Franz Wagner Leads Alba Berlin A Step Closer To Being Back On Top Of German Basketball Winning The 2018 NBBL Crown 77-68

With 10 minutes remaining in the semi-final contest between FC Bayern Munich and Alba Berlin, Germany´s most famous team had the five point lead an even if the game was a close affair, they seemed to have control of the game until Franz Wagner and Jonas Mattisek stepped up as both finished with 18 points. Wagner opened up the fourth quarter with back to back three´s as his attention to planting his feet and nailing that next shot were as ruthless as a jaguar on a safari tour in Africa when it´s hungry. That brought Alba Berlin to life and 2018 NBBL MVP Jonas Mattisek followed the Wagner three´s with his own arsenal of three´s after having had much misfortune with his shot. Both guys had that killer instinct on their mind and they wanted to continue that mind set and positive play in the final as they met the home team Young Rasta Dragons. It had been their overwhelming experience that had aided Alba Berlin getting over the hump against FC Bayern Mun ich and now they had to deal with a very feisty and creative Young Rasta Dragons team that was looking to win at home again after capturing the JBBL(u-16) title back in 2014 and head coach Florian Hartenstein was looking for his second title. Both teams entered the contest focused and battled hard for 40 minutes and in the fourth quarter it seemed like the Young Rasta Dragons would capture the title, but just like in the semi-final game where it looked like Alba Berlin were down and out again, but made an amazing comeback again showing impressive character and fighting mentality rallying to win the 2018 NBBL title 77-68. The day had started out superb fashion for Alba Berlin as they won the JBBL(U-16) title and now achieved the double and 2018 NBBL top 4 MVP Franz Wagner was all smiles after the win, but had his problems solving the riddle of what was still missing for Alba Berlin. After he learned that the only thing that was missing was the BBL team winning in the final and achieving the triple, he quickly understood that Alba Berlin is very close of reaching the peak of German basketball again.

“This was an unbelievable fight and one of the hardest games that I ever played in. We were behind, but our character showed that we can perform also in tough games. We did a good job playing under pressure and had a great team mentality”, stressed Alba Berlin forward Franz Wagner.

It was a very disappointing way for the Young Rasta Dragons to end their NBBL season especially for head coach Florian Hartenstein who saw the last games of NBBL veterans Philipp Herkenhof, Thorsten Doeding and Johan Potratz who he had won the JBBL title four years ago on the same court. They had great difficulty coming to terms with the ferocious Alba Berlin play that was heightened  when it counted most. “We lost our energy at the end and they took advantage of it. We had too many turnovers and missed too many easy shots”, stressed Young Rasta Dragons forward Philipp Herkenhoff. “We worked so hard this season and continued to show that we would play our best basketball in tough situations. It really is a great feeling winning the JBBL last season and now the NBBL title. The guys have been together for a long time and we got rewarded”, smiled Franz Wagner.

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Miles Schmidt-Scheuber interviewing 2018 NBBL Top 4 MVP Franz Wagner

The Artland arena had an enticing atmosphere as the Alba Berlin fans at times out cheered the home crowd and the Young Rasta Dragons jumped all over Alba Berlin early 9-3 and were fortified by German national player Isaiah Hartenstein who was at the end of their bench and had the function as the sixth man cheerleader.  The Young Rasta Dragons got their big men involved early as Philipp Herkenhoff who played 39 Pro A games last season averaging 7,6ppg made an offensive rebound and put back and Lithuanian Danielius Lavrinovicius scored in the paint twice and 18 year old German Hendrik Prasuhn who started his career at VFL Hamelen also secured an offensive rebound and put back as the mighyt Alba Berlin looked like a harmless team not being able to play their game under the boards. Alba Berlin couldn´t find an offensive rhythm early getting stopped on their first three possessions, but it is only a matter of time before a talented team like Alba Berlin starts going and they quickly showed again why basketball is a game of runs as they captured their first lead going on a  8-0 run to lead 11-9 as power forward Hendrik Drescher who played 3 BBL games this season scored inside, and Franz Wagner and 19 year old German Badu Buck who started his career at DBV Charlottenburg fired home trey´s as suddenly the Artland arena was loud only behind the Alba Berlin bench as the their fans cheered. Then in the last few minutes there would be four lead changes as both teams couldn´t shake the other. Wagner and Herkenhoff traded three´s, but Alba Berlin kept the lead after ten minutes as Drescher showed his inside out game drilling home a trey that had rainbow written all over it. “It was a highclass game with a high intensity. Alba Berlin had difficulty getting inside and Herkenhoff was a big factor for the Dragons”, stressed German U-18 national coach Harold Stein.

