Strong Bleijenbergh leads Ostend to victory in Istanbul

Great performance by Ostend on the European stage. Partly thanks to a strong Vrenz Bleijenbergh, the West Flemings won in the Turkish city of Istanbul against the local Bahcesehir Koleji (72-76) in the Basketball Champions League. With a win in the second leg on January 10, qualification in this ‘best of three’ is a fact.

Peter Rossel

For this first confrontation in the play-in series, the thirteen thousand seats were not full, but this basketball temple does exude a special atmosphere. After exactly two minutes, Bratanovic wiped Ostend’s clean sheet off the board, but he had a tough job against Boutsiele, who quickly dropped nine points. A Turkish 15-0 rush suggested the worst at 19-4. Ostend seemed nailed to the parquet. Seven Turkish shooters flirt at 27-8 with a twenty-something.

Ostend started the second quarter with much more inspiration. Bommen van Troisfontaines, Bleijenbergh and Thurman more than halved the deficit in 75 seconds: 27-19. What a difference in accuracy from the initial quarter in which only one of the eight bombs landed correctly. Ostend continued on its élan. In the seventeenth minute, Van der Vuurst even put the West-Flanders ahead 32-33 on a pass from Tyree. Thurman and Tyree pounded to 32-40 before Hall recorded the surprising 33-40 halftime score. The many scoring hands were noticed by the Gjergja boys. Seven Ostenders divided the forty points very evenly: from Thurman (8) to Buysschaert and Bratanovic (each 4). Ostend also took care of its defense extremely well. They limited Bahcesehir to six points in that second quarter. The rebound advantage (10-22) was also a determining factor.

Ozmizrak and Boutsiele opened the third company very efficiently: 47-48. Gillet and Tyree led Ostend to a nine-point lead (48-57), but two bombs from Candan formed a striking answer: 54-57. Barcello and Tyree reacted towards half an hour: 54-62.

A buzzer bomb from Thurman opened the fourth game slide. For example, the gap of the Gjergja boys climbed above ten units: 54-65. Technical errors for coach Emak and for Bleijenbergh betrayed the nervousness. Five minutes to go and a 64-68 score in favor of Ostend. The balls fell with difficulty on both sides. Ostend held on to its 66-72 lead until Candan put another bomb in the net. 1’01” left on the clock with a 69-72 score. Smith three-pointed both teams tied with eight seconds and eight-tenths remaining. When Tyree was stopped by Gisi, he took his place at the free throw line. He scored his first (72-73), missed the second, but Bleijenbergh grabbed the rebound and added a three-pointer to the score: Ostend won 72-76. With 14 points and 17 rebounds – a fantastic double-double – Bleijenbergh, who was injured in his last action, was the absolute star of the coast team.

The second match of this tough play-in-series will follow on Tuesday, January 10 in Ostend. In case of a tie, a third and decisive match in Istanbul awaits on Tuesday, January 17.

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