Some weeks ago, some very bold people including myself were talking about the playoffs for the Dragons Rhondorf, but with the season winding down, the playdowns seem to be the more logical choice. In mid January, the playoffs seemed the goal after having a three game winning streak, but since the club has rode a four game losing streak and were two wins shy of the playoffs with four games remaining. The goal for the Dragons Rhondorf was to get as many wins as possible so that when the playdowns begin, they will be in good position not having to worry about moving back to the Regionalliga. Rhondorf met the ambitious team RheinStars who had had a very disappointing season and recently had let go of head coach Simon Cote and named German basketball legend and Rheinstars maker Stephan Baeck as head coach. A Cologne team that was filled with unending talent have simply underachieved and had lost three of the last four games, but came to Rhondorf with self-confidence having destroyed hapless Hamburg. The RheinStars came to the Dragon Dome with seemly half of their roster filled with ex Dragons as names like Wendeler and Michel were still very well remembered. The Dragons Rhondorf entered the contest with a must win situation and knew that the RheinStars actually had to win more, but after almost letting the game slip away in the fourth quarter fought back by the hot shooting of German Nicolas Buchholtz and took control in overtime and never looked back securing the huge 97-90 victory over the RheinStars Cologne. ‘Our will and energy got us the win. We also got a lot of support from our faithful fans. We really needed this win badly and wanted it more than they did at the end’, stressed ex Rostock Seawolf Nicolas Buchholz. The RheinStars Cologne gave a massive fight, but just didn’t have the needed energy in overtime to get the win. ‘We lost it in the first half with 14 turnovers. Our defensive principles weren’t there. We know our offense will come when our defensive principles are there. We ran our sets better in the second half and stuck to our defensive principles. They weren’t perfect, but we figured them out’, stated RheinStars guard Vincent Golson.
The first quarter saw a fast start by the Dragons Rhondorf only to see the RheinStars fight back and trail only 18-15 after one quarter. The Dragons Rhondorf didn’t waist any time from the get go taking a quick 14-4 lead. Buchholz got his game going quickly hitting two three’s while Senegal sensation Ousmane Ndiaje also netted one from the parking lot. Rhondorf also got buckets from identity figure Viktor Frankl -Maus and Brazilian center Marcelo Ruedinger. Rhondorf did a super job containing Golson and Mvouika well while getting their rhythm on offense right away. On defense, they played with a high intensity not allowing Cologne to get into their sets well. But the guests finally found a rhythm on offense getting their ball movement going and getting young German Ay-keen Richardson more involved, a guy Rhondorf might not have had on their scouting report. In the run, Richardson contributed 8 points as his game intelligence and aggressiveness was very refreshing. Cologne stepped up their defense and ex German batchelor Andrej Mangold brought the needed energy and precise playmaking skills that brought the guests back into the contest. ‘We went off the offensive pedal and Oshane Drews getting into quick foul trouble hurt us’, stressed Nicolas Buchholz (200-PG-2001).
In the second quarter the Dragons Rhondorf got their game going again, took a good lead and kept it being led by the scoring abilities of Nicolas Buchholz while the RheinStars coughed up the ball too much and had problems finding an offensive flow. Both teams got their offensive rhythm quickly as Richardson kept up his offensive fury with a trey only to have Frankl-Maus also score from outside as Rhondorf led 22-18. Cologne stayed on Rhondorf’s door step getting a rare basket from Golson who had difficulty with the aggressive man defensive and ex Dragons Florian Wendeler also scored as Rhondorf only led 24-22. But the Dragons Rhondorf then took charge being led by Buchholz who showed his total versatile game proving he is more than just a three point threat scoring inside twice and swiping an offensive rebound for the 31-22 advantage. But Rhondorf allowed Cologne to hang around as American rookie Elijah Schmidt who averaged only 3,0ppg coming into the game scored in the paint and Mangold hit a trey to cut Rhondorf’s lead down to 31-28. But the Dragons Rhondorf always had an answer when Cologne made comebacks and closed out the second quarter with a 15-6 run to lead comfortably 46-34 after 20 minutes. In the run, it was Buchholz again who remained aggressive hitting a trey and made a thunderous dunk. Rhondorf also got a massive dunk from Ralph Hounnou who saw the highway from the wing and also got valuable support from young German Samuel Nellessen who scored four points. Ndiaje also added a 20 footer. Cologne had some inconsistent phases on offense and continued to suffer too many turnovers and on defense had breakdowns which led to easy baskets by Rhondorf. ‘We did a good job building a lead and keeping it. Sam Nellessen also played great. He had a very good week of practice and deserved the minutes’, stated Nicolas Buchholz.
