One thing is for sure nobody who follows the Pro B closely or is a wiha Panthers Schwenningen fan can say that the season of the newcomer hasn´t been spectacular or exciting. Of course the success of his team doesn´t surprise head coach Alen Velcic, but for others not as close to the club would have had the audacity to predict that the team would have such an exciting season. The club won some very exciting close games, saw the Pro B break through of jovial Mr everything Rasheed Moore and even experienced some tough tough games when they were without their captain the strong muscled kostas Karamatskos who always seems to have one expression on his face as a guy who is all business on the court. The playoffs remained very dramatic for the club from Schwenningen as they were down 1-0 to SC Rist Wedel in games and fought back to in two do or die games in a row and were in the same position again with the Rackelos Giessen. After stealing a very exciting 92-86 victory in Giessen were Rasheed Moore took control in crunch-time, the club came back very confident to slam the door on Giessen as everybody expected a win, but instead the guests showed immense heart and fighting qualities winning 81-76 on the road. Borekambi who continues to have an amazing playoffs and Moore combined for 42 points, but they couldn´t keep talented young German Bjarne Kraushaar under control as he netted 23 points and the few more possessions that Giessen had at the end made the difference. After two excruciating long road trips to Wedel that covered 2000 kilometers, the club had to go back to Giessen for a second time, but all in all had a lot more comfortable trip as it was less than half way to Wedel.
The wiha Panthers Schwenningen participated in their third do or die playoffs showdown in a matter of weeks and couldn´t escape pure excitement as one had to wonder where there was more enjoyment and dramatic emotion in Minneapolis, Minnesota with Texas Tech´s amazing drubbing of Michigan State to reach the 2019 NCAA final or in Giessen with the wiha Panthers Schwenningen who did it again pulling out an amazing win 101-100 in OT and moving to the Pro B semi-Finals. Ok so the wiha Panthers don´t always win at the end like the German national football team did for many years like English football legend Gary Lineker once stated, but their great do or die wins in Wedel and now in Giessen is giving them that label slowly of “and in the end Schwenningen always wins” and who knows how many more surprises they will have in the semi-final series against Munster. After the win American Rasheed Moore had the biggest smile and before he could reflect about the hard fought win, he just paused a few seconds and savored the moment and then described his feelings. “I´m so excited that we made the semi-finals that nobody had expected us to make. We found a way to get there. We don´t care who does it or who scores, but everybody helped us get out of adversary. We never gave up on offense or defense and fought until the end. Borekambi made the winning shot and I still don´t know how he did it. Key at the end was that we made shots when we needed to and stuck together”, stressed Pennsylvania native Rasheed Moore. What was extremely bitter for Giessen was that they led for 98% of the game and in the end couldn´t get the win. Brit forward Jordan Williams looked like he had seen a mean ghost in his home gym after the loss, but still had the courtesy and professionalism to explain what went wrong. “I feel that we gave the game away at the end of the fourth quarter. We gave all we had in OT, but just couldn´t pull it out. Key was that guys stepped up for Schwenningen that usually don´t. Our game plan was to take Borekambi and Moore out of game, but other guys made shots”, warned Giessen forward Jordan Williams.
