On the court Chris Ensminger won just about every battle in the paint as there was a reason why he was the BBL´s best rebounder for five consecutive years as his knack of always having the right position as the ball was released and correct instinct to where the ball would fall off the rim seemed to be as easy for him to successfully achieve as it was for once the best control pitcher in the majors Mariano Rivera of the New York Yankees to seemingly get the ball where he wanted to to get through the full count to his team´s benefit. However one thing that Ensminger couldn´t control after life on the basketball court was keeping his now coaching foe Denis Wucherer of the Giessen 46ers in check while they were battling on the sidelines during their rookie coaching season in 2013-2014 and second season. Both guys are basketball legends in Germany as Ensminger not only made a name as one of the BBL´s finest centers for years, but also belonged to numerous Bamberg championship teams while Wucherer won two BBL titles with the Bayer Giants Leverkusen for Dirk Bauermann and won the silver at the 2005 European championships in Belgrade under Dirk Bauermann once again and alongside NBA legend in the making Dirk Nowitzki. Both Ensminger and Wucherer were head coaching rookies in the 2013-2014 season and in four games Wucherer led the head to head battle confrontation´s 3-1. Three of the four games were decided by 6 points and both games in the 2014-2015 season were intense nail bitters with 61-59 and 67-65 in favor of the Giessen 46ers and Wucherer. In that same season, Wucherer got the last laugh once again as he led his team into the BBL and almost made the playoffs last season. Ensminger is still trying to bring the BBL to Gotha and the only time, these two charachters can meet now on the sidelines is in the preseason. “Gotha is a team that should reach the BBL in the future. They have a good infrastructure now, new arena and Wolfgang Heyder on board. One sees that the club is getting more and more professional. They are very ambitious to get to the BBL and have a good coaching staff with Ensminger and Esterkamp. Ensminger´s team now plays the way he played as a player. He played hard and so does his team. He should have a good season”, stressed Giessen 46ers head coach Denis Wucherer. After the 86-70 loss, Ensminger was very calm on the bench replaying the lost game in his mind one more time as his players were stretching and he had time to reflect on this coaching duel with Wucherer. “Wucherer has a good background and played for Dirk Bauermann. He played tough and so do his teams. I enjoy coaching against him. We always had good games against Giessen and one season lost two games by two points. I respect him and like how he helps players develop further as he got my ex player Marco Voeller”, stressed Chris Ensminger.
On another warm summer evening, but a lot more comfortable then the sauna like temperatures 48 hours earlier in Hanau, the 2016 Basketball Aid International tour next stopped in Mainz. This is an old stomping ground of Basketball Aid international tour chairman Hans Beth as back in the day he coached a young 14 year old Patrick Heckman and like his second living room as the only thing missing was his own comfy couch to help him ease into the game best. As always Beth was glowing after the buzzer had sounded as it was another successful game for the basketball aid charity and the golden basketball which had autographes of the German national team as well as Dirk Nowizki and Dennis Schroeder also found it´s new owner. “Both teams showed another good game, we had 900 people in the stands and the golden ball went for 800 euro. We achieved our goal once again today”, added Basketball Aid international tour chairman Hans Beth. The second highlight of the night after the golden ball being auctioned off, was the basketball game, but as always in these international tour games, the real focus of the evening was the sick children with cancer as that was on the minds of the players somewhere between all the plays that they had stuck in their heads. “I feel it is very important to show support for the children suffering with cancer. I lost my mom five years ago to cancer and she had a big impact on my life. You never know who cancer will effect next so it´s always positive to help in any way possible”, stated Giessen 46ers forward Thomas Scrubb. “It means a lot for me to help support the basketball aid cause. I lost my father to cancer two years ago and this past week, my aunt past away. Back home, we try to raise as much as possible for cancer. It is very unfortunate that a real cure hasn´t been found yet. I always try to do whatever possible to help fight cancer”, stated Elijah Allen.
The Giessen 46ers came into the game having beat Hanau and Heidelberg and destroyed their farm team Lich while the Oettinger Rockets Gotha had raised more than a few eyebrows as they had disposed of 8 time BBL champion Alba Berlin. The first half remained rather even, but Giessen already had the usual lead as Gotha already had to exert extra energy as they were always in comeback mode. In the second half, the Giessen 46ers relied on their deadly shooting and stepped up their defense. While his brother Philip Scrubb was on the way to France with the Fraport Skyliners to play a four day tournament, brother Thomas was in Mainz and like his brother very reserved in his presence after the game, but very knowledgeable about what he had witnessed in the last 40 minutes on the court. “We knew that this would be our hardest test so far. They had beat Alba Berlin and we knew that if we weren´t prepared that it would be a challenge. We didn´t have our defense where we wanted it in the first half. In the second half, we stepped up and took control. We were smart on offense and didn´t allow easy baskets on transition or from outside. They had to beat us one on one”, stressed Thomas Scrubb. After the game Gotha forward Elijah Allen had a long conversation with Giessen guard Skyler Bowlin who had been opponents in college four years earlier and then described why Giessen was the better team. ”Giessen played us very physical. They have a very good coach with Wucherer who I am familiar with having been with Lich the last years. We didn´t have enough intensity and they wanted to win more. We tried to be too cute. The key was taking care of the ball, but we didn´t. We will have to do that better when we play against tough competition”, warned Elijah Allen.
