Heading into this weekend’s round, BB has a record of 19-5 second only to Kongsberg 21-4. BB meet Centrum on Saturday (Feb 25) at Vulkanhallen, followed by a return visit to Kongsberg (March 2) and end the regular season at Rykkinn against Persbråten (March 5). To bring home the regular season championship, BB must get two more wins, one of which must be against the Miners. But first it must overcome Centrum – not so easy a task!
Centrum v Bærum – Last year’s champion Centrum crushed BB 108-80 in the season opener way back on September 30 and followed that up with a win over Gimle the same weekend. Centrum then began a slide, winning less than half of their remaining games in 2016 from October to December. This stretch included a loss to BB in December in which Centrum, entering the 4th quarter down 20 points, staged a furious comeback, closing the lead to 4 points before falling short 81-76. Since the new year, the Tigers’ have strolled over the opposition, winning 7 of 8, with their only loss coming at the hands of Kongsberg by 3 points.
Bærum’s run over the past 4 months has been even more impressive. Following a 3-point loss to Tromsø on November 19, BB is on 13-1 run, with its only loss being to Kongsberg in January by 4 points. Undoubtedly BB has tremendous talent. This season Bærum picked up forward Joseph Nwabuzor, an athletic, all-round veteran who particularly provides rebound and defense as well as being a solid inside-to-mid-range scoring threat. Stian Mjøs, Bærum’s All-BLNO team selection from last year, was joined by Eric Gilchrese also, selected to last year's All-BLNO team. These two are the core to what could be the best backcourt in the league. If that wasn’t enough, BLNO newcomer JD Weatherspoon joined the team in December establishing himself as one of the league’s top inside players (averaging 22.9 ppg), as evidenced by spectacular alley-oop slams – typically thanks to nice feeds from the BB backcourt.
So, with this talent it should be no surprise that BB is near the top of the standings. However, 3 very talented players is not necessarily the complete formula to a championship season. The BB fans have witnessed a blossoming from the team’s group of age 20-and-under players. The new coaching team of Matthias Eckhoff and Per Tøien have brought along the younger players – each of whom have made considerable contributions to BB’s season. Guards Nicolas Beiber, Benjamin Cox, Gaute Hagen, Mirnes Harbas and Ulrik Stranger-Johannessen and forwards Anders Lislevatn Landenget, Peder Frantzvaag and Aksel Barkvoll typically come off the bench, each logging 10 to 20 minutes of play per game. They maintain a nice flow to the offense and contribute to the team’s defensive energy (led by the league leader in steals Eric Gilchrese with 4.0 per game). Furthermore, they are all scoring threats, keeping the opposing team honest should the defense cheat too much toward tops scorers Mjøs, Weatherspoon and Gilchrese.
While Bærum is undoubtedly led by its talented veterans, a continued upward trend in performance from the younger players may be the remaining variable in the team’s formula to success in its run for the championship.
The seating layout in Centrum’s Vulkanhall gives fans the opportunity to almost feel part of the game. Its intimate confines further adds to the electricity during close games. Big or small, it is the place to be on Saturday at 17:00 - so get there early to enjoy a great match-up!