Giessen was without import player Jestin Lewis, but that didn´t hinder them to jump all over the wiha Panthers Schwenningen 4-0 as they quickly got ex BBL player Johannes Lischka going as he scored twice. He demonstrated just how simple it is too score when there is no defensive resistance in the paint. The German would be a menace all-night long and ended with 27 points. The wiha Panthers Schwenningen didn´t let that quick Giessen start distract them and got a quick three from 30 year old 196cm Bulgarian swing man Sergey Tsvetkov who would have a huge game contributing 15 points and getting a lay in from Moore. However Giessen had control of the game and had a good offensive rhythm and also started to get Brit Jordan Williams going who last played for the Surrey Scorchers (BBL) and had been a beast in game one as he scored on transition twice and made free throws. Giessen played better defense in this phase getting some stops and adding on to their lead with big shots from 21 year old 199cm athletic player Alen Pjanic who has 19 BBL games on his resume for the 15-7 advantage. Giessen did a good job taking Bill Borekambi out of the game at that point getting easy buckets on transition and clogging the lane well and not allowing Schwenningen to get inside. Giessen kept the lead and after Schwenningen captain and ex Trier guard Kostas Karamatskos and 21 year old 196cm German swing man Leon Okpara who has 9 BBL games on his resume swapped baskets, it was Tsvetkov who continued to be aggressive and understand to take over for the cold Borekambi scoring 5 points including another trey and keeping the wiha Panthers Schweinningen in striking distance down only 20-14. A big problem of the wiha Panthers Schweinningen was that they couldn´t get stops or slow down Williams who continued to dominate the game hitting a 20 footer and free throw. Borekambi made some production getting three points via the free throw line, but still had no field goal something very rare in Giessen a place where he has dominated in his career. The wiha Panthers Schweinningen got a big basket from 35 year old 204cm center Seid Hajric who played 8 years for Anwil Wloclawek (Poland-TBL) getting the perfect pass from Borekambi to cut the Giessen lead down to 25-20, but Giessen still had one ace down their sleeve as they got a massive trey from 18 year old 182cm German guard Tim Koepple who is one of the clubs big U-19 stars, but gets Pro B minutes thanks to his aggressive play at both ends of the court giving Giessen the 28-20 lead after one quarter. “Giessen was hot in the first hitting shots. That is just how it goes sometimes. We played hard but Williams and Lishka had it going. They scored too easily”, stressed Rasheed Moore.
In the second quarter Giessen would continue to pressure the wiha Panthers Schwenningen at both ends of the court and attain their biggest lead of the game at 14 points, but the guests fought back and trailed only by 7 points at the break. Giessen got going quickly spreading the scoring around as 19 year old strong shooting 203cm forward Tim Uhlemann hit a trey for the 31-20 Giessen lead. 24 year old 190 cm ex Nordlingen German Leon Friederici made a steal and big lay in. The German who had a good game one and game two would finish only with 4 points, but had some big assists in the game. The wiha Panthers Schwenningen had a better rhythm on offense and were playing smarter on offense and looking for the best shot and playing with more patience as Borekambi made his first field goal and Hajric scored again, but they couldn´t get consistent stops as Giessen still had a comfortable 33-26 lead. A big problem in the game for the wiha Panthers Schwenningen was allowing buckets in the paint and this is something Giessen understood and kept attacking. When Williams took a break, then it was time for ex German national player Johannes Lischka to do his magic as he remained unstoppable inside. He led Giessen on a 10-3 run to extend their lead to 43-31. In the run, the German 203cm forward who also played with Ludwigsburg and Tuebingen in the BBL scored three times including on transition and executing on a pretty running hook shot. Pjanic also delivered a clutch three. The wiha Panthers Schwenningen one on one defense was nonexistent in the paint. Rasheed Moore got more aggressive scoring twice and Tsvetkov made a big basket gaining an offensive rebound and put back, but the wiha Panthers Schwenningen just couldn´t shut down the paint. Williams got inside easily and finished with a hard two handed dunk and Lischka continued to be a wrecking crew making a pretty fade away jumper from the base line where he makes it look so easy and a tap in as the wiha Panthers Schwenningen still trailed by double figures 49-35. The wiha Panthers Schwenningen then found some daylight and made some needed production on offense and got stops closing out the second quarter with a much needed 8-1 run to cut the Giessen lead down to 50-43. In the run the wiha Panthers Schwenningen got support from Tsvetkov as he benefited from a Pjanic technical foul making three free throws, got a lay in from Moore and a big three from German Anell Alexis who would have the second half of his life. “I helped the team get going with baskets and free throws in the first half. I wish I could have done more in the second half. They locked down more on me and did a better job taking away our first and second options”, stressed Jordan Williams. “They did a good job keeping the lead. They have good players that know how to make good plays. We did a good job sticking together and just fighting through adversary”, stressed Rasheed Moore.
