It could have been the perfect title last weekend as “Kwan Waller and the Dragons Rhondorf beat Frankfurt again with a game winning shot, but instead the club left the BCM gym with a bitter 83-81 loss and more questions as to why this team can´t have any basketball luck this season especially at the end of a game. Last season it was Kameron Taylor that did the honors with a buzzer beater against Frankfurt, but last season everything was working with the Dragons while this season it has been a major struggle as the club still sat slumped in the Pro B cellar with a disheartening 3-12 record. Their record definitely looked frightening for Dragons fans, but the last weeks haven´t looked that bad as they had very good chances to have won the last three games against the wiha Panthers Schwenningen, RheinStars Cologne and the Fraport Skyliners Juniors. But at the end of the day the only thing that counts are wins and not the almost wins. 2019 is still young and the schedule didn´t get any easier for the Dragons Rhondorf as they met the Basketball Lowen Erfurt who have had a massive turn around in their season. They began the season with a tough five game losing streak, but since the end of November had won eight of their last 10 games and are resting comfortably in the playoff range with a 8-7 record. They lost last weekend against the Giessen Rackelos 89-66 and were looking to get back on the winning streak, but they didn´t need a win as badly as the Dragons Rhondorf who are getting dangerously closer to midnight as the alarm bells are getting louder and louder. It had been a horrible rainy day as the nasty wind made everything outside more unbearable, but inside the Dragon Dome the atmosphere was amazing as always and fans were offered a real battle between both teams with lead changes abundant throughout the contest. But after 40 minutes and the longest 8 seconds in the Dragons Rhondorf basketball life, they finally won a tight game again something they couldn´t achieve in the last weeks overcoming the Basketball Lowen 88-87. Kwan Waller was a key factor in the waning minutes as he was in Frankfurt, but this time the basketball God was on their side as the Basketball Lowen couldn´t buy a basket in the last 8 seconds with five misses. After the big win that gave Rhondorf four wins this season and another step in securing their place for another season in the Pro B, the Lithuanian double double beast Zygimantas Riuaka was mentally and physically exhausted and thrilled he withstood the last 8 seconds. “Rebounding was key for the win. Our offensive rebounding was great, our fight was great and we played together. We always play together, but couldn´t always execute at the end when it counted, but tonight we finally did”, smiled ex Wisconsin-Parkside(NCAA2) big man Zygimantas Riauka. After the loss one could see the frustration on David Taylor´s face and it took him a long while until he could reflect on the loss. “We played with a lot of intensity, but turnovers and offensive rebounds hurt us. We made a nice come back and Kuhle hit big shots and we played good basketball in between, but at the end a little was missing for us to get the win”, stressed ex Pacific(NCAA) guard David Taylor. David Taylor´s dad Derrick Taylor who is known to German fans as Daddy Cool and reached the NCAA Final 4 in 1986 with LSU and won the 2005 BBL title with Bamberg was impressed by both teams. “It was a very competitive game and both teams played hard. At the end Rhondorf defended better, had steals and came up with loose balls. In close games defense always wins games”, warned Derrick Taylor.
The Dragons Rhondorf tried something new by removing their top scorer Zygimantas Riauka from the starting lineup. It seemed to do wonders as the Dragons Rhondorf got off to a blazing start and led 13-6 after some minutes. Three point shooting has been a negative aspect of Rhondorf´s game this season as coming in they were shooting a miserable 24%, but that didn´t seem right as Americans Kwan Waller and Anish Sharda were firing away and hitting as they both hit two a piece. The Basketball Lowen couldn´t muster too much offense in the early going as they got baskets from 25 year old 206cm center Tobias Bode who looks like he could be related to Napoleon Dynamite and was active at both ends of the court and 37 year old 196cm rebounding beats Robert Franklin also scored. Rhondorf had done a good job closing down Lowen´s top scorer David Taylor, so they had to find other ways to score and did going on a 8-2 run to cut Rhondorf´s lead to 15-14. In the run the club from Erfurt relied on two key three´s from 20 year old German Justus Klinke who played last season in Wurzburg and 18 year 189cm guard Lukas Wobst who won two Regionalliga titles. The game remained close until the end of the first frame as both teams offenses were rolling. The Basketball Lowen did a good job limiting the touches of Riauka who would have only 1 point and three boards after 10 minutes. Rhondorf received key baskets from Germans and ex Telekom Baskets Bonn 2 guards David Falkenstein and Phiipp Gruber while David Taylor got on the score board for the first time at the 1.26 minute mark scoring on a lay in and would do it again a short time later, but the Dragons Rhondorf had the slim 23-22 advantage after 10 minutes. “Every team goes on runs and that happened in the first quarter. The difference tonight was that in the past we would get scared and have problems coming back, but tonight we stayed focused and Anish Sharda did a good job keeping us relaxed”, stressed Zygimantas Riauka. The Dragons Rhondorf shot 30% from the field and 50% from outside and had 15 rebounds and 4 turnovers while the Basketball Lowen shot 47% from the field and 33% from outside and had 12 rebounds and 5 turnovers.
