After a two week break where the EPG Baskets Koblenz could rest their deep roster, it was finally time to play again as they met the pesky young talented team Orange Academy that entered the game with a solid 11-5 record and were in third place in the Pro B south. The EPG Baskets Koblenz had a long time to digest the bitter 67-62 loss in Dresden that had halted their long and magical six game winning streak. In Dresden, they once again had a poor shooting game and just couldn’t grind out the defensive battle. Orange Academy on the other hand had had even more time to recuperate as they had had Covid problems and were idle for almost a month having last played against Erfurt where they came away with a bad loss They came to Koblenz and also had amends to pay for a two game losing streak that had helped Koblenz gain a bigger cushion between them in the standings. Their play was definitely like day and night as they gave Koblenz a very good run for the money, but after 40 minutes the EPG Baskets Koblenz had once again come together when it mattered most as they lived off the brutal energy of veteran Brian Butler (196-F-1991) who carried them to the win in crunch-time. ‘We had our ups and downs. This was not an easy game. We had some concentration problems and coach Mario wasn’t there. This game was perfect practice for the playoffs. We fought for 40 minutes and played together’, stressed forward Brian Butler. Orange Academy was the more stable team for 40 minutes, but when it counted most, were unable to execute the way they wanted to. ‘We fought pretty good. We played Ok against the switch, but we shot too much from outside and didn’t penetrate enough. We didn’t get enough stops at the end and didn’t want to give up easy points’, said Orange Academy head coach Anton Gavel. EPG Baskets Koblenz manager Thomas Klein was as usual on the edge of his seat for 40 minutes, but at the end had very lauding words for his team. ‘This was the best game of the season. Orange Academy is a very good team that always tested us. They always took advantage of our weak phases. The difference at the end was that we had our peak phase when we needed it most. Johnson and Butler gave us very much energy’, stated Thomas Klein
The first quarter was a classic defensive battle where no team allowed the other to get anything easy. The EPG Baskets Koblenz got the better start getting a trey from ex easyCredit BBL player Dominique Johnson and a lay in from another ex easyCredit BBL player Marvin Heckel. The home team did a good job always trying to push the ball as much as possible while Orange Academy got a lot of mis matches, but couldn’t execute as well yet. The guests then got some momentum executing well on offense going on a 4-0 run to get their first lead of the game 8-7 as German Tobias Jenson made a pretty running hook shot. Then both teams traded leads as American guard Shembari Philipps made a lay in, young guard Jacob Ensminger who will attend Santa Clara (NCAA) next season made an off balance shot and Estonian guard Indrek Sunelik hit a three pointer as Koblenz did a good job spraying the ball around and had the 12-10 advantage. The EPG Baskets Koblenz did a good job managing their lead and kept it despite allowing a lay in from German David Fuchs and another clutch three pointer from Tobias Jenson. The EPG Baskets Koblenz continued to run transition whenever possible and got some big buckets from Jonson and Marvin Heckel but trailed 19-17 after 10 minutes. ‘It was a very tactical first quarter. We played with structure and were a lot better than in the last games. Both teams were playing at a high level and very aggressively and with a lot of physicality. They did a good job closing our penetration’, expressed Thomas Klein.
In the second quarter the EPG Baskets Koblenz showed what up and down play really is as whenever they attempted to get away, they left a little crack in the door letting Orange Academy back into the game. As is so often the case when Brian Butler enters the game, good things happen. It didn’t take long until he got the first fans to jump out of their seats as he made a hard dunk followed by a free throw giving Koblenz the advantage again. After easyCredit BBL player Moritz Krimmer deadlocked the game with free throws at 20-20, the EPG Baskets Koblenz erupted for a 7-0 run to lead 27-20 as their offense finally shone. Sunelik gave great energy dishing a no look pass to German Moses Poelking for the two hand stuff and then nailed a trey while Heckel followed with a shot from the corner. The Koblenz offense was more fluid, had better ball movement and better shot selection. Orange Academy had a good response getting a big three pointer from guard Marius Stoll and lay in from ex Munich center Michael Rataj, but they couldn’t add to the momentum of that lightening 5-0 run as the EPG Baskets Koblenz offense kept executing going on a 8-2 run to extend their lead to 35-27. In the run, the home team got 5 points from Johnson who’s experience is always a massive factor and athletic forward Jacob Mampuya made a wild shot. But Koblenz just couldn’t hold the momentum allowing Orange Academy again to get a small 4-0 run as Rataj made a 20 footer after getting a loose ball and German Latrell Grosskopf made a dunk. Koblenz kept allowing their lead to slip away as the guests were the more stable team. But as usual whenever Koblenz needs that extra push of energy in tough times, it is Brian Butler that comes in and saves the day. He led his team on a 7-0 run to get Koblenz the 41-31 advantage. On his baskets, he tip toed around two defenders finishing with the brutal dunk and on his second score made another two handed dunk on transition. Johnson finished the run with another stifling three. On defense Koblenz was good with the switches which continued to not allow the guests a real offensive rhythm. But the trend in this game with the runs continued as the EPG Baskets once again were unable to keep the momentum allowing an unacceptable 8-0 run as Orange Academy went into the break trailing only 41-39. Rataj was a one man wrecking crew showing his versatility all over the court hitting a pair of three’s and making free throws. ‘Our up and down play continued. We had too many bad phases. Rataj really hurt us. He is one of the biggest talents’, stated Thomas Klein.
