Rookie TJ Lang´s Professional 45 Point Debut Powers The Sunkings Saarlouis To Wild 122-120 Shoot Out OT Win Over The Bona Baskets Limburg

With the exception of a few games in June in a special tournament to crown a new Pro B team, there hadn’t been a lot of basketball in Limburg in the last 19 months due to the pandemic. The Regionalliga season was cancelled last season which left a very sour taste in the mouths of the hardcore basketball fans in the Limburg region. But the long wait finally ended as the 2021-2022 season finally commenced against the Saarlouis Sun Kings. Some things never change with Limburg basketball as the famous Stahlbohm family just don’t go away and continue to support basketball like crazy with the father son duo of coach Danny and son player Justin continue to be the heart and soul of the organization. But one thing was different as the club changed their name and now are called Bona Baskets Limburg. Right on the first game day, they welcomed a legend into their living room with Ricky Easterling who is in his 14th season with the Sunkings at age 37 and without a doubt belongs to the greatest Regionalliga players ever to play in Germany. Just being able to see a player like that still do his thing at that age is an enrichment. The Bona Baskets Limburg wanted to begin the season out with a bang and did scoring 120 points, but couldn’t find that defensive intensity and consistency from the past summer and pre season battle against Pro A team Kirchheim Knights losing a wild shoot out 122-120 OT win. It was one of those special games that had an extra lot of scoring, a weird time out of 15 minutes as the gym lost power and a lot of heart and passion from the players. After the big season opening win Mr Regionalliga Ricky Easterling who had another normal day at the office with 27 points reflected on the crazy victory. ‘I remember a game like that a few years ago here. This game is on the top of my list of crazy games I have played. This was a collective win and we fought hard on offense and defense. We stepped together in tough times all through out the game’, stressed ex BG Karlsruhe guard Ricky Easterling. For the Bona Baskets Limburg, it was a very bitter shocking loss. ‘This was one of the more crazy games that I have ever played in. Both teams were hitting a lot in the second half. This game was good promotion for the sport. They took advantage of the mis matches and we couldn’t stop Lang. Also our zone wasn’t that good either’, stressed Bona Baskets Limburg captain Justin Stahllbohm.

KJ Sherril at the free throw line

Both teams were feeling each other out in the first few minutes before the Bona Baskets Limburg began to take control of the game. Ricky Easterling had a slow start missing too many shots, but teammate ex Auburn (NCAA) guard TJ Lang (201-G-95, college: S.Florida) who was playing his first professional game began to hit from everywhere and it wouldn’t stop until the buzzer sounded. Limburg got good production from ex EPG Baskets Koblenz forward Noah Westerhaus and ex Cuxhaven (PRO A) forward KJ Sherril, but it was point guard Croatian Matej Kljaic that took total control and scored 14 points in the first quarter. His tenacious drive to the hoop was unstoppable, but he also demonstrated that he can drop the long distance jumper. Westerhaus was very instrumental in the 20-7 run in the latter part of the first quarter as he got more aggressive on offense as he dangerous drive with his left hand always kept the guests off guard on defense. Limburg also did a good job on Easterling who scored only one bucket, but to give him an off day and cold for 40 minutes is about as difficult as forever taking away his ruthless mid distance weapon. ‘I know that when I start slow, that it will start to click sooner or later. I never hang my head and just stay true to the game. Good things will happen’, warned Ricky Easterling. After 10 minutes the Bona Baskets Limburg had the commanding 29-17 advantage. ‘We didn’t play good defense. We figured it out later and found ways to slow down their offense’, stressed Ricky Easterling.

Miles Schmidt-Scheuber interviewing Mr Regionalliga Ricky Paulding

In the second quarter the Sunkings Saarlouis began to execute better on offense and cut into the big Limburg lead. On defense they also made adjustments and didn’t allow Limburg into their sets as well and caused hurried shots. The Sunkings Saarlouis got massive support from German guard Edgar Schwarz who has 17 Pro B games on his resume as he hit two three’s. Lang also continued to hit three’s. Limburg kept the lead because KJ Sherril had two baskets. Easterling began to find a groove, but also lent his hand to the playmaking duties finding young German Leon Knop with an easy basket via the no look pass as Limburg led 39-35. Limburg then had a good offensive stretch going on a 8-2 run to extend their lead to 47-37. In the run they got good playmaking and offense from ex Idstein player Kljaic who brings over so much calmness finding the open guy and finishing himself. Limburg also did a good job securing extra chances as they retrieved the offensive rebounds. But basketball wouldn’t be basketball if runs didn’t occur in games and the Sunkings Saarlouis rode into the break with a commanding 12-2 run to dead lock the contest at 49-49. In the run the guests got added help from Lang and Ani who supplied all the scoring power. ‘We made adjustments on defense. We did a better job on their post players and paid attention better to their offside shooter’, stated Ricky Easterling.