In the second quarter fans got their money´s worth of exciting basketball as there were 6 lead changes, but at the break the Dragons Rhondorf had their noses ahead leading 54-49. David Falkenstein gave the Dragons Rhondorf a lot of energy being aggressive and scoring twice in the lane including a reverse lay up as his penetration was lethal. However the Basketball Lowen had their own weapon ready with Maxi Kuhle who has 107 Pro A games on his resume having played with Cuxhaven, Nurnberg and Paderborn and he started to unleash bomb after bomb from the parking lot including four in five possessions as suddenly the Basketball Lowen led 37-31. The Dragons Rhondorf may usually have had problems withstanding the pressure, but not on this night. Anytime the opponent tried to get away, they usually had an answer. Riauka began to get the ball more and made an easy bucket and connected on free two free throws even if he had his problems on this night shooting 7/12 from the free throw line at a clip of 58%. Rhondorf also got a three from German forward Yannick Kneesch who played 45 Pro B games in the past with Speyer and Rhondorf was back traling only 41-38. After a Taylor floater, the Dragons Rhondorf went on a 7-0 run to regain the lead 45-43 and were benefited by a technical foul by German head coach Florian Gut of the Basketball Lowen and got all 7 points from ex Kentucky Wesleyan guard Kwan Waller who scored twice in the paint and hit three free throws. The Basketball Lowen would tie the score twice with Kuhle and German 18 year old big man Andreas Kassioumis, but the Dragons Rhondorf closed out the second quarter very strongly going on a 7-2 run to lead 54-49. A big aid in this game was that the Dragons Rhondorf got solid production from many guys in key situations and especially guys that have been inconsistent like a Andreas Moeller who made some big shots at the end scoring two buckets and the team also got a bucket from Riauka. “We made key stops and got key shots from guys like Yannick Kneesch. It came down to making more shots than usual”, added Zygimantas Riauka. The Dragons Rhondorf shot 37% from the field and 36% from the three point line and got 30 rebounds including 16 offensive rebounds and had five turnovers while the Basketball Lowen shot 54% from the field and 50% from outside and got 21 rebounds and had 9 turnovers.
In the third quarter both teams continued to display fine offense and it stayed a game of runs as the Basketball Lowen came back only to see the Dragons Rhondorf come back and dead lock the game after three quarters. The Dragons Rhondorf came out lethargic into the third quarter allowing the Basketball Lowen to go on a 7-0 run to retake the lead 56-54. In the run, they got two quick steals and were fortified by a three pointer from David Taylor, a Robert Franklin steal and lay in and a Kuhle lay in. Waller would tie the game at 56-56 with a steal and lay in. But the contest remained a game of runs as the Basketball Lowen had the better offensive rhythm and had shifted their defensive intensity up a few gears and went on a 9-2 run to lead 65-58. In the run the Basketball Lowen got key baskets from David Taylor as he burned the Rhondorf defense again twice as nobody could contain him. Taylor played 21 BBL games last season for Gotha and took two steps back this season to play in the Pro B and is focusing on becoming a true floor general while continuing to improve his leadership, communication and reading the game. He finished with 23 points, 7 boards and four assists and his mentor and dad gave his two cents about his sons development this season. “This season David has had to relearn how to lead a team and be a guard. He has made good progress this season. He has learned to pick his spots and always plays hard on defense”, stressed Derrick Taylor. In the run the Basketball Lowen also got a big offensive rebound and tap in by Robert Franklin who played 7 seasons with Recklingshausen and has two professional triple doubles and also made free throws. The Dragons Rhondorf stopped the run with Philipp Gruber and Riauka buckets, but couldn´t get over the hump as Taylor continued to punish Rhondorf with no mercy scoring twice again in the paint as he made the Dragons one on one defense look non existent as the Basketball Lowen led 69-62. The Dragons Rhondorf didn´t collapse now, but caught fire at the right moment like so many times this season closing out the third quarter on a 9-3 run to tie the score at 71-71. In the run the Dragons Rhondorf were carried once again by their three point consistency in this game as Kneesch who demonstrated two seasons ago shooting 48% in the Regionalliga that he can shoot and Sharda nailed trey´s. “Sharda was great. I love this guy. He always gives what the team needs. He takes everything away form his self and gives everything to the team”, warned Zygimantas Riauka. “We started well forcing two turnovers, but we let up letting them come back. When ever you let a home team come back, it´s difficult to win”, warned David Taylor. The Dragons Rhondorf shot 39% from the field and 33% from the parking lot and 41 rebounds and 13 turnovers while the Basketball Lowen shot 51% from the field and 47% from the parking lot and had 29 rebounds and 13 turnovers.