In the third quarter the wiha Panthers Schwenningen quickly shaved down the Giessen lead and made the game exciting and close as they trailed only by six points after 30 minutes. Pjanic and 22 year old 186cm German Abdul Abaker who played with Cuxhaven last season traded three´s and Okpara added a lay in and free throw which allowed Giessen to break away a bit, but only momentarily leading 55-46. The wiha Panthers Schwenningen then got a break something they had been getting to little all game long going on another run of 7-0 to cut the Giessen lead to 56-53 and suddenly they were very much in the game, but there was still a lot of time left. In the run, the wiha Panthers Schwenningen got continued support from Abaker who was a menace on defense and made a lay in, while Alexis continued his hot shooting with a trey and Hajric made another lay in. Hajric had a huge game with 13 points and 4 boards in 29 minutes, 13 minutes more than usual and one could see he was pooped at times. There was one comical situation where he motioned to head coach Alen Velcic that he needed to come out, but the hard nosed coach said no, and one could see that the big man wasn´t happy about that decision. In the run the wiha Panthers Schwenningen played good inside out basketball and played better defense on the Giessen shooters making them miss shots. Despite the classic wiha Panthers Schwenningen comeback, Giessen still had enough offensive options and a solid execution rate as they broke away on a quick 5-0 run thanks to a Williams lay in as fans witnessed the exception court vision form Bjarne Kraushaar who had no options, but quickly found the Englishman and Lischka dropped a trey from the corner getting a kick out pass from Williams for the 61-53 lead. Hajric continued to be huffing and puffing trying to get some air with his extended minutes, but that didn´t hinder his offense as he dropped a trey as he came in shooting at a clip of 12,5% 1/8 from outside, but Krashaar made an offensive rebound and shot giving Giessen the 63-56 advantage. The wiha Panthers Schwenningen kept chipping away and always got close again thanks to a Friederici lay in as his lethal drive gave Giessen fits and an Alexis step back jumper cut the Giessen lead to 63-61. On the next play, it seemed like Alexis was finished as he seemed to have twisted his leg, but after a few minutes of getting checked out by the trainer, he was back on the court as his magic would still come. Even if the wiha Panthers Schwenningen were playing better, they couldn´t tighten up their defense allowing a brutal 6-0 Giessen run to extend their lead to 70-61. In the run Giessen was aided by four points by Kraushaar who hit a 10 footer and showed how well he always sees the floor and making the right decisions and a lay in by Tim Koepple. The wiha Panthers Schwenningen closed out the third quarter on a 5-2 run thanks to 5 consecutive Borekambi points to trail only 72-66. “We had sluggish start and let them execute their offense. We gave them the momentum at the start, but picked it up at the end of the third quarter”, stressed Jordan Williams. “We got big support from Abaker. He got a lot of confidence coming in this season when Kostas was injured. We have so much confidence in his play and he made big defensive plays”, added Rasheed Moore.
