The Bayer Giants Leverkusen Survive Rhondorf Scare Winning 84-68

At this time last season the Dragons Rhondorf were hovering on cloud 9 and seemed invincible as they were led by future Pro B MVP Kameron Taylor who had an answer for almost everything on the court as was leading the team to brutal success and was time in and time out the savior. This season it has been like night and day for the former Pro A team as they are sitting in the Pro B cellar with an 0-3 record with the only good news that there are three other teams suffering the same fate as the Dragons with identical records. Nothing has gone right for the ambitious farm team of easyCredit BBL team Telekom Baskets Bonn as they are averaging a dismal 63 points and giving up a mediocre 83 points where any novice mathematician would come to the conclusion that you can´t win games like that.  The Dragons Rhondorf have a talented roster, but still have to find themselves on the court as Lithuanian big man Zygimantas Riauka has been the only real bright spot averaging 15 and 13 through the first three games and is keeping the paint area clean. The Bayer Giants Leverkusen are making amends for their lax start last season where they lost three of their first five games by racing out of the gate this season with a perfect 3-0 record. They haven´t faced the most stifest competition yet beating FC Bayern Munich that breeds young German talent and two 0-3 teams Erfurt and Coburg. So far 1993 European champion Hansi Gnad has done a fine job in his first season as head coach taking over the reigns from Leverkusen Achim Kuczmann and formed a good early season chemistry that will continue to build. With top player Ron Mvouika and a class of solid Germans, Leverkusen has been a pleasant surprise in the Pro B considering other top import Nick Hornsby doesn´t have to bring that big production he had to last season with Giessen. The Bayer Giants Leverkusen returned back to Rhondorf and wanted to get revenge for last season´s 90-72 spanking and did winning 84-68 despite getting a small scare at the start of the fourth by the Dragons Rhondorf, but buckled down and in the end won with ease. Leverkusen head coach Hansi Gnad had a long post game talk with his team, but when American Nick Hornsby returned back on the court to face the press, he didn´t try to avoid the difficulty of the game, but agreed that it was a hard fought win for his team. “It was a tough game . Rhondorf played a lot more physical. The bigs were stocky and the guards very fast and they played very physical. But we settled down in the second half and played diverse, taking care of the ball well and getting less turnovers while slowing down the game and playing inside out ball. Our guards Celebic and Blessig were a big help today”, stressed ex Sacramento State forward Nick Hornsby. After the game a pooped Zgyimantas Riauka who looked like he had just completed a marathon as he was still sweating like crazy minutes after the loss reflected on the game. “The difference was that they hit more shots than we did. They shot the three very well. We played tough, but they went on more runs. Our defense was great and we brought a lot of energy”, stressed Rhondorf center Zygimantas Riauka.

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Miles Schmidt-Scheuber interviewing Bayer Giants Leverkusen forward Nick Hornsby who finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds

The Dragons Rhondorf were without import American Raekwon Miller who had been replaced by American Kwan Baller. Baller had arrived less than 24 hours earlier and had jet lag and didn´t play while Miller was still there cheering on his team. The Bayer Giants Leverkusen started without their two imports Hornsby and Ron Mvouika.  The Bayer Giants Leverkusen racked up a quick 8-3 advantage as ex Rhondorf guard Tim Schonborn who played in the Dragon dome from 2013-2016 came back to haunt his old team hitting two trey´s and ex Dragon Valentin Blass went coast to coast for the easy lay in. The Dragons Rhondorf had had some fortune getting three loose balls early getting some extra possessions but couldn´t take advantage of it. Leverkusen kept the advantage with another Schonborn trey, but Rhondorf started to execute better on offense as Riauka scored as Did German David Falkenstein to cut the Leverksuen lead to 14-10. Leverkusen had trouble executing on a consistent basis while Rhondorf remained in the game with their fighting attitude. As soon as the two imports Hornsby and Mvouika arrived on the court, they hit upping the score to 18-14, but Rhondorf stayed on their heels as German Alexander Moeller got an offensive rebound and put back and Joe Mvuezolo hit a trey as the Bayer Giants Leverkusen only led 20-18 after 10 minutes. “We started well matching their intensity. They got hot quickly hitting three´s. We are a young team and still have to learn to know who is hot and who isn´t”, warned Zygimantas Riauka. The Bayer Giants Leverkusen shot 44% from the field and 43% from outside and had 9 rebounds and 5 turnovers while the Dragons Rhondorf shot 35% from the field and 23% from outside and had 12 rebounds and 5 turnovers.