The fourth quarter remained a tight affair with a few runs and it went down to the wire. The Dragons Rhondorf set the tone from the start and the Basketball Lowen did a good job staying on their heels and not breaking down. The Dragons Rhondorf showed a lot of passion especially Zygimantas Riauka who had to battle and get three offensive rebounds before making the put back. 37 year old Robert Franklin was still on full throttle and got a bucket tying the ball game at 74-74. After a Riauka free throw and Waller lay in for the 77-74 Rhondorf lead, it was the Basketball Lowen that gave another run at getting the lead back and did with a 7-2 run to take the 81-77 lead. They got some big defensive plays that led to easy baskets by Kassiusmis and Kuehle and a trey from Franklin. In the past this would have been a moment where the Dragons Rhondorf would have folded, but not tonight as their grit and heart was intact and they totally shocked the Basketball Lowen with a 8-0 run to haul the lead back 85-81. Crunch-time is Waller time as he took control with a pull up jumper and lay in and also got valuable support from Riauka with a lay in as Falkenstein registered the dime and little used 34 year Lotola Otshumbe took some responsibility being aggressive and used his strength to muscle inside for an easy bucket. The Basketball Lowen took a time out with 2,08 minutes to play. Both teams did a good job getting to the free throw line. After Kuhle free throws and a Waller pull up jumper, Kuhle and Waller got to the free throw line again as Rhondorf led 87-85 with 1,35 to play. After Rhondorf got stopped, David Taylor sunk two free throws to cut the Rhondorf lead to 88-87. With 37 seconds to play, the Dragons Rhondorf had possession and Waller threw up an airball. The Basketball Lowen had possession with 19 seconds to play and had all the time in the world to win the game. “We didn´t do a good job at the end with taking care of the ball”, stressed Zygimantas Riauka. “We weren´t totally there mentally at the end”, added David Taylor. With 8 seconds to play, the Basketball Lowen began their start to go for the win the away a jet plane does their decent to the runway. The next 8 seconds would seem like an eternity for the Dragons Rhondorf as the ball seemed to live up on the ring as they were unable to secure the defensive rebound. Kuhle started with a runner and missed got his own rebound and threw up another shot that Frankflin tipped twice to no avail and with a few seconds left Tobias Bode gave a fifth attempt for the win with a tip that failed and Alexander Moeller grabbed the rebound and the Dragon Dome went wild with the win. “I felt like I touched the ball three times at the end. I´m so happy that the ball didn´t go in. We are so used to have teams score on us at the end, but today the basketball God was on our side”, stressed Zygimantas Riauka. “I saw the mis match with Kuehle and got him the ball. The basketball God wasn´t on our side today. It is usually on the side of the team that plays harder”, stressed David Taylor. The Dragons Rhondorf were led by Kwan Waller with 27 points. Zygimantas Riauka added 21 pints and 17 boards while Anish Sharda had 10 points. The basketball Lowen were led by David Taylor and Maxi Kuehle who added 23 points a piece. Robert Franklin added 19 points, 12 boards and 6 steals. The Dragons Rhondorf shot 38% from the field and 30% from outside and had 55 rebounds and 18 turnovers while the Basketball Lowen shot 43% form the field and 38% from outside and had 46 rebounds and 20 turnovers.