Just a few weeks ago there was still hope in Rhondorf that the Dragons might be able to be saved and stay in the Pro B, but on the last playdown game day of the season, the ex Pro A team that won only two games in that league in the 2015-2016 season were playing for pride as they had no chance to stay in as Wurzburg had secured the last spot. The Dragons Rhondorf knew coming into the playdowns that they needed many wins and help from other teams, but that didn´t happen. Their 3-2 playdown record was ok, but not good enough and they didn´t get help from the other teams as Wurzburg did what they had to do keep winning and not to allow Rhondorf any chance of overtaking them. On the last game day of the season, it was a rather cool spring day as it felt more like a warm winter day in mid April as fans came to watch the last Pro B game for a while. Fans were able to see the amazing Zgimantas Riauka for one last time as he had been an absolute delight to watch and with the poor team season, his amazing stats of 17,2ppg and 12,4rpg were lost a bit in the agony of all the loses, but he will definitely be a player that will be remembered as his fierce never die attitude classy style and top character that was a role model for so many kids won´t go unnoticed. The Dragons Rhondorf entered the game not only wanting to close down their season with a win, but had a lot of revenge on their minds as they had had a poor and unsatisfying 1-2 record against the RheinStars Cologne. Especially their last loss was a nasty reflection of how their season went as their two best players Riauka and Waller carried the team with 59 points combined, but the rest managed only 9 points. They shot horribly from outside netting only three three´s, lost the rebound battle and had only one positive stat coughing up the ball only 5 times. The winner of the game would kick the other into the final standings cellar spot and the Dragons Rhondorf got revenge from their last loss in Cologne and closed out the season in fine fashion winning 89-75. After the big win, Zygimantas Riauka seemed like he was top of the world as he was smiling and totally thrilled about the win. “This was a total team effort. Every one showed up to play tonight. Everybody fought, everybody was unselfish and we played as a team”, stressed Lithuanian big man Zygimantas Riauka. The RheinStars raced to their faithful fans after the buzzer sounded after 40 minutes and then American Tucker Haymond reflected on the loss. “We definitely have played better, but I give a lot of credit to Rhondorf. They had more energy and outplayed us in every aspect of the game. It wasn´t my best game and since my team relies on me a lot to produce, there was a lot of pressure on them. It was just one of those days”, stressed Tucker Haymond.
The first quarter had ups and downs for both teams and saw five lead changes, but after 10 minutes the Dragons Rhondorf had the slim 20-18 advantage. After German Benedikt Van Laack who had a whole fan club at the game and Riauka traded baskets, both teams traded leads. After American Kwan Waller gave Rhondorf the 4-3 lead with a pull up jumper, the RheinStars escaped out on a lethal 11-2 run to extend their lead to 14-6. In the run it was ex Dragons forward Thomas Michel who has 3 BBL games with Bonn on his resume led the charge with three three´s. With every new three, the more confident he got and the more aggressive he got. His hot shooting came in handy as top Pro B scoring leader Tucker Haymond was coughing up the ball more than he was scoring. The Dragons Rhondorf had no real offensive rhythm and were turning the ball over too much. Rhondorf then led a come back and let their defense spark their offense cutting the Cologne lead to 16-14. The Dragons controlled the boards and upped their defensive intensity which led to a Lotola Otshumbe offensive rebound and hook shot basket, a Waller Floater and Riauka lay in off an offensive rebound. The Dragons Rhondorf traded a few leads at the end, but kept the lead due to continued hot execution from Riauka who netted two buckets for the 20-18 lead after 10 minutes. “We had a few jitters at the start, but came back strong. Michel played some years here and had something to prove and it showed with his three´s”, stressed Zygimantas Riauka. The Dragons Rhondorf shot 50% form the field and 20% from outside and had 9 rebounds and 6 turnovers while the RheinStars shot 47% from the field and 50% from outside and had 9 rebounds and 8 turnovers.
The first few minutes were tight in the second quarter, but the Dragons Rhondorf then got away from Cologne, but they fought back only to see the opponents lead rise again. Thomas Michel continued to stay aggressive and have the hot hand as he dropped two baskets to give Cologne the 22-20 advantage. But the Dragons Rhondorf answered rapidly scorching the RheinStars with a swift 5-0 run as 36 year old Anish “the fountain of youth” Sharda nailed a trey and German Karl Dia scored inside for the 25-22 advantage. An interesting stat coming into the game for Sharda was that he led the team in three point shooting at 33%, but was the worst from the field at 18,2%. Young German Tim Van Der Velde scored on transition and 31 year old German Veteran Max Dohmen hit a free throw to dead lock the game 25-25. The Dragons Rhondorf then hit the RheinStars with a 10-4 run to lead 35-29. In the run, the club got valuable support from German big Man Alex Moeller who scored twice including a nice spin move around Dohmen on the baseline. After going 1/5 from outside in the first quarter, the Dragons started to hit their three´s better as Sharda connected again and captain Joe Koschade also dropped a trey. The RheinStars had a lack of concentration leading to turn overs and bad decisions on offense. A big difference in the game in comparison to the whole season for the Dragons Rhondorf was that whenever the opponent threatened to come closer, they had consistent answers ready. Another clutch three from Michel cut the Rhondorf lead to 35-32, but Rhondorf had offensive answers with a Sharda basket and Julian Jasinski who has 26 BBL games on his resume with a lay in and three from Waller quickly giving them the comfortable 43-34 lead. Rhondorf kept the lead despite three points from 29 year old German Jan Zimmermann thanks to a Bo Meister lay in and hard Kwan Waller one hand dunk. Haymond finally scored again cutting the Rhondorf lead to 47-39, but his halftime stat line read 5 points and 5 turnovers. “We made more shots and everybody put their bodies on the line”, added Zygimantas Riauka. The Dragons Rhondorf shot 51% from the field and 36% from the three point line and had 21 rebounds and 9 turnovers while the RheinStars shot 48% from the field and 45% from the three point line and had 15 rebounds and 13 turnovers.
In the third quarter the Dragons Rhondorf continued to control the game and lead by as much as 15 points never allowing the RheinStars to get over the hump and get below 10 points. The Dragons Rhondorf got off to a terrific start breaking out on a 7-0 to run to have their biggest lead of the game at 54-39. They upped their defensive energy stopping the RheinStars on their first five possessions which led to a Waller floater, Riauka steal and two handed dunk and the second trey from Koschade. The RheinStars finally achieved their first field goal of the third quarter as Michel hit a fade away jumper and then scored again cutting the Rhondorf lead to 54-44. In the past the Dragons Rhondorf would have wilted and fell apart, but they had enough support from many players that continued to keep the lead in double figures. Waller connected on another trey and then came vital added support from the bench as German David Falkenstein who has 2 BBL games on his resume scored on the set offense taking advantage of failed communication from Cologne and then scored on transition giving Rhondorf the 63-50 lead. The RheinStars continued to get little offensive support from Pro B top scorer Haymond, but got offensive aid from 31 year old Max Dohmen who got to the free throw line and made a fade away jumper. However the Dragons Rhondorf continued to execute at ease and shared the ball well and had many options. Riauka made a hook shot, Sharda a pull up jumper and Falkenstein a pretty alley-op tap in on the perfect feed from Sharda as the Dragons Rhondorf led 69-56 after 30 minutes. “We had a good start getting the momentum, but also got a bit sloppy making too many mistakes, but we fought through it and kept the lead”, stressed Zygimantas Riauka. “We couldn´t get stops and just traded baskets. We didn´t give ourselves a chance to string together buckets and stops. We couldn´t match their intensity”, stated Tucker Haymond The Dragons Rhondorf shot 53% from the field and 41% from the parking lot and had 30 rebounds and 15 turnovers while the RheinStars shot 43% form the field and 38% from the parking lot and had 22 rebounds and 17 turnovers.
The Dragons Rhondorf continued to control the fourth quarter and never allowed the RheinStars to cut the lead below double figures except for the first 34 seconds, but after that it was all Dragons Rhondorf. The RheinStars had a lightening start going on a quick 5-0 run in 34 seconds. Angolian Silvio Mendes-Mateus drilled home a trey and German Tim Van De Velde made a steal at center court and scored cutting the Dragons Rhondorf lead to 69-61. The last quarter would prove to be a game of runs as Rhondorf mustered three defensive stops and went on a crushing 7-0 run to extend their lead to 76-61. In the run they got big support from Sharda that hit a tough contested trey from the corner, Moeller made a 20 footer from the baseline and Sharda made free throws. Then it was time for the RheinStars to come back going on a 5-0 run to cut the Rhondorf lead to 76-66. Haymond was able to score in bunches something he did all season long, but couldn´t do in the first three quarters as he made a pretty floater over Moeller and then dropped a trey. The RheinStars couldn´t get the needed stops while they still executed ok, but couldn´t get over the double digit hump. Rhondorf got a vital offensive rebound and put back by ex Speyer forward Yannik Kneesch. A technical foul by Jan Zimmermann didn´t help Cologne´s cause which led to a Jasinski free throw and Riauka jumper and 84-70 Rhondorf lead. In the last minute Waller helped spice up his stat line with a trey and hard one handed dunk, while Cologne got some free throws from young German Sebastian Pritz who was inserted for garbage minutes closing out the game. “Our offense wasn´t working as we got sloppy and just tried to do too much. Our defense got us the win as we didn´t let them get over the hump”, stressed Zygimantas Riauka. “We were right there to get over the hump, but couldn´t. They continued to execute well down the stretch. Riauka was tough at the end. Nobody can stop him”, added Tucker Haymond. The Dragons Rhondorf were led by Kwan Waller with 19 points. Zygimantas Riauka had 18 points and 12 rebounds and Anish Sharda had 15 points while the RheinStars were led by Thomas Michel with 24 points. Max Dohmen added 12 points and Tucker Haymond 11 points. The Dragons Rhondorf shot 525 from the field and 38% from outside and had 40 rebounds and 20 turnovers while the RheinStars shot 42% form the field and 33% from outside and had 33 rebounds and 21 turnovers.