After a week off because of a Covid case, the Bona Baskets Limburg returned back to action. They had extra rest and wanted to make amends after the loss in Fellbach. They definitely didn’t have their work cut out for them on this weekend as they faced the potent 12-5 second place team Giessen Pointers. The good news was that the Bona Baskets Limburg had defeated them on the road in their first meeting 77-67. In that game they played the kind of defensive game that head coach Danny Stallbohm preaches and forced Giessen to 19 turnovers while keeping Lischka and Kennternich in pretty good check. But Limburg had a really difficult task this time as they welcomed a very strong Giessen team as they came to Limburg having won eight of their last nine games and in their last three games had averaged 95 points and only allowed 59 points on average. What made the hard task even more uncomfortable for Limburg was that they were without captain Justin Stallbohm who was recovering from COVID and KJ Sherril who had tested positive shortly before the game, but the home team still gave a spirted effort, but could only stay with Giessen for 30 minutes as in the fourth quarter they caved in losing 82-70. ‘I thought we played a good first half. We were up 10 points at the break, but down three points after three quarters. The difference was that we hit well in the first half and not so well in the second half. We got tired. You can notice how much our two players Justin Stallbohm and KJ Sherril were missed’, stated Limburg forward Noah Westerhaus. The Giessen Pointers gave the best example that a game has 40 minutes and they stepped up their game in the fourth quarter and played their game getting the win. ‘We began the game welll and then changed our defensive scheme which got us out of control. But we then changed some things and did a better job stopping their penetration which helped us get the game under control. Our focus was to focus in on Matej Kljacic and pack the paint and force them to shoot from outside’, stated Giessen guard Christopher Miller (192-G-1993, college: Salem).
The Bona Baskets Limburg began well getting the 5-2 advantage as Kljaic scored on the penetration and ex Koblenz forward Noah Westerhaus nailed a trey, but after that the guests slowly began to take control of the game. Giessen stepped up their intensity on defense and rode a 10-2 run to capture the 12-7 lead. Young German Paul Carl got back to back buckets on transition and sniper Christoph Kennternich made free throws and a three pointer. Giessen did a good job getting their transition game going and being aggressive on defense and kept Limburg out of an offensive rhythm. But Limburg got big support from 35 year old giant Mantas Bernatavicius who made some big defensive plays and got rebounds which led to back to three’s from ex Bochum forward Jari Beckmann and ex Bernau guard Julius Zurna to trail only 14-13. The GIessen Pointers however fought against that lightening spark of Limburg getting a lay in and free throw from New York native Christopher Miller and a Karl Maruschka lay in who has 29 pro B games on his resume as Giessen led 20-16 after 10 minutes. ‘Giessen did a good job getting on transition and just controlled the game and played their pace. They also didn’t allow Limburg to get the kind of shots that they wanted’, stressed Giessen Pointers 2 guard Corey Lewis who was taking in the game from the stands. Giessen shot a potent 53% from the field while Frankfurt was at 33%. Giessen also had the 11-6 rebound edge.
In the second quarter, both teams showed that basketball can always be a game of runs. There were exactly three runs but at halftime, the last run and lead belonged to the Bona Baskets Limburg at 36-26. The Bona Baskets Limburg didn’t waste anytime going on a brutal 10-0 run to lead 26-20. Limburg did a great job defeating the zone of Giessen and being patient working for the best shot as Kljaic and Julius Zurna hit consecutive three pointers. Beckmann then made a jumper and Westerhaus made a lay in. Limburg defended more aggressively and Giessen didn’t practice the best shot selection and just looked sloppy on some plays. The Giessen Pointers then struck back with a rapid 6-0 run as they made clever decisions and got good support from two of their young Germans Fritz Rostek and Robin Njie and veteran Benjamin Lischka who played 157 BBL games made a lay in to dead lock the contest at 26-26. In those few minutes, Limburg couldn’t execute against the Giessen zone, but soon did as they closed out the second quarter with a key 10-0 run to lead 36-26 at the break. Limburg got important baskets inside from Bernatavicius, Kljaic and Beckmann and Westerhaus nailed a trey. ‘Limburg did a good job switching their defenses to keep Giessen guessing and turnovers was a key also’, stated Corey Lewis. Giessen’s field goal percentage dipped down to 37% while Limburg’s was raised to 40%. Limburg got control of the boards19-17 while Giessen had 10 turnovers.