The third quarter was a real battle in the trenches as no team could get away from the other, but after 30 minutes, Orange Academy had pulled away a little leading 59-55. It was a very even game as Orange Academy was pushing the buttons, but Koblenz always recovered and had an answer right away as Jenson, Krimmer and Ensminger made superb baskets only to be matched by buckets from Phillips who showed his sniper qualities draining a three, Poelking made a lay in to tie the game at 46-46. Then both teams point guards gave some scoring support as high energy player Marius Stoll made a lay in and Heckel made a beautiful lay in high off the glass and then connected from outside as the game was deadlocked at 51-51. Both teams were defending at a very high level and in the last minutes, Orange Academy was able to outlast Koblenz with a 8-4 run to lead 59-55. ‘We weren’t concentrated and had no rhythm. Small mistakes make big points in a low scoring game’, warned Thomas Klein. Orange Academy received exceptional support from German David Fuchs who came off the bench getting in the paint with two baskets. Grosskopf also drilled home a trey. ‘This was our weakest quarter. We weren’t focused enough. Our organization wasn’t good at both ends of the court’, stated Brian Butler.
In the fourth quarter Orange Academy began with a high intensity and it looked like they may run away with game, but as usual Brian Butler was inserted and turned the game around with his energy. Orange Academy began rapidly in the fourth quarter getting a clutch trey from Tobias Jenson for the 62-55 advantage. The EPG Baskets Koblenz stayed in striking distance with Johnson free throws and a Poelking offensive rebound and put back to trail only 62-59. Then could have come the turning point in favor of Orange Academy as 22 year old talented German Nat Diallo who has BBL experience with ratiopharm Ulm scored three consecutive baskets, but that burst of energy didn’t allow Koblenz to cave in, but they countered with another huge Phillips three and thunderous Poelking dunk as Orange Academy led only 68-64. Then came another amazing thrilling show by Butler who took the energy of Diallo and wiped it away and reacted with a left handed lay in and offensive rebound and put back. Butler is the perfect example of being a walking bucket as as soon as he gets the ball in the paint, It’s good night for the opponent. Phillips let Butler’s energy affect him with a big three and 71-68 lead. Phillips had personal momentum and drilled home another three pointer for the 74-69 advantage. Orange Academy tried to give Koblenz a scare with an incredible Ensminger offensive rebound and put back to cut the lead down to 74-71 with 1,32 to play. But Marvin Heckel was as cold as ice getting free throws and a lay to give Koblenz the 78-81 advantage as Butler had kept the possession alive with a tip out. With 28 seconds left, Shembari Philipps told his teammates on the bench that the game wasn’t over yet. However after a Johnson free throw, the game then finally was over as the EPG Baskets Koblenz remained unbeaten at home this season. ‘People know me that I’m the energizer. The start was tough as I hadn’t practiced much. I had just returned from having Corona. It is always my task to come in and be concentrated and do my job. I knew the team needed me. We defended very well at the end. We showed good offense and quick offense leads to success’, stated Brian Butler. ‘Koblenz did a good job forcing us to tough shots at the end. They did a good job with the switches. Experience was a factor. A guy like Johnson knows how to win games’, added Anton Gavel. The EPG Baskets Koblenz were led by Dominique Johnson with 16 points while Marvin Heckel produced 15 points and Shembari Phillipps added 14 points while Orange Academy was led by Michael Rataj with 14 points and Tobias Jenson had 11 points. The EPG Baskets Koblenz shot 53% from the field and 43% from outside and had 28 rebounds and 13 rebounds while Orange Academy shot 47% from the field and 31% from outside and had 28 rebounds and 15 turnovers.