The end spurt for the fight of the Pro B playoff places continues to be in full gear as the EPG Baskets Koblenz continued their chase of the Dresden Titans who had two wins more. They returned to their new living room where they are still unbeaten this season, but have overcome some really fierce battles. Koblenz last beat Orange Academy five days ago and once again made a comeback led by the brutal energy of Brian Butler (196-F-1991). This time they met the young and always tough Fraport Skyliners Juniors who were coming off a wild 96-95 victory on the road over Speyer. In that game, they had to hold their breath in the last seconds as a game winning attempt by ex EPG Baskets Koblenz guard DJ Woodmore didn’t want to fall. The Fraport Skyliners Juniors definitely had revenge on their minds after their disastrous start to the season losing 98-72 in their own living room to Koblenz. The Fraport Skyliners Juniors wanted a good start to the weekend as 48 hours later they would meet Hanau at home but they couldn’t as the EPG Baskets Koblenz played a fierce defensive game coupled with Brian Butler‘s Brutal energy to win 70-52. An hour before tip off, the surprising news flash came that the EPG Baskets Koblenz had let go of head coach Mario Dugandzic. Dugandzic had been missing because of a Covid case and the assistant coaches Tobias Hosper and Gerald Gomila had done a good job since weeks and now all of a sudden were the real head coaches. One could see that the players were very motivated. ‘I’m very happy how we performed. We had a good rhythm on offense and played good defense the whole game. It wasn’t an easy game with the firing of Dugandzic, but all stepped up. They played together and had fun’, warned EPG Baskets Koblenz manager Thomas Klein. The Fraport Skyliners Juniors as always gave everything, but their youth was quite evident and they just couldn’t match the overwhelming experience of Koblenz. ‘We never really found into the game. We had a lot of problems with their physicality and switching on defense. We didn’t really play with self-confidence in the first half, but that got better in the second half. We fought until the end’, warned Fraport Skyliners Juniors head coach Sepehr Tarrah.
The Fraport Skyliners Juniors were without Matthew Meredith who was at home sick as his versatility was missed. The first quarter was one of those typical quarters where no club could get a real rhythm on offense as the defense took center stage. The EPG Baskets Koblenz got on the board first as young German Leo Saffer scored on transition. That flash of offense didn’t ach Frankfurt as they struck back with a 5 point run as ex Wurzburg guard Philipp Hadenfeldt made a lay in and then a steal which led to a trey by Calvin Schaum and 5-2 advantage. But Koblenz continued to execute on offense taking the 9-5 lead as American Shemabri Philipps hit a three pointer, ex BBL player Dominique Johnson connected on a lay in and free throws and Leo Saffer continued to be aggressive inside and made free throws. Koblenz was defending very well not allowing Frankfurt any easy shots. Schaum connected on a contested three to cut the Koblenz lead down to 9-8. The EPG Baskets Koblenz would keep the lead even if Frankfurt was on their heels. Saffer continued to look rejuvenated with a dunk and Frankfurt got a big offensive rebound and put back from 16 year old Dusan Nikolic who was only playing his 4th pro B game. ‘He played well. We had some guys leave and he moved up to the team. He learns very quickly. The good thing with him is that when he makes a mistake, he doesn’t make the same one’, warned Philipp Hadenfeldt. Marvin Heckel then dropped a three pointer for the 14-10 advantage. Koblenz did a great job containing German 18 year old talent Alexander Richardson who would end the game with 0 points on 0/7 shooting. ‘He is very talented. For him to play well at the next level, he has to be able to withstand the physicality. Even against guards he has problems on the switch. He needs time and will find his way’, added Frankfurt head coach Sepehr Tarrah. Ex NBBL champion Leander Schwalm who also won the JBBL title with Alba Berlin made a lay in and Brian Butler ended the first quarter with a tap in as Heckel served up the dime for the 17-14 Koblenz lead after 10 minutes.
