If one had been away from the Dragon Dome the last few weeks concentrating more on the fabulous and always exciting March Madness in the States where a team like South Carolina stole the hearts of possibly even some loyal North Carolina Tar Heel fans or been outside enjoying the early spring weather and returned back to basketball in Rhondorf this last weekend, two major things would have caught the observer. The first most drastic item that one would not have seen cleaning up and dominating the paint area on both ends of the court would have been the big Dawg from Bloom Township, Illinois Aaron Nelson. He had abruptly departed from the club and returned back to the States listing homesickness as the reason. For many this may have been a true fact, but for others there seemed to be more behind the surface that just wasn´t communicated and for the club a very bitter event since now the club was missing 23 points and 12 rebounds a game and had to get more input from every other player under the boards. The other major development was not seeing a tall man in black, for some possibly a younger version of a Dirk Bauermann in attire as the GQ like figure of head coach Matthias Sonnenschein was missing as he had been dismissed by management and replaced by experienced Dutch man Thomas Roijakkers who´s name is familiar as his brother Johan coaches 2010 Eurochallenge winner BG Goettingen. Thomas Roijakkers last coached Pro B north team Stahnsdorf and gained further experience with Pro B team Recklingshausen from 2013-2015. He is known for his knowledge, work ethic and versatility. He is a specialist regarding digital video team and player scouting / analyzing. He also has a lot of experience in individual skill development and guidance of players. The Dragons Rhondorf had started off poorly in the play downs with a 0-2 record having lost to Lich and Leipzig and now were meeting the Giants Nordlingen who had a 1-1 record having beat Leipzig and lost to Lich. The only good news for Dragon fans was that they had their pro B basketball destiny in their own hands as they had two wins more than Leipzig and would fight for that last Pro B spot for next season as Lich is on it´s way to staying in the Pro B having two wins more than Rhondorf. After 40 minutes Aaron Nelson still wasn´t there, but new head coach Thomas Roijakkers still was and was very happy having been able to win his first game as Dragon head coach 80-78 over the Giants Nordlingen who´s come back attempt fell short in the last seconds.
After the victory game top scorer Mike Lucier who dropped 25 points and had 11 rebounds was thrilled about the win as well as relieved as the last weeks have been difficult with so much drama within the organization. “It has been tough as we didn´t want to be in this position now when the season started. We all have jobs to do and know that we have to win. I just try to stay focused and help the team win. I have a bigger role now. We started strong in the first and third quarters, but not in the second and fourth quarters where we were slowed down. We had too many break downs, but at the end of the day we needed a win and I am happy that we got it”, stressed Dragons Rhondorf forward Mike Lucier. The Giants Nordlingen had to fight back the whole game and could have won it at the end, but came up short. With all their bad luck this season, it seemed only normal that they wouldn´t grind out the win. “It was a tough battle and we fought until the end, but we just couldn´t get the win. We really wanted to stay in the league, but couldn´t make shots. I felt that we moved the ball well, hit open shots and adjusted well to their zone. We didn´t start well at all and at times played selfish which resulted in fast break baskets for them. They had too many runs that we couldn´t rebound from”, added Giants Nordlingen forward Adrein Coleman.
The Dragons Rhondorf were 0-2 in the playdowns and needed a win badly and came out focused and controlled the game right away jumping all over the Giants Nordlingen quickly leading 11-3 after only three minutes. In the run, the Dragons were led by Mike Lucier who was aggressive scoring five points with his versatile inside out game and was also aided by German Thomas Michel who dropped a trey and American Will Trawick who like Lucier was active in the paint drawing two fouls and accumulating three points. Rhondorf had their defense set early stifling Nordlingen in their first four possessions until 22 year old 204cm forward Adrian Lind tested his 41,7% three point shooting making the first points. Nordlingen then got some timely energy from 20 year old German Eddy Edigin who scored twice in the paint cutting the Rhondorf advantage to 11-7. This sudden burst of energy from Nordlingen didn´t cut into Rhondorf´s game plan as they closed out the first quarter strong going on a 10-3 run to lead 21-10 after one quarter.In the run, the Dragons Rhondorf displayed superb team basketball spreading the ball around and getting buckets inside from their big men Florian Wendeler and Bastian Winterhalter as well as a trey from Mike Lucier and ex Bayer Uerdingen guard Patrick Reusch who used his immense speed made a lay in. “We started out strong and really did everything right, getting defensive rebounds and not allowing second chances. Our two imports Lucier and Trawick took responsibility and did a good job. Lucier hit shots while Trawick was aggressive with his penetration. Our defense held Smith in check as he had done a good job steering his team the last weeks”, added Dragons Rhondorf manager Boris Kaminski. The Dragons Rhondorf were shooting 44% from the field and 75% from outside while the Giants Nordlingen were shooting 22% from the field and outside. Rhondorf had the 15-9 rebound edge and four turnovers while Nordlingen had three turnovers.