In the third quarter the Giessen Pointers picked up their game as Limburg was hampered with their offensive execution and trailed 48-45 after 30 minutes. Giessen began with a 4-0 run as Miller made a floater and Lischka free throws as they only trailed 36-30. Limburg stopped the run with a clutch trey by Zurna to up their lead to 39-30. But Giessen continued to chip away as they made key stops and didn’t allow Limburg to get a smooth offensive rhythm. The Giessen Pointer then struck with a 11-0 run to retain the lead at 41-39. In the run, pivotal was sharp shooter Kennternich who hit 9 three’s in a game three times in his career guided the team with two. Giessen also received support from young German Njie who made 4 points and Miller made a pull up jumper. Giessen connected very well against the Limburg zone. Limburg got the lead back with a Beckmann three pointer to lead 42-41. But Limburg couldn’t keep the lead as Giessen got vital support from Maruschka who made four free throws and Kennternich continued to be a menace from outside making another trey. ‘We played more together. We didn’t panic when we were down 10 points. We have been in situations like that before. Our focus was getting our offense going making the extra pass’, stated Christopher Miller. ‘Giessen played good defense. We didn’t shoot well the last games so they let us shoot in the first half and we made the shots. In the third, they defended us closer and we had no answer’, stressed Noah Westerhaus. Both teams weren’t shooting their best being under 40% while Giessen continued to control the boards 31-25 but had 11 turnovers while Limburg had 8.
In the fourth quarter both teams combined for 59 points as both offenses were executing at a very high level. The Giessen Pointers didn’t waste anytime deciding the game right away going on a fierce 19-4 run to extend their lead to 67-49. In the run, Giessen got key support from Maruschka who had 6 points and just remained very aggressive in the paint. Christopher Miller continued to play his game showing why he is the Regionalliga’s young version of Rickey Easterling as his mid range game is deadly. Kennternich as usual nailed a three pointer and also made free throws. Giessen had total control of the game and upped their intensity at both ends. They also got very good production from their young Germans. A mini 4-0 run by Limburg to cut the Giessen lead down to 67-53 didn’t scare Giessen as they always had an answer in the fourth quarter. Miller came back and bang scored 4 points to keep the overwhelming Giessen lead at 71-55. Miller finished with 17/8/5/2 stats and shot 72% from the two point mark. Miller is one of those guys that could surely average 25 points per game in the Regionalliga, but choses to be that allrounder who does all he can for his team to win. ‘I have matured a lot as a player. If I score 17 and we win by 20 it’s ok. I know If I am needed to score more, I will. I fight myself a lot, because I know that I can score more, but our goal is to reach the Pro B. I’m just doing my job to win’, warned Christopher Miller. Both teams continued to go back and forth until the end as Limburg just couldn’t get over the hump. Kljaic was very strong in the last minutes scoring 10 of the Limburg 15 points. Njie helped his stat sheet with 4 points while Lischka made a lay in. Kennternich wasn’t a factor at the end, but his three’s throughout the game were massive. ‘I always know where Kennternich is. When we run a play, I try to be in same corner as him so when I drive, I can kick it out to him. When he is hot, he is hard to stop’, stressed Christopher Miller. ‘Every game there is always one or two guys that help cost us the game. We did a good job containing Lischka in the first half. We wanted to play zone and contain Kennternich and Lischka, but we couldn’t control him’, stated Noah Westerhaus. The Giessen Pointers were led by Christoph Kennternich with 19 points while Christopher Miller had 17 points and Karl Maruschka chipped in with1 6 points while the Bona Baskets Limburg were led by Matej Kljaic with 22 points and 10 assists and Jari Beckmann had 143 points and Noah Westerhaus 13 points. The Giessen Pointers shot 50% from the field and 25% from outside and had 38 rebounds and 13 turnovers while the Bona Baskets Limburg shot 39% from the field and 27% from outside and had 29 rebounds and 12 turnovers.