In the fourth quarter Giessen continued to have the upper hand leading by as much as 7 points, but that desire and will to win always kept the wiha Panthers Schwenningen in the game no matter how much energy they were exerting and how tired their bodies were. Both teams continued to execute their offenses well. In the first few minutes, Giessen got added production from Pjanic with free throws, another trey by Uhlemann and a pull up jumper from Koepple while the wiha Panthers Schwenningen got points from Hajric with a 20 footer, turn around shot from Borekambi, runner from Karamatskos and a tip in by Moore, but Giessen led 79-74. The best thing that the wiha Panthers Schwenningen were doing in this phase was controlling the offensive boards and finding extra possessions to keep them in the game. After a pretty Kraushaar floater, the wiha Panthers Schwenningen got some added offense from Alexis who dropped another trey and a big Borekambi block on Lischka led to a 20 footer from Hajric to cut the Giessen lead to 82-79. Kraushaar continued to be aggressive and execute as he made a lay in for the 84-79 lead, but now the two best wiha Panthers Schwenningen scorers really stepped up in a crucial phase as Moore dropped a trey as he came into the game shooting 5/16 against them from outside and Borekambi made a beautiful spin move and lay to cut Giessen´s lead to 88-86. Lischka then made free throws with under a minute to play. The wiha Panthers Schwenningen then played big defense as Hajric made a block and Abaker made a steal. Abaker then made free throws at 33 seconds to cut Giessen´s lead to 90-88. The wiha Panthers Schwenningen then stepped up with their biggest defensive stop of the game and Alexis scored with 1,5 seconds to play to force overtime. “We made shots when we needed to. Alexis hit huge shots. I haven´t seen him shoot so well since he has been here. I also give a lot of credit to the bench. It wasn´t a three man show, but everyone stepped up”, stressed Rasheed Moore. “Our main focus going in was to rebound better. They had outrebounded us in the first two games. They got the better of us again on the boards. They capitalized on our mistakes at the end”, stated Jordan Williams.
The overtime was thrilling that saw five lead changes as both teams knew that their seasons were on the line. Lischka began with a lay in giving Giessen the 92-90 lead. Then it was Alexis again nailing a trey giving the wiha Panthers Schwenningen their first lead of the game. Some fans may have thought better late than never. Alexis came into the game shooting 5/20 from outside at 20% and would finish with the biggest game of his life with his Pro B break out with 19 points and six rebounds while shooting 60% from the field. “Anell was fantastic tonight. He was so aggressive and shot the ball so well all week in practice. We were confident that he would shoot the ball well. When you get contribution like that it makes everything so else easier”, warned Rasheed Moore. Then Lischka gave Giessen the lead back until Moore made a lay in for the 95-94 lead. Then seemed to come the turning point of the game as Giessen got back to back buckets from German Leon Okpara who on both plays was standing perfectly and got two loose balls for easy buckets and was like German legend Gerd Mueller back in the day who always stood in the right place making hundreds of goals in the German football Bundesliga. Giessen was up again 98-95. The wiha Panthers Schwenningen then were benefited by seeing Pjanic and Williams get their fifth fouls. The wiha Panthers Schwenningen then got two stops as Moore made free throws tying the game at 98-98. Kraushaar then made free throws for the 100-98 lead and Moore then made only one of two free throws to cut the Giessen lead to 100-99. Even if Alexis was one of the big hero´s of the game, so was Bill Borekambi. He saved his best for last. He made a huge block with 14 seconds and then scored the winning shot with 4 seconds to play. “Bill´s shot looked like he shot the ball 30 feet in the air and it dropped in. He makes shots like that all the time. We see it in practice every day. He finds ways to make difficult shots all the time. I have to compliment his hard work that he puts in so he can make a shot like that”, stressed Rasheed Moore. Giessen had one last attempt to win the game, but Thomas Tshikaya´s shot to win the game fell short. “The ball fell in to Okpara´s lap twice, but those things happen. We fought through it and found a way to win it at the end”, stressed Rasheed Moore. “We stayed strong at first, but got a little tired at the end. They capitalized on rebounds and our mistakes”, added Jordan Williams. The wiha Panthers Schwenningen were led by Rasheed Moore and Anell Alexis with 19 points a piece. Bill Borekambi added 18 points and Sergey Tsvetkov dropped 15 points while Giessen was led by Johannes Lischka with 17 points. Jordan Williams added 17 points and Bjarne Kraushaar had 15 points an d9 dimes. The German trio of Alen Pjanic, Tim Koepple and Leon Okpara combined for 33 points. The wiha Panthers Schwenningen shot 54% from the field and 45% from outside and got 41 rebounds and had 14 turnovers while Giessen shotb47% from the field and 28% from outside and got 32 rebounds and had 7 turnovers.