By Johnny Askounis/ email@example.com
Barring a late offensive surge by players in action during Gameday 12, the final week of the Basketball Champions League Regular Season, Keith Langford will rank first in total points scored. His 129 points are currently the most put up by any player in the Regular Season and build the case for AEK to advance to the playoffs for the fifth year in a row.
Langford, 37, went for 32 points in Tuesday’s away win over Tsmoki-Minsk. He dialed in 5/6 shots from beyond the arc adding on his 3/5 two-pointers and 11/16 free throws. He became the first player going over 30 points for the second time this season and also the first to score more than 30 points coming off the bench since Suleiman Braimoh in November 2019.
|1. Keith Langford||AEK||129|
|2. QJ Peterson||Bakken Bears||128|
|3. Daryl Macon||Galatasaray||117|
|4. D’Angelo Harrison *||Happy Casa Brindisi||111|
|5. DeVaughn Akoon-Purcell||Tofas||110|
|6. Gerry Blakes||Cholet||104|
|7. Yanick Moreira||AEK||102|
|8. Vojtech Hruban||ERA Nymburk||101|
|9. Dylan Ennis||Casademont Zaragoza||99|
|10. Bonzie Colson *||SIG Strasbourg||98|
* One game left
Certainly impressive enough considering his age. Time conquers all but is struggling to overpower Langford, a proven offensive threat going through the bottom end of his career overflowing with top scorer titles in various competitions. His performances this season resulting in 21.5 points per Basketball Champions League appearance demonstrate he is still a force to be reckoned with.
His 32 points in Belarus placed him alongside Rion Brown and Kyle Wiltjer as the only players with 30+ points in three separate BCL fixtures. He did not start versus Tsmoki-Minsk due to a stomach virus limiting his participation in practice ahead of the Gameday 11 contest but managed to guide his side to safety putting aside the scenarios leaving AEK outside of the playoffs picture.
“We knew it was going to be tough,” he said in the post-game press conference describing the team effort necessary to clinch the playoffs berth on the road, “We saw on film how aggressive and how tough these guys have been playing.”
AEK was coming off two consecutive away losses turning the 3-0 start in Group C to a 3-2 record and fell in direct danger of an early exit. The team coached by Ilias Papatheodorou was merely 2-5 in the previous seven games, including Greece’s Basket League.
“It was been a difficult stretch for us,” confessed Langford, “Sometimes you forget how to win and how to make plays down the stretch. For us, it’s good to get a winning feeling and to qualify at the same time. I am definitely happy for the win. Now we can prepare for the next phase.”
The Queen ranked second in Group C awaits the next opponents with the 16 advancing teams split into four new groups. The top two teams of each group will move on to the Final Eight. That format introduced to complete the 2019-20 season early in the current 2020-21 season was not so kind to the Greek powerhouse as second place fell short from the outcome Langford and teammates were looking for playing at home.
There are no secrets for AEK moving forward off the late clinching victory as returning to the top of the Champions League is the target. A championship run in 2018 and the runner-up finish last season firmly set the Yellow-Blacks among the lasting top teams. A roster including Langford at his current form illustrates the thirst for further success in FIBA’s premier club continental competition and retained championship potential.
Photo Credit: Basketball Champions League