Sometimes when things aren´t going well for a team, you need some guy that will take charge and be that spark plug to get a team out of a bind, or pray that the basketball God has some kind of eye on you, or hope for that special player to suddenly appear that only flies in for games. Midway through the first quarter, German Regionaliga team EVL Limburg were holding their own having tied Giessen 12-12 and didn´t really need any support, but all of a sudden a short, stocky afro-american appeared at the Limburg bench with a James Harden like beard and for a second it seemed like ex Limburg guard Ronald Howard was back for the grind to help Limburg in the game. However it wasn´t Ronald Howard, but his brother Zeon. He was just happy to have made it to the game after his whirl wind experience getting to the gym. „My tire blew out on the A-3 highway and I had to go back to the airport to get another car. I am usually at the game and hour before the game. I am just happy that I wasn´t pulled over on the highway“, smiled Zeon Gray. Gray wasn´t able to be that saviour either as the Giessen 46ers easily won their first test game of the season 90-53. „You could see that Giessen is well coached as they played well together. We were outmatched, but I am proud of the guys as they never gave up“, stressed Zeon Gray. For Giessen it was a positive start to the season as one can´t evaluate the game too much since it was against a Regionaliga team, but Giessen guard TJ DiLeo was happy with the effort of the team. „I like what I saw. At times we were a bit sloppy. We can still improve on defense and our offense is a work in progress. I thought each guy made good plays and we shared the ball well. We have to learn better to play with leads and not loose focus as teams in the Pro A will always be able to come back“, stressed ex Temple guard TJ DiLeo.
The first test game of the season for both teams was held in a small gym on the outskirts of Limburg. EVL Limburg was without their new import player 23 year old 193cm guard Paul Dick from Ireland that last season played for the Belfast Star. Giessen started the game with guards Cameron Wells, and TJ DiLeo, forwards Benjamin Lischka and Yorman Polas and center Jonathan Malou. Limburg guard Justin Stahllbohm got the first big cheers from the home crowd as he made two very difficult shots hitting over Malu and Lishka while hitting the floor twice as EVL Limburg held on to the lead 6-4. Both teams then exchanged runs as Giessen went on a 6-0 run to extend their lead to 10-6 as Wells connected on a three pointer, Dileo nailed a runner and Malu made a free throw. However with both teams still feeling each other out, EVL Limburg took advantage of that and went on a 6-2 run to tie the game at 12-12. In the run 28 year old 210cm center Lithuanian Mantas Bernatavicious took control inside getting two tip ins as Giessen at times seemed overwelmed by his physicality. However this was as close as EVL Limburg would be the whole game as Giessen now broke the game open and would never look back. They closed out the game with a 15-1 run to lead 27-13 after one quarter. The comeback kid Besnik Bekteshi who once was labelled as one of the big talents in Germany from the year 1993. After playing for BBA Ludwigsburg in the 2009-2010 season where he averaged16.0ppg, 4.0rpg, 2.4apg, 3.7spg, critics thought that his career would really take off, but it didn´t. In the next three seasons, he played only 22 Beko BBl games for Ludwigsburg being more of a garbage time player than a role player. After sitting out last season due to a serious injury, he hopes of getting back on track in his basketball career at the age of 21 with the Giessen 46ers. In this run he steered eight points including back to back three pointers. Ex Chmenitz guard Eric Palm nailed a three pointer and ex Kirchheim big man Bjoern Schoo made a lay in.
In the second quarter, Giessen continued to find their rhythm more and more and everyone was getting into the scoring as they were sharing the ball nicely. Giessen also got more physical on the boards as offensive rebounds started to multiply just like the Bastian Schweinstieger ice bucket challenge video clicks at you tube. Malu started the Giessen scoring with a baby hook shot which was matched by a jumper from Limburg player Boris Bosjnak. Giessen kept heightening their lead with consecutive buckets from ex Tuebingen guard Cameron Wells and a three pointer from Eric Palm as Giessen led 36-19. Giessen continued to get more comfortable with each other and the soft rim extending their lead to 47-21 going on a 11-2 run. In the run, 16 year old Niklas Bilski connected from the wing, while the come back kid Bekteshi had the hot hand scoring inside and heaving home a bomb from the parking lot. In the last few minutes, EVL Limburg caught Giesen napping on a few offensive sets ending the second quarter on a 6-3 run to trail 50-27 at halftime. In the run, EVL Limburg got the line and Justin Stallbohm finally connected on a three pointer after having had misfortune from the field since the first few minutes where he made two tough shots “We had some mental lapses. Good teams can´t let that happen“, stressed Zeon Gray.