The Dragons Rhondorf held the lead in the third quarter, but could never fully shake the RheinStars who continued to fight and be in striking range. The RheinStars came out of halftime refocused and rapidly stopped the Dragons first four possessions and scored 5 points getting a lay in from German Florian Von Seckendorff and a three by Golson who was still finding his groove as Rhondorf led only 46-39. Their run would continue as they went on a 7-3 run to trail the Dragons only 49-46. Cologne got some clutch buckets from ex Dragon Thomas Michel who played three BBL games with the Telekom Baskets Bonn. Michel who always plays with high energy nailed a trey and scored a lay in after Wendeler secured an offensive rebound. Wendeler also scored in the paint as three Dragons turnovers in a row helped the guests make the big comeback. Cologne’s offense showed successful pick and roll and team basketball while Rhondorf was forced more to one on one plays which they couldn’t execute. Rhondorf also got some key baskets from ex Paderborn forward Paul Albrecht and Ruediger, but a Golson three pointer kept Cologne in striking range as they were only down 55-51. Rhondorf got some key baskets in the last two minutes as German Ralph Hounnou scored in the paint and Oshane Drews made an incredible off balance shot at the buzzer for the 61-53 advantage after 30 minutes. ‘We knew being down by 12 wasn’t much. We got better into the game and kept the ball on one side and played more aggressive at both ends’, stated Vincent Golson. The RheinStars remained to shoot under 40% from the field and outside while the Dragons Rhondorf shot 43% from the field and 30% from outside. Cologne had the 31-30 rebound edge while the Dragons had the 11-10 offensive rebound edge, while Cologne had 21 turnovers and Rhondorf 16.
In the fourth quarter the Dragons Rhondorf kept the lead and seemed like they would keep it, but they allowed it to shrink and they lost the lead in crunch-time. Rhondorf had a good start with a 8-4 run to lead 69-57 as whenever Cologne struck, Rhondorf had a counter punch. The Dragons received vital three’s from Buchholtz and Frankl-Maus. But the lead would not be a safe thing in the last 10 minutes as the RheinStars kept chipping away. Golson heightened his game from quarter to quarter and there was also Rom Mvouika who had had 0 points after 30 minutes, but would add 6 key ones in crunch-time. But Rhondorf still kept the comfortable lead momentarily as Ralph Hounnou scored back to back buckets as Rhondorf led 72-62. But then came the RheinStars as they made one last push overwhelming the Dragons Rhondorf going on a 14-3 run to take the 78-75 lead. Golson and Mvouika added four points a piece, but it was also the young German Richardson who continued to want the ball and executed scoring 5 points. ‘Our young buck Ay-Keen Richardson made big shots. We played with confidence, but not out of our element. We ran our sets better and didn’t let them push us out of the zone’, commented Vincent Golson. But Rhondorf wasn’t done yet. They came up big on the defensive end as Hounnou made a huge block on Richardson which led to Frankl-Maus free throws as Cologne led only 78-77. Golson added two free throws for the 80-77 advantage. But the Dragons Rhondorf had 14 seconds left and saved their best for last moving the ball great and letting their shilled passer Paul Albrecht to find a wide open Buchholz who had had the hot hand all night long and didn’t disappoint nailing the buzzer beater and sending the game into overtime. ‘They played zone in the run and we had no energy. On my shot, I had a good feeling that it would go in’, stated Nicolas Buchholz. The Dragons Rhondorf shot 41% from the field and 29% from the three point line and had 40 rebounds and 21 turnovers while the RheinStars shot 44% from the field and 43% from the three point line and had 40 rebounds and 23 turnovers.
In the overtime period the Dragons Rhondorf came out with a high intensity and just wanted it more than the guests. Ron Mvouika gave Cologne the 83-81 advantage, but Frankl-Maus came back with a trey to give Rhondorf the 84-83 lead and they would never trail again. After a stop, Rhondorf got a big basket from Paul Albrecht for the 86-83 lead. Rhondorf then found the needed energy on defense to get stops and got free throws from Drews and Buchholtz for the commanding 91-85 lead. After Golson free throws, Buchholtz put a nail on the coffin with a clutch three giving Rhondorf the 94-88 advantage. Rhondorf got two more stops which led to Albrecht and Drews free throws securing the victory. ‘We had more will and energy in overtime. Our condition also was better than them’, stressed Nicolas Buchholz. ‘We fell apart in overtime. We couldn’t get stops. We were a bit tired and just gave up’, stated Vincent Golson. The Dragons Rhondorf were led by Nicolas Buchholz with 31 points. Viktor Frankl-Maus added 17 points and Paul Albrecht 12 points while the RheinStars Cologne were led by Vincent Golson with 30 points and Ay-Keen Richardson added 20 points. The Dragons Rhondorf shot 42% from the field and 32% from outside and had 48 rebounds and 23 turnovers while the RheinStars Cologne shot 42% from the field and 36% from outside and had 43 rebounds and 25 turnovers.