By John Askounis/ email@example.com
After helping AEK win the Basketball Champions League last year, Vince Hunter is the leading MVP candidate for the 2018-19 campaign. The 24-year-old American forward/center was huge during the Regular Season and added on his MVP-form with 31 points in the two-game series against PAOK. The Queen nearly swept their Greek rivals in the Round of 16 stage. Ultimately the 9-point win at Thessaloniki was enough to progress in spite of the defeat by a margin of one point in Athens.
“We wanted to win both games” Hunter told Eurohoops after Wednesday’s contest and added: “We had a mindset to come out with two wins. That helped us a lot. We weren’t playing for the points, but to win both games. It’s totally different when you’re fighting to win instead of playing for the points. It came down to the last seconds to the game-winning layup, but we were definitely playing to win”.
Up next is Brose Bamberg, a familiar foe AEK faced during the Regular Season. The UTEP alumni was held to a rare nine-point performance in the home win against the German side and scored 14 points on the road, but his team failed to secure the “W” at Freak City. That defeat didn’t prevent the Queen from finishing on the top of Group C with a 12-2 record, but this time it’s a face-to-face bout without other teams involved.
The former Memphis Grizzlies player looked back at the two group stage meetings with Luca Banchi’s club during the previous season and pointed out: “It’s going to be two tough games, just like PAOK. We played with them. We won at our house and lost at theirs. They’re playing real good right now. We definitely got to prepare, get ready for another battle”.
First place in the group stage of the BCL 2018-19 season provided the home advantage in the rematch against PAOK. The same will apply versus Bamberg with the two clubs starting their series at Germany and ending it at OAKA. AEK will hope for similar support from the fans, which certainly had a positive effect in Wednesday’s match against PAOK. Hunter concurred: “I definitely believe AEK fans were tremendous tonight”.
Asked how much the fans can help out in the quarterfinals rematch, Hunter replied: “It’s going to be tough to beat us at our house. It was tough to beat us all year. We didn’t lose too many games. We only lost one Champions League game at home. We take pride when we come back home. We don’t like to lose”.
The American big is averaging 18.3 points and 8 rebounds per contest in the Champions League this season with 18.4 points per home game. He’s also averaging 12.9 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.3 assists in the Greek Basket League.
Photo Credit: Basketball Champions League