In the second quarter the EPG Baskets Koblenz made their move leading by as much as much as 11 points and had the 37-27 advantage at the break. The EPG Baskets Koblenz began very well getting a trey from young athletic wing Emmanuel Womalla and a Heckel lay in for the 24-16 lead. Koblenz continued to defend with passion and physicality and were great on the close outs and made Frankfurt take much time to get into their sets while on offense they were finishing better and were more aggressive on the boards. The EPG Baskets Koblenz were executing better on offense and got further key buckets from Phillipps who connected from outside and Heckel made a lay in for the 33-22 lead. Frankfurt got no production from their young bigs Richardson and Jordan Samare, so oldie Marco Voeller had to step up and did scoring five unanswered points cutting Koblenz’s lead down to 34-27. Frankfurt was unable to keep that momentum as the EPG Baskets rode into the break with a Butler free throw and Niclas Sperber lay in on transition and the 37-27 advantage. ‘Our offense was more efficient, but still not good enough on the finish. We continued not to allow Frankfurt a offensive rhythm. The points they made were either open looks or individual plays’, stated Thomas Klein.
In the third quarter the EPG Baskets Koblenz were able to up their game a bit more and lead mostly by double digits and let it rain three’s late getting the 50-35 advantage after 30 minutes. The Fraport Skyliners Juniors didn’t waste any time getting on the board first as Philipp Hadenfeldt nailed a 20 footer, but Koblenz answered with two baskets from German big man Moses Poelking. On the first basket he executed the perfect pick and roll with Heckel and on the second finished himself. Frankfurt finally got some production from German Jordan Samare who scored twice, but Koblenz made him work for it as nothing came easy, but Frankfurt still trailed 41-33. Then came a phase where Frankfurt defended really well producing many stops, but couldn’t take advantage of it on offense as either misses or turnovers stopped them. The EPG Baskets Koblenz then saved their best for last dropping three three’s in a row as Johnosn, Indrek Sunelik and Sperber all connected. All Frankfurt got in this time was a left handed hook shot from Voeller who did a good job being as physical as possible getting his way in the zone. Even if Koblenz had been up and down in the third quarter on offense, they stayed very consistent on defense.’ We played brutal defense switching well and double teaming when needed. On offense we were finding better shots’, explained Thomas Klein.
In the fourth quarter the EPG Baskets Koblenz continued to control the game and even when Frankfurt cut the lead down to 8, there really wasn’t any hope at the end of the tunnel as Brian Butler came in and took over as usual. Both teams had their offense going in the first minutes as Koblenz got points from Womalla and Heckel while Frankfurt got more production from Voeller, Samare and a trey from Nils Leonhardt to cut the lead won to 54-42. Frankfurt still had some energy left and were defending very well and were rewarded on offense with a Hadenfeldt three pointer and Samare free throws to cut Koblenz’s lead down to 55-47. But then came the closing punch as Brian Butler came in and led his team on a 11-0 run to up their lead to 66-47. In the run, Butler did his magic scoring an incredible 8 points. Give Butler the ball inside and he will produce. Heckel also added incentive with a three pointer. ‘I always come in and want to give 110%. I want to push everyone on the court. There was a good balance in the minutes and I was ready to come in and give all my energy’, stressed Brian Butler. In the last few minutes, Phillips and Poelking put the exclamation mark on the win with baskets. Heckel had the nicest play of the game with his over the shoulder no look pass to Poelking for the dunk. ‘There is always that one play that hurts our run. The Heckel three did it for us. Then the momentum switched and it was hard to stay with them mentally’, stated Philipp Hadenfeldt. The EPG Baskets were led by Brian Butler with 14 points and Marvin Heckel added 12 points while the Fraport Skyliners Juniors were led by Jordan samara with 12 points. The EPG Baskets Koblenz shot 39% from the field and 33% from outside and had 32 rebounds and 10 turnovers while the Fraport Skyliners Juniors shot 40% from the field and 25% from outside and had 31 rebounds and 19 turnovers.