EVL Giessen came up more than flat in the third quarter allowing Giessen to jump all over them going on a 11-0 run to extend their lead to 61-27. American Eric Palm got Giessen going on the run with a tip in a nd three pointer. Giessen did a good job on the offenisve glass getting a tip in from Polas and a lay in from Malu. „Palm had lights out. We really should not have let him breath, but should have smelt his chewing gum“, added Zeon Gray. EVL Limburg then took a chapter out of the Giessen third quarter run by going on their own run of 7-0 snapping the GIessen lead to 61-34. This was a strong phase from Boris Bosjnak who used his athletcism scoring inside twice. However EVL Limburg then let Giessen on a 8-0 run to extend their lead to 68-34 as Di Leo hit a pull up jumper and then made a steal going coast to coast for the easy lay up and Bilski hit from outside again. Limburg ended the third quarter with a 4-1 run, but Giessen still hd dthe overwhelming 69-38 lead as the class difference between both teams was more than evident and EVL Limburg was getting more tired as they were playing on a 9 man rotation.
Giessen started off the fourth quarter on a 6-0 run to lead 75-39 as Palm and Polas scored inside. In the fourth quarter, it was obvious that Giessen would win this game and the question was if they could duplicate their firepower and reach the 100 point mark. One guy who stayed quiet in his first test game of the season was Benjamin Lischka. He started his basketball career in 2005 for VfB Giessen (Regionalliga) where he played some years and then moved to TV Lich playing with his brother Johannes. He then played two seasons with Kirchheim and Crailsheim before returning home last season to Giessen playing 38 games and averaging 8.9ppg, 4.2rpg, 1.0apg, FGP: 59.0%, 3PT: 28.6%, FT: 70.1%. When you examine the face of Lischka during a game, one thing comes to mind instantly. He has a pokerface on at all times. It could be his birthday, he could be asked by Paris Hilton on a date or Daniel Colman could give him a bit of his 15 million poker win and it seems like Lischka would have that stern serious look despite anyone else being overjoyed, because that is his game face/poker face at all times. There were still some spectacular shots in the last five minutes with two form Zeon Gray. On the first shot, Gray hit an in your face shot against Cameron Wells where he had that look of bewilderment on how he could of had that audacity to even try that shot. Later Gray made a seemingly impossible fade away bank shot to cut the Giessen lead to 83-49 that would have deserved a nomination for ESPN top 10 plays. „That shot was like cat and mouse. The defender was on me and wanted me to take the shot. He put his hand up which forced me to take ball down again. Then he got close to me again and I had to shoot it. It felt good and I knew it was going in. Us small guys often look wild taking shots, but we have to find unorthodox ways of taking shots“, warned Zeon Gray. In the last few minutes, Gray would make one more shot and Malu was sent to the free throw line twice while making an one. In the end, Giessen was way too much for EVL Limburg winning 90-53. Giessen was led by Besnek Bekteshi with 16 points. Eric Palm added 12 points. Jonathan Malu, Cameron Wells and Bjoern Schoo each chipped in with nine points a piece. EVL Limburg was led by Boris Bosnjak with 17 points and Zeon Gray added 16 points. Giessen still have a long way to go in their preseason and second year man DiLeo already sees differences from this team to last years team, but not much in his role. „I think that we are more athletic this season as well as having more size and experience.Also each guy from last season has more experience coming into this season. I think my role will be like last season. Palm and I sharing minutes and when we are both on the court I moving to the three. Coach wants me to play aggressive and team basketball“, commented TJ DiLeo.