For only the third time in the Dragons Rhondorf history, the club has to find their destiny in the playdowns determining if they remain in the Pro B or head back to the Regionalliga. The last two months haven’t been fruitful as they lost 7 of 9 games. They were in the games in more than half of them, but never had an answer in crunch-time to pull out wins. The Dragons Rhondorf couldn’t waste any time as they were given three home games in a row and in the first game had to battle Alba Berlin farm team Lok Bernau who they had split the season series and came away with a super start into the playdowns and very convincing 92-74 victory. In the game, they shot out the lights nailing 16 three’s, hauled down 11 offensive rebounds and only coughed up the ball 11 times. In their second game, they had to deal with the RheinStars Cologne who had been playing solid ball the last weeks and had won five of their last seven games including Wolmirstedt two weeks ago. The good news was that the Dragons Rhondorf still had good memories of the RheinStars who they last defeated 97-90 in the Dragon Dome. The Dragons Rhondorf wanted to keep their playdown winning streak going, but couldn’t as they met a RheinStars wall in the third quarter which put them in the hole where they couldn’t escape losing 80-73. The Dragons Rhondorf never stopped fighting but as usual this season couldn’t get over the hump. ‘Almost every game we have a phase where we can’t execute. That happened in the third quarter in this game. Our defense was ok, but we didn’t score consistently. We live and die with the three. Despite not having a deep roster, we gave all we had’, warned Paul Albrecht. The RheinStars played a tough and very strong second half upping their defense which Rhondorf couldn’t come to terms with. ‘We didn’t really do anything different on defense. We just did a better job staying in front of our man. We did a good job stopping their transition and moved the ball consistently and got easy baskets’, stated California native Vincent Golson.
The Dragons Rhondorf were without Senegal sensation Ousmane Ndiaje The first few minutes were brutal and both teams came out with an incredible intensity. Young German Oshane Drews gave Rhondorf the rapid 4-0 advantage with a two handed dunk and then fed Marek Kotieno after getting a steal for the transition bucket. But the RheinStars received unexpected aid and pressure from young 19 year old German Janis Von Seckendorf who made two back to back two handed dunks. The kid had extreme motivation to show Rhondorf how well his development has risen this season after playing the last years in the Rhondorf youth program. His brutal energy helped spark the RheinStars offense as ex Rhondorf forward Thomas Michel scored inside and ex Telekom Baskets Bonn guard Andrