At the beginning of 2019, the Dragons Rhondorf were preparing for the stretch run of the season and with the misfortune of the way the season was going many have been secretly dreaming of ex player Kameron Taylor to magically swoop in from Hungary to save the season. They were at the bottom of the standings with the RheinStars Cologne only three seasons ago both in the Pro A and now both seriously very close to moving down to no man´s land of the Regionalliga. Back in January, it was 10 to midnight for the Dragons Rhondorf and already then hope of a massive turn around to occur was dimmer than the light at the end of the tunnel for the Phoenix Suns this season. Dragons Rhondorf supporters had hoped for some kind of a miracle to happen, but instead of witnessing that huge turnaround where all of a sudden every German player had possessed special new abilities that would help the team´s two stars Zygimantas Riauka and Kwan Waller turn their season around was about as far away as it is seeing any other rookie stealing the rookie of the year award from Luka Doncic. The team went 2-6 the rest of the way and could of even only got one win out of it had they not received some big time help from the basketball God in the last 10 seconds of the 88-87 home victory against the Basketball Lowen Erfurt where they missed 4-5 shots and Rhondorf escaped with a mega hard fought win and their biggest of the season. Now with the regular season history, the fate of the Dragons Rhondorf lies in their own abilities and willingness to achieve something that won´t be easy to accomplish. It isn´t 10 to midnight now, but 10 seconds before midnight as 6 games decide whether the Dragons Rhondorf play in Frankfurt or Fellbach next season. The only thing that can save them now are numerous wins and out dueling Wurzburg in the last weeks to produce some kind of Dragon Dome miracle.
The 2018-2019 Pro B South playdowns commence on March ninth where the last four clubs of the standings face off against each other twice in hopes of being one of the two best teams at the end of the six games. Just a few weeks ago, fans in the Bavarian city Coburg were already in playoff mode, but a nasty four game losing streak at the end of the regular season denied them entrance. BBC Coburg arrive in the Playdowns with a record of 9-13 and 18 points. Wurzburg begin with a 8-13 record and 15 points while the two dark horses with minimal chances are the Dragons Rhondorf and RheinStars Cologne with both sharing a 5-17 record and 10 points. Two years ago, the Dragons Rhondorf were in the playdowns and perhaps not in as bad shape as they are now with their record, but they were able to stick together then and save their season. History is on their side, but will they be able to play their most consistent basketball of the season now when the pressure is greatest? Perhaps having that new feeling of starting over at 0 like the playoff teams have will motivate them for special doings.
Even if the shabby 2-6 record in 2019 won´t impress anyone, if they would have had a few more bounces, stops and hustle plays go their way, they could have saved themselves some stress and started in the Playdowns with at least 7 wins and made their battle against Wurzburg look a lot more bearable. There were some winnable games in that time and games they let slip away like the loss in Frankfurt and the tough 74-70 loss at home against the rising Giessen Rackelos who could be one of those big surprises in these playoffs should they have their complete roster to disposable. Inconsistency was one of the big problems that plagued the Dragons Rhonndorf all season long. There was no better example then the last two regular season games. In their second to last regular season home game, they welcomed ratiopharm Ulm´s talented farm team Orange Academy and got hammered 89-73 and it wasn´t so much as if they were back in pre season and couldn´t run a proper set which can happen early in a season, but instead their performance resembled more like a refusal to want to get the victory. After the loss captain Joe Koschade remained as professional as possible and tried to explain as best as he could why the club could play the way they did. ““We all fought hard and are trying all we can to stay in the league. Our problem is when the opponent goes on a run, we tend to lose our nerves and play hectic. Every guy tries to do too much and play one on one instead of staying calm and playing team basketball. We had some good phases on defense, but it needs to be more consistent”, stated Dragons Rhondorf guard Joe Koschade. A week later in the last regular season game against Wurzburg, it was like night and day. One could have thought, the team would totally collapse under pressure in their first do or die game of three, but instead they gave their best defensive performance of the season. How can one figure that? After the victory Dragons head coach Thomas Adelt explained that the team had made the needed hustle plays. It also helped that the Dragons Rhondorf played defense with passion combined with solid execution helping spark and carry the offense that after a big second quarter would never look back again. This is the type of basketball that the Dragons Rhondorf have to play. Having the lead and not having to always exert energy in come backs something that has dominated their season.
Perhaps having been able to play one of their best games of the season against their biggest foe Wurzburg was the perfect timing for the Dragons Rhondorf as they begin the playdowns. The Dragons Rhondorf have a 1-1 record against all three teams. They beat the Rheinstars on the road and lost a tough 89-85 game at home before Christmas a game they let slip away. They beat Coburg and Wurzburg at home. They will need to have the heroics of their two best players Zygimantas Riauka and Kwan Waller in every game if they seriously want to have a chance in every game. Waller has been the team´s best scorer since December 15th while Zygimantas Riauka has continued to be the work horse, but some teams figured him out better the second time around and were able to slow him down a bit more. But the double double beast will be ready for the playdowns and deliver as if it was his last games. The club obviously will need to rely more on their German role players. Consistent scoring and contribution has also been a sore spot this season for the team. Julian Jasinski has had most of the bright moments from the German players, but guys like Bo Meister, Yannick Kneesch and Alex Moeller are able to produce offensively, but will need to do more than they have. The question is will they be able to heighten their game now with added adrenaline when it counts most? Last but not least they have to play defense. After winning his first of six NBA titles in 1991, Michael Jordan had a simple explanation why the Chicago Bulls had won. Jordan let the world know that defense wins championships. Well if that is so, then why shouldn´t defense win the playdowns. You don´t need to be the most talented to play defense, but just play with extreme effort and passion and good things will happen. The Dragons Rhondorf begin in Cologne and then come home against Wurzburg in their second big test in only a few weeks time and then play Coburg at home. If they can have a positive record after three games, then they will be able to go into the last three games of the playdowns with games in Wurzburg and Coburg with self confidence. There is so much history with this organization, have always played in the German second Bundesliga and have faithful fans that most likely wouldn´t be able to cope with a Regionalliga demotion that it would be a huge shame if they got demoted. The next weeks will reveal just how much character the Dragons Rhondorf have and if a second Bundesliga era ends or if next season one will be able to see the big Fraport Skyliner German talents like Len Schoormann and Maxi Begue return back to the Dragon Dome to display their growing athleticism.