In the second quarter the Bayer Giants Leverkusen were able to not only hold their lead, but able to lead in double figures at the break. The Dragons Rhondorf came out flat allowing the guests out on a 8-2 run to take the commanding 28-20 lead. In the run the Bayer Giants Leverkusen played smart inside out basketball as German Benjamin Nick scored in the paint as did ex Florida Gulf Coast(NCAA) guard Alexander Blessig where one can´t predict who has the quicker first step him or teammate Nino Celebic and Hornsby dropped a trey. But Rhondorf did a good job when Leverkusen was threatening that they were able to close the gap rather than let them widen their lead. Falkenstein who has two BBL games wit Bonn on his resume nailed a jumper as did Riauka narrowing the Leverkusen lead to 28-24. The Bayer Giants Leverkusen allowed Rhondorf to hang around on account of their turnovers while Riauka was keeping Rhondorf in the game with his play at both ends of the court. The Bayer Giants Leverkusen went on another run of 12-5 to extend their lead to 40-29. A big difference was that the guests had so many scoring options that were consistent. Schonborn proved he is more than just a sniper spinning his way to the bucket and 17 year old German Lennart Winter who averaged 7,0ppg with FC Bayern Munich 3 in the second Regionalliga dropped two treys. But basketball is a game of runs and Rhondorf led by their Lithuanian work horse Riauka went on a 8-3 run to cut the Leverkusen lead to 43-37 as he scored three baskets. A big plus in this phase was German Joe Koschade who dished out two dimes and as always was real aggressive and played leaving his heart on the floor. “He is the most intense player on the team and is always hustling. He doesn´t care how much his man weighs, he is always battling. I love players like this. You need more guys like this on the team”, warned Zygimantas Riauka. However Rhondorf couldn´t hold the momentum allowing Leverkusen to go into the break with a 4-0 run as ex Rhondorf players Schonborn and Blass scored leading 47-39. I am lucky that I got a lot of post touches and was good with the pick and roll helping my team stay in the game”, added Zygimantas Riauka. The Bayer Giants Leverkusen shot 47% from the field and from the three point line and had 17 boards and 10 turnovers while the Dragons Rhondorf shot 50% from the field and 20% from the three point line and had 20 boards and 11 turnovers.

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Miles Schmidt-Scheuber interviewing Dragons Rhondorf Lithuanian work horse Zygimantas Riauka who finished with 25 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 blocks

In the third quarter The Bayer Giants Leverkusen were able to really break away leading by as much as 16 points. Despite stopping Rhondorf on their first four possessions, they couldn´t get more than a trey from Serbian guard Celebic. The Bayer Giants Leverkusen then suffered a game ending technical to ex St Johns forward Ron Mvouika and Rhondorf couldn´t take advantage of all this fortune as Koschade made two of three free throws to cut the Leverkusen lead to 52-42. “We pushed through the game ending technical to Mvouika. We figured out what we had to do with him out which was upping our intensity”, stressed Nick Hornsby. The Bayer Giants Leverkusen offense continued to be consistent while Rhondorf´s wasn´t. Leverkusen went on another run of 10-4 to extend their lead to 62-46. The Leverkusen guard tandem of Celebic and Blessig continued to wreck havoc scoring at ease inside or dropping the trey. A Michael Kuczmann jumper gave the Bayer Giants Leverkusen their biggest lead of the game at 66-50. The Dragons Rhondorf as they had demonstrated the whole game never gave up closing out the third quarter with a 6-3 run to cut the Leverkusen lead to 69-57. German Julian Jasinski who has 21 BBL games to his credit with Hagen and Bonn hit a huge step back jumper and then hit a clutch jumper at the buzzer. “We played good team basketball in the quarter. Our guards Celebic and Blessig carried us and Schonborn hit big shots”, stressed Nick Hornsby. “They closed me down while our shots didn´t fall and they hit three´s”, added Zygimantas Riauka. The Bayer Giants Leverkusen shot 45% from the field and 36% from the parking lot and had 28 rebounds and 11 turnovers while the Dragons Rhondorf shot 46% from the field and 18% from the parking lot and had 30 rebounds and 15 turnovers.

In the fourth quarter the Dragons Rhondorf tried to put a scare into the Bayer Giants Leverkusen team heads cutting their lead down to seven points, but couldn´t get over the hump. The Dragons Rhondorf upped their defensive pressure in the first four minutes stopping Leverkusen´s first five possessions while going on a 6-0 run to cut the deficit to 69-62. Riauka continued to be a beast in the paint getting wto buckets while 17 year old Slovenian Samuel Horvath used his extreme quickness getting a steal and going coast to coast with the lay in. The Bayer Giants Leverkusen held their composure and then closed the door on Rhondorf going on a 11-2 run to extend their lead to 80-64 and would never look back. In the run, Leverksuen got a trey from Celebic who was more than angry during the Rhondorf run with his play made amends with his shooting and German big man Marian Schick made a left handed hook shot and Hornsby free throws and a lay in. Hornsby finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds another solid day at the office and he is content with his role with Leverkusen. “Last season in Giessen there were a few go to guys, but this season there are so many guys that can score. I don´t really get many plays. I just rebound and put my teammates in a good position to score and put the team first and don´t force anything”, added Nick Hornsby. Riauka continued to help his stat line with free throws and a lay in, but Leverksuen had the healthy lead and closed out the game easily. “Their run was the sway of the game. They upped their defense and ´hit a few shots and did a good job pressuring our guards”, added Nick Hornsby. “Our main focus was not to back down. Their guards Celebic and Blessig were tough controlling the game and getting deflections”, stressed Zygimantas Riauka. The Bayer Giants Leverkusen were led by Tim Schonborn with 21 points. Nick Hornsby and Alexander blessing added 12 points a piece. The Dragons Rhondoorf were led by Zygimantas Riauka with 25 points, 11 boards and four assists. The Bayer biants Leverkusen shot 40% from the field and 33% from outside and got 42 rebounds and had 16 turnovers while the Dragons Rhondorf shot 44% from the field and 17% from outside and got 38 rebounds and had 19 turnovers.

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