in the Bergisch Gladbach district of Bensberg, in the 1990s the club managed to occupy a fourth place in the Bundesliga under the name TV Bensberg. But for the past 15 years, the club has languished in the second Bundesliga and regional league.
Almost relegated to the regional league in 2018
In 2018, relegation to the regional league could only just be avoided. That was when the day’s manager, Martin Spicker, decided to bring the club up. Spicker used to be a basketball coach himself, but now runs his own company that supports companies with events and travel planning. The road to success in sports began with him as the main sponsor and professional structures.
It takes around 400,000 to 500,000 euros to field a top team in the women’s Bundesliga. At present, Martin Spicker still supports a large part of the budget as a patron, but his goal is to be able to reduce this in the near future.
Coach Mario Zurkowski from the Rhineland Lions gives loud instructions
Image: IMAGO / osnapix
Sportingly, the responsibility lies with coach Mario Zurkowski. The 34-year-old is only “part-time basketball crazy”. The head coach works full time as a sales manager for a software logistics company. Only after the end of the day does his full concentration focus on basketball. The day usually lasts from nine in the morning until late in the evening. Time management is everything – and an extremely understanding life partner.
Experience as the secret behind success
For no one gets rich in the women’s basketball Bundesliga. In sports, the lions are primarily dependent on experience. Almost all key players are over 30: Romy Bär 34, Birte Thimm 35 and Lisa Koop 36.
All three wore the national jersey for many years, but are now in the fall in their sporting careers. “Many of us have often been in close combat situations and know the feeling of holding on to the nerve when it matters most. It often tipped the scales in our favor,” analyzes Romy Bär, one of the great strengths of his team.
Basketball player Romy Bär from Rheinland Lions
Photo: IMAGO / Beautiful Sports
diseases and injuries
The Rheinland Lions were at the top of the table for most of the season, though the season was not without problems. With American Pele Gianotti and Croatian Andela Maric, two top players, who were actually scheduled for the season, fell out for the rest of the season after serious injuries. In early March, the entire team, with the exception of Lisa Koop, fell ill with Corona.
I had to improvise again and again. Nevertheless, remaining successful is one of the great strengths of the Rheinland Lions. “The cohesion, the willingness to subordinate the whole team’s success is extremely pronounced in my team,” says Mario Zurkowski.
Special title motivation
The only power forward Romy Bär was already German champion with his former club from Saarlouis, the rest of the squad is still waiting for the first league title of their career. The best players are especially challenged in the playoffs. And so despite his almost 35 years, Bär is on the floor for well over 30 minutes in every match. Her assistants are particularly impressive. Although primarily active directly under the basket, the former national team player provides as many successful passes as a first-class point guard.
Basketball player Joyce Megane Cousseins-Smith from Rhineland Lions
Image: IMAGO / osnapix
Americans Taylor Wurtz-Purifoy and Brianna Rollerson give the most points. The promotion team’s game is managed by Frenchman Joyce Cousseins-Smith. All in all, this results in a collective that dominated the league in the main round.
There were two wins in two matches against finalist Freiburg, the second-placed team in the main round. In the upcoming final series, however, regeneration can also be a crucial factor. The close-timed mode of the best-of-five series provides a maximum of five games within ten days. The new German champion in women’s basketball will be chosen no later than 1 May.
One thing is already clear, it will be a premiere title. For neither Freiburg nor the Rheinland Lions were ever German champions. But a climber as a title holder would have an almost historical dimension.