Smiles And More Basketball Commentary: Another Strong Season For The Artland Dragons, Close But No Cigar

The last time the Artland Dragons won a title, FC Bayern Munich basketball was like a tiny sip from a beer mug at October fest in status comparison to a huge pitcher of beer which is FC Bayern Munich soccer, Leona Lewis with Bleeding Love and Duffy with Mercy were the biggest hits of the year in Germany, the big 3 and the Boston Celtics were very near their mission of winning the 18th NBA title for the Boston Celtics and New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was still digesting his first Superbowl loss to the New York Giants and Eli Manning. The year was 2008 as Chris Fleming was shedding miniature tears in the O2 World arena in Hamburg after leading the team to their very first title a cup win over Ludwigsburg and Darius Hall reached the pinnacle of his career celebrating with a sea of red and white after the buzzer sounded and reaching the highest cult status ever with the fans and possibly his celebration will always be most remembered on that day. Since that win, the team missed two playoff appearances under Torsten Leibenath and peculiar that top rated German coach Stefan Koch and his Dragons had to bow out twice in a row to Chris Fleming and the Brose Baskets Bamberg the last two years.

The Artland Dragons had another strong roster to boast about this season and possibly the second deepest rotation after Bamberg, but the team had to unwantingly have to come to terms with the fact that as long as there is a Bamberg on the Beko BBL map, one won´t be breaking out any cigars anytime soon as the team as been close to unstoppable in the last three seasons. Rather than sipping champagne and seeing which player can blow the best smoke rings, Dragon players headed back to the village of Quackenbruck perhaps embarking on one last scenic bike ride before heading back home with title dreams dashing and prancing in their heads. For one player, Quackenbruck will remain home, but his basketball shoes will forever be hung up as 34 year Florian Hartenstein will stay in the Artland and work as a youth coach. When examining ex LTI Giessen 46er fan favorite Florian Hartenstein on the bench, one could set bets to see how long he can stay expressionless on the bench even with Toby the Dragon scare tactics going down the drain. Hartenstein who was never more than a garbage time player and male cheerleader on the bench, but extremely valuable with his experience and role model quality had to end his basketball career and 42 Beko BBL games with the Artland Dragons in the always loud and annoying Stechert arena in Bamberg possibly looking up to the arena ceiling to the basketball god and having to admit that in Freak city, there seems to be that basketball god wearing only the Brose jersey.

The Artland Dragons finished the 2011-2012 Beko BBL season in 4th place with a 24-10 record having two five game winning streaks and two four game winning streaks. Their biggest wins of the season had to be sweeping the s.Oliver Baskets Wurzburg and the EWE Baskets Oldenburg and their win against FC Bayern Munich in OT where David Holston and Je Kel Foster gave a head to head battle combining for 54 points and giving the one or the other a short memory back to 1988 where Larry Bird and Dominique Wilkins served up a similar type of basketball dish to the fans. The Artland Dragons averaged 83 points during the season and even showed their defensive ability and talent during the season limiting the Fraport Skyliners to 44 points, BG Goettingen to 49 points and TBB Trier to 51 points. The big story of the season was little diminutive 167 cm David Holston who may have been a giant compared to Muggsy Bogues, but was able to take the Beko BBL by storm with his all around strong play making and scoring abilities. He was top scorer in 17 games. The team also was able to witness the further development of American Nathan Peavy who has etched his name with the top four players in the league. The Artland Dragons showed character, nerves and heart surviving FC Bayern Munich in five hard fought games. After losing game one in their dragon den, the team stepped up being the first team to win in the Audi Dome in game two despite losing David Holston for a one game suspension. Now the Dragons had to show that they can win without David Holston and did giving a stellar team performance as Anthony Hilliard who had had his share of hard aches during the season not being able to play at times as the team was waiting for Adam Hess to get his German citizenship stepped up and scored 20 points. The Dragons kept their composure keeping their home court advantage winning game five 79-73 as David Holston chipped in with 18 points. A top ranked team like Artland can always lose to a Bamberg and even get swept, but not the way they did.

The Brose Baskets Bamberg waltzed through the semi finals against the Artland Dragons with ease making their opponent look like a scared puppy that had had their dinner taken away by a defenseless frog from the Artland swamp. The Artland Dragons gave up an average of 92 points per game in the Bamberg series which isn´t a healthy point total when you have to realize that putting up 90 + points in Bamberg is about as rare as Skyliner Jimmy Mckinney passing up a clutch shot from downtown and was done only twice by Alba Berlin and Bonn, but Bamberg put up 100 points in getting the win. The game two loss in Artland was key for Bamberg having the supreme advantage and momentum for game three. Bamberg just wanted it more in game three as their defense stifled not only David Holston who was limited to three points and couldn´t force a rhythm into the Artland offense, but also the team as well. Only Nathan Peavy was able to score in double figures with 18 points who has been rumored linked to Alba Berlin for next season. All the talent isn´t going to always get you that title, but possibly that emotional leader was missing. That Darius Hall who can change a game on and off the court. Perhaps the Artland Dragons had already had their season final and highlight with the exciting five game series win against FC Bayern Munich and were already half at home in their thoughts during the Bamberg series. It will be interesting to see how the Artland Dragons use the off season with who stays and who goes. The club already has resigned German Johannes Strasser less than 48 hours after the game three loss in Bamberg. The Artland Dragons will be competitive next season that is sure and perhaps Stefan Koch can take an example of Tigers coach Igor Perovic in keeping many players for next season as the model Fleming and his players staying on board for years have paid dividends with titles in the last years. Playing together and gaining experience is the way to go if you want to become an expert with champagne and cigars in the locker room.

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