In the second quarter, the Dragons Rhondorf lost concentration and control of the game as the Giants Nordlingen came back taking their first lead of the game as there were four lead changes, but Rhondorf still led at the break. It took the Giants Nordlingen some time to come back, but they were chipping away at the Rhondorf lead. Rhondorf got on the board first as versatile German Anton Geretzki who is having an outstanding NBBL season having registered a triple double against Cologne and 30 points against Hamburg dropped a trey for the 24-12 lead. However Nordlingen started to fight back going on a 6-2 run to cut the Rhondorf lead to 26-18. The run was led by American Terence Smith who made a lay in, free throws and set up Edigin with the most spectacular pass of the evening as he made a no look over the shoulder pass between two Dragons. Rhondorf was otherwise doing a good job limiting the scoring of Smith, but could contain 21 year old ex Crailsheiom Merlin German Leon Friederici who led Nordlingen on a destructive 15-5 run dead locking the game at 33-33. In the run, Friederci added seven points, while Lind dropped another trey and Smith hit a pull up jumper. After Lucier scored in the paint, it was German veteran Fabian Brueting who played 31 Pro A games with Bayreuth connecting on a trey giving Nordlingen it´s first lead 36-35. Reusch and Edigin traded buckets and leads, but Wendeler got the lead back for good at 40-39 with a free throw. “We recently had this problem in Leipzig where after one or two bad plays, we get a mental block and that happened again in the second quarter. We didn´t see that team basketball of the first quarter. We were finishing at 80% instead of 100%. We held Smith in check, but Friederici hurt us”, added Boris Kaminski. The Dragons Rhondorf were shooting 45% from the field and 75% from the three point line while the Giants Nordlingen were shooting 38% from the field and 32% from the three point line. Rhondorf had the 22-20 rebound edge, but nine turnovers while Nordlingen had seven turnovers.
In the third quarter, the Dragons Rhondorf found their magic of the first quarter going on a 12-4 run to extend their lead to 52-43. Lucier was the spark plug again scoring six points and twice perfected the pick and pop with Trawick and Frankl-Maus. “I was feeling good the whole game. I worked on putting myself in better positions to score. I also stayed aggressive and just kept making shots”, added Mike Lucier. Michel also converted on a trey and Geretzki made a key offensive rebound and put back. Whereas it was Edigin bringing some much needed energy in the first half, it was now Georgia native Adrien Coleman who hit back to back baskets with a jumper and fast break lay up cutting the Rhondorf advantage to only 52-48. However Rhondorf closed out the third quarter in strong fashion going on a 8-3 run to lead 61-51 after 30 minutes. Key in the run where three fast break buckets in a row as Reusch, Trawick and Lucier all connected. Nordlingen got a key three pointer from ex BG Karlsruhe center Adrian Lind to somewhat tame the lead. “We wanted to play faster in the second half and those three transition baskets were key in the third”, stated Mike Lucier. “They made a good start and whenever they made a run, we came back only to see them make another run. In the end we just didn´t have any energy left”, stressed Adrien Coleman. The Dragons Rhondorf were shooting 43% from the field and 50% from the parking lot while the Giants Nordlingen were shooting 34% from the field and 26% from the three point line. Rhondorf had the 37-32 rebound advantage and both teams had 12 turnovers apiece.
In the fourth quarter, the Dragons Rhondorf continued to supply the pressure and witnessed Nordlingen come back twice, but to no avail. The Giants Nordlingen didn´t waste anytime on their come back trail as they went on a quick 7-2 run to trail Rhondorf only 63-58. In the run they got a key trey from Bruetting and two buckets in the paint by Edigin. Rhondorf responded with a 4-0 run as Frankl-Maus supplied free throws and Telekom Baskets Bonn license player Valentin Blass who has played 14 BBL games made an offensive rebound and put back for the 67-58 Rhondorf lead. Whenever Rhondorf tried to sneak away, Nordlingen came up big on offense as 23 year old German Jonas Zink connected from the corner from downtown as did Bruetting cutting the Rhondorf lead to only 69-65. Nordlingen was threatening, but Rhondorf got instant power from Trawick who scored inside and then got an extra pass from Lucier dropping the trey for the 74-65 Rhondorf lead. Smith and Edigin got to the free throw line, but it was Lucier hitting a 20 footer and diminutive 186cm guard Frankl-Maus snuck inside for the tip in giving Rhondorf the seeminly game ending 80-71 cushion lead with a few minutes to go, but Nordlingen had one last gasp left. Nordlingen went on a 7-0 run as Smith and Lind nailed three´s to cut the Rhondorf lead to 80-78 and one could feel the pain in the Dragon Dome as fan´s hearts sank fast. Wendeler then coughed up the ball and Nordlingen could have won the game with a last second trey from Lind who was all alone, but he missed and Reusch sealed the win with a free throw. “It was an ugly end. It was a game of runs and we didn´t do a good job sticking to defensive assignments. I was a little scared with Lind´s last shot as he had a good look, but happy it didn´t fall”, stressed Mike Lucier. “On the last play, Rhondorf played off me and Smith and left Lind wide open, but the shot didn´t want to fall”, added Adrien Coleman. The Dragons Rhondorf were led by Mike Lucier with 25 points and 11 rebounds. Will Trawick added 12 points and Patrick Reusch ahd 10 points. The Giants Nordlingen were led by Fabian Bruetting with 18 points. Eddy Edigin added 14 points and Terence Smith had 13 points, seven rebounds and eight assists. Leon Friederici had 12 points and Adrian Lind had 11 points and 11 rebounds. The Dragons Rhondorf shot 44% from the field and 39% from outside while the Giants Nordlingen shot 37% from the field and 33% from outside. Rhondorf won the rebound duel 50-39, but they had 19 turnovers while Nordlingen coughed up the ball 17 times.