In the first quarter, the game was even until the midpoint and then there would be 7 lead changes as no team was able to break away. Ex Creighton(NCAA) guard Grant Gibbs got Gotha on the board first with a turnaround shot over ex Trier forward Dwayne Evans and the American than stripped the Giessen player the ball and set up Jacob Parker with an easy bucket on transition as Gotha had the early 4-0 advantage. Giessen quickly halted the Giessen run in the making by countering with their own 4-0 mini run as Thomas Scrubb showed his distinct knack of knowing where his rebound would go and finishing with a floater and ex Citadel(NCAA) standout Cameron Wells connected on a turnaround shot to knot the game at 4-4. Gotha continued to keep the slim lead with Sam Muldrow and Robert Ohle buckets, but Giessen got their first lead of the game at 9-8 as ex Crailsheim guard Joshiko Saibou drilled home a three pointer. The lead then went back and forth as rookies ex West Virginia(NCAA) guard Jaysean Paige and Yale(NCAA) forward Justin Sears scored as Giessen had the slim 13-10 lead. Gotha got some major production from two ex Pro B players Elijah Allen who nailed two trey´s with one at the shot clock buzzer and ex Nordlingen guard Janek Schmidkunz connected from outside for the 19-18 lead. Giessen got the lead back as ex Sodertalje champion Skyler Bowlin nailed a three giving his team the 21-19 lead. The Giessen 46ers were shooting 37% from the field and 33% from outside while Gotha was shooting 53% from the field and 42% from outside. Gotha had the 8-7 rebound edge and three turnovers while Giessen had five turnovers.
In the second quarter, Giessen would keep the lead, but couldn´t shake Gotha as they always remained in striking range. Giessen started the second quarter going on a 8-3 run to extend their lead to 29-22. Giessen got solid support from Saibou who scored from the corner, Scrubb got inside making a finger tip roll in, Sears and Lischka also got productive in the paint. Giessen also had their difficulty of preventing Gotha from getting easy baskets inside as ex Stephen F. Austin (NCAA) forward Parker and ex CB Prat Juventud (LEB Gold) guard Gerald Gomilla got buckets cutting the Giessen advantage to 31-28. Even if the game was tight, it seemed like Giessen always had the more options and better execution rate as they extended their lead once again to 37-28 as Lischka completed the pick and roll perfectly and Wells nailed a 20 footer. Gotha closed out the second quarter with a perfectly timed 6-2 run to cut the Giessen lead to 41-38. Parker scored inside again, Allen hit his second buzzer beater at the shot clock in the game and GIbbs caught Giessen napping on transition defense as he got behind the defense making an easy lay in. The Giessen 46ers were shooting 53% from the field and 25% from the three point line while Gotha was shooting 56% from the field and 30% from the three point line. Giessen had the 14-13 rebound edge, but seven turnovers while Gotha had four turnovers.
In the third quarter, the Giessen 46ers were able to pull away from Gotha and extend their lead into the double digits and hold it until the end of 30 minutes. Giessen quickly showed who was in control going on a 12-5 run to extend their lead to 53-42. In the run, GIessen got their guns back out of their holsters nailing three three pointers as Evans, Saibou and Bowlin connected. After a Paige lay in, it was Bowlin again who found the hot hand making fade away jumper keeping Gotha at bay as Giessen led 55-45. Even after Ohle trimmed down the Giessen lead down under 10 points, the BBL team always found a way to get their lead back into double digits as Scrubb buried a three pointer for the 58-48 Giessen advantage. Gotha guard Max DiLeo who´s brother moved from Giessen to the Telekom Baskets Bonn this season connected on a true rainbow and Grant made a free throw as Giessen kept the 63-52 lead after 30 minutes. The Giessen 46ers were shooting 50% from the field and 34% from the parking lot while Gotha was shooting 51% from the field and 28% from the parking lot. Gotha had the 24-21 rebound edge and eight turnovers while Giessen had nine turnovers.
In the fourth quarter, Gotha made one last comeback attempt, but then couldn´t take care of the ball as the slick aggressive defense of Skyler Bowlin got the best of them. Gotha came out storming in the fourth quarter going on a 7-0 run to cut the Giessen lead to 65-59. In the run, Gotha received solid production from their two ex Pro B players once again as Schmidkunz who has brought that shooting touch from Nordlingen to Gotha dropped a trey and Allen made a step back jumper and Muldrow made free throws. However then came the turning point of the game as Bowlin got two steals which ignited the Giessen offense going on a 7-2 run to extend their lead to 72-61. The two Bowlin steals led to a Wells 20 footer and lay in by the defender himself. Saibou added on another trey as well. “I finally hit some shots today. I wasn´t hitting so well in the first games. This was my breakthrough game with Giessen”, added Skyler Bowlin. Despite Page and Ohle buckets, Gotha was unable to make some stops on defense as Giessen got a three pointer from Wells and Evans lay in to extend their lead to 78-65 which sealed the win for Giessen. Muldrow was able to cut the Giessen lead to 80-70 with a trey, but time was running out and Giessen ultimately slammed the door on Gotha with a Saibou pull up jumper, and Evans and Obst free throws closing out the game with a 6-0 run. “We knew that Gotha could make a run. Bowlin made two huge steals and we made big shots which killed their momentum. We switched a lot and had more big men in the paint area which made the difference”, stated Thomas Scrubb. “In the run at the start we talked more on defense, but they continued to make big shots and rolled their big men in the paint which hurt us”, stated Elijah Allen. The Giessen 46ers were led by Skyler Bowlin with 16 points. Cameron Wells and Joshiku Saibou added 14 points a piece. Dwayne Evans chipped in with 11 points and Andreas Obst added 10 points. The Oettinger Rockets Gotha were led by Jaysean Paige with 13 points. Sam Muldrow had 12 points while Robert Ohle chipped in with 11 points and Elijah Allen had 10 points. Giessen shot 48% from the field and 38% from outside while Gotha shot 53% from the field and 43% from outside. Gotha outrebounded Giessen 32-25, but had 16 turnovers while Giessen had 10 turnovers.