The second quarter remained a tight affair, but Alba Berlin had control of the game, but couldn´t shake the Young Rasta Dragons as they continued to hang around. 215 CM Croatian Kressimir Nikic got Alba Berlin on the board first with a pretty turn around shot, but the Young Rasta Dragons answered as Potratz nailed a trey as they trailed only 21-20. This quick response didn´t hamper Alba Berlin in their game as they bolted out on a 8-1 run to extend their lead to 29-22. In the run, they got another clutch trey from Franz Wagner who was one of many Alba Berlin players that had shaved his head for the Top 4 title chase. 2018 NBBL MVP Jonas Mattisek who also had broken out the razor for his scalp and continues to work his way into the BBL rotation made free throws and also scored in traffic as his fearless mentality once again got him a difficult basket. Alba Berlin seemed a little too comfortable mid way through the second quarter and allowed the Young Rasta Dragons back in the game as they reeled off a quick 11-2 run as they grabbed back the lead 33-31 as they did a super job spreading the ball around and getting vital input from four players. Potratz and Lithuanian Paulius Poska drilled home trey´s and Prashun and Herkenhoff were aggressive in the paint and were rewarded with buckets. The Young Rasta Dragons would go into the break with the slim 39-35 advantage. Fans saw an amazing finish by Wagner who went baseline and made a hard one handed dunk, but the Young Rasta Dragons continued to hurt Alba Berlin in the paint with Herkenhoff and Lavrinovicius. At the break they had combined for 25 of the 39 team points. At the end of the second quarter Herkenhoff made a steal that led to a Lavrinovicus finish and he then followed that up with a lay in and free throw. “It was an up and down game where Herkenhoff had a big influence on his teams rhythm while Alba Berlin had problems on transition defense and securing rebounds”, stressed German U-18 national coach Harold Stein.

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Miles Schmidt-Scheuber with 2018 JBBL champions of Alba Berlin Nolan Adenkunle and Elias Rödl

In the third quarter the Young Rasta Dragons took control of the game as they took apart the Alba Berlin defense with text book offensive basketball and led by as much as 10 points as Alba Berlin looked helpless, but being down was something that had never effected them on this weekend. Hendrik Drsecher got Alba Berlin on the board first being a beast in the paint as he clawed himself to a basket after getting his own rebound as Alba Berlin trailed 39-37. The Young Rasta Dragons then started to tear apart the Alba Berlin defense going on a 9-2 run to lead 48-39. The Young Rasta Dragons got four buckets in the paint with two from Prashun, one from Radii Casin who started his career at TK Hannover and one from Lavrinovicius. The Young Rasta Dragons had perfected the pick and roll which carried them to new heights as they suddenly had control of the game while on defense they forced Alba Berlin too bad decisions. “Alba Berlin wasn´t patient on offense and let their aggressive defense get in the way of their offensive execution. Their pick and roll defense wasn´t good”, stated German U-18 national coach Harold Stein. Alba Berlin did manage some key three´s from Mattisek and Wagner, but allowed the Young Rasta Dragons too much to the free line as they couldn´t cut down on the lead. 17 year old Alba Berlin shooting guard Abdulah Kameric did hit a three down the stretch, but Prashun closed out the third frame with a lay in as Alba Berlin had dug themselves a deep hole trailing 62-53 with only 10 minutes to play. “We weren´t pressuring them as good as we should of. We made too many mistakes on pick and roll defense giving up easy baskets and didn´t control the rebounds”, stated Franz Wagner.

In the fourth quarter Alba Berlin was a big mac truck that flattened the Young Rasta Dragons totally taking control of the game and outscoring them 24-6. Alba Berlin stormed out of the gates in the fourth quarter going on a 12-1 run to retake the lead 65-63 and would never look back. Wagner got Alba Berlin going scoring in bunches nailing five points with a tip in off his own miss and dropping a three as Alba Berlin trailed only 62-58. Alba Berlin totally refined their defense giving aggressiveness a new meaning as they forced the Young Rasta Dragons too tough shots and many turnovers. Alba Berlin even got some pleasant luck at times as 18 year old 204cm forward Lorenz Brenneke was stuffed on a dunk try, but didn´t give up got the ball back and made the put back. 17 year old Malte Delow gave Alba Berlin the lead back with a tip in 65-63. The Young Rasta Dragons had absolutely no rhythm on offense and were in dire need of some kind of positive experience and finally did get one as 16 year old 203cm guard Luc Van Slooten made an amazing bucket as he drove to the hoop and threw a baseball strike into the basket and right away ran up the court and tried to stimulate the Dragons fans into giving that extra push from the stands as suddenly the Artland arena was revitalized and they were only down 67-66 with a few minutes to play. However as is the case so often in basketball, there is often the nasty turn of events at a 180 degree turn and that is exactly what happened as Badu Buck hit back to back three´s giving Alba Berlin the 73-66 lead ultimately paralyzing the Young Rasta Dragons for good. “Buck is our leader and wanted to end his NBBL career on a high note. He was such an important player for us always having the courage to take big shots at important moments”, stressed Franz Wagner. With a minute to play Herkenhoff sunk free throws, but Alba Berlin closed out the game and title win with Nikic free throws and a Drescher lay in. “We became a lot more aggressive playing good defense not letting them to score for many minutes. When we defend well it leads to good offense. We moved the ball using all our weapons and rebounded the ball well”, expressed Franz Wagner. Alba Berlin was led by Franz Wagner with 24 points. Jonas Mattisek added 14 points and Hendrik Drescher produced 11 points and 11 rebounds and Badu Buck had 11 points. The Young Rasta Dragons were led by Philipp Herkennhoff with 17 points and 13 boards. Danielius Lavrinoovicus contributed 15 points while Henrik Prashun added 11 points and Johann Potratz 10 points.  Alba Berlin shot 36% from the field and 39% from outside and grabbed 47 rebounds and had 17 turnovers. The Young Rasta Dragons shot 31% from the field and 14% from outside and grabbed 52 rebounds and had 16 turnovers.

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