TJ Lang at the free throw line

In the third quarter the game remained tight despite the Bona Baskets Limburg trying to get away. Both teams also got some added rest as there was a 15 minute break because the gym lost power and the scoreboard was out of commission. Saarlouis halted Limburg’s first three possessions while taking the 53-49 lead thanks to baskets from Lang and Easterling. But then came the awakening period as the heart and soul of the Limburg squad Justin Stahllbohm went to work. He has been with the club since 2011 and is known as a sniper. He didn’t hit anything in the first half, but came to life in the third quarter. He led his team on an inspiring 16-5 run for the 65-58 lead as he nailed three three’s including two from the same spot. His line drive shot reminded one a bit of ex Florida (NCAA) sniper Lee Humprey. He would finish with 18 points on six trey’s. ‘I have experience and don’t get down if I don’t hit shots. I’m lucky that I have great teammates who told me to keep shooting. My dad has always told me to shoot higher, but I have stuck with my line drive shot. It works for me’, smiled Justin Stahllbohm. Saarlouis fought back playing more aggressive defense and forcing Limburg to crucial turnovers. 19 year old Young German Jesse Ani hit a big three and showed that he can take important responsibility in a team with so many veterans. Then with three minutes to play the mini power outage arrived as Limburg led 67-66. That didn’t faze TJ Lang who is the son of ex Duke (NCAA) and NBA player Antonio Lang as he scored 9 points giving Saarlouis the slim 75-73 advantage after 30 minutes. ‘The break due to the power benefited Limburg. We were pushing the ball at that time and they could rest and refuel during the break’, added Ricky Easterling.

Miles Schmidt-Scheuber and tJ Lang who dropped a pro debut 45 points

In the fourth quarter the Sunkings Saarlouis had the lead, but could never really get away as they continued to allow the Bona Baskets Limburg to hang around. The Sunkings Saarlouis broke out on a 11-4 run to extend their lead to 86-79. It was evident that the two best players Lang and Easterling were taking matters into their own hands as they combined for 9 points. Limburg played a lot of zone, but that couldn’t stop Lang as he continued to set up and score from downtown netting three after three as he finished the long night with 11. But Limburg continued to fight and Justin Stahllbohm still had a lot in his gas tank as he riffled home back to back three’s to cut the Sunkings lead down to 98-96. Limburg took that momentum and retook the lead getting a transition basket from Norman Klima who has been with the club since 2013 and a steal and coast to coast bucket from Kljaic for the 100-98 lead. The last minutes were really exciting as there were four lead changes. Lang dropped a trey for the 101-100 Sunkings lead, but a beautiful floater from the baseline from Kljaic gave Limburg the 102-101 advantage. Then Easterling connected on a rare trey as his bread and butter is his mid distance shot for the 104-102 lead. Then with 22 seconds to got Stahllbohm hit another clutch three for the 105-104 lead. The Sunkings Saarlouis had one more opportunity as it seemed like Jesse Ani was blocked, but there was contact. He only hit one of two free thows forcing the game into overtime. ‘We took advantage of the mismatches against the bench players’, said Ricky Easterling.

The Sunkings Saarlouis had a great start in the overtime period stopping Limburg’s first four possessions and going on a 5-0 run to lead 110-105. Ricky Easterling came up big at both ends as he made a block and on offense broke the Limburg zone with a beautiful assist to Lang where he broke free from a defender with a behind the back dribble feeding Lang for a trey. He then dropped free throws for the 110-105 lead. It seemed like the guests would seal the win as further baskets from Easterling and Lang gave the Sunkings the 115-109 advantage. But the Bona Baskets Limburg never gave up getting a gigantic basket from the Lithuanian giant Mantas Bernatavicius to trail Saarlouis only 115-114 with 46 seconds to play. Then came a vital playfor Saarlouis from little used German Paul Fuchs who secured an offensive rebound and then connected on a three with the 118-114 lead with 18 seconds to go. Limburg just continued to chip away having no fear as little used guard Kan Kus hit a big trey with 10 seconds remaining trailing only 118-117. After a Lang free throw, it was again a little used young German Mickael Johhannes who hit the three to give Limburg the 120-119 lead, but with 3,5 seconds left the Sunkings Saarlouis had one more trick left up their sleeve as Jesse Ani let it rip at the buzzer for the amazing 122-120 win. ‘The horn sounded after the shot. A clutch shot from Jesse. We did get pretty lucky though. We had to push the ball quickly and just found Jesse who knocked down the shot’, added Ricky Easterling. ‘That was a long 3,5 seconds. We made a mistake at the end. We can’t leave a shooter like that open’, stressed Justin Stahllbohm. The Sunkings Saarlouis were led by TJ Lang with 45 points while Ricky Easterling added 27 points and 7 dimes and Jesse Ano contributed 26 points while the Bona Baskets Limburg were led by Matej kljaic with 33 points and Noah Westerhaus added 20 points. Justin Stahllbohm and KJ Sherrill added 18 points a piece. The Sunkings Saarlouis shot 55% from the field and 58% from outside and had 26 rebounds and 12 turnovers while the Bona Baskets Limburg shot 55% from the field and 41% from outside and had 28 rebounds and 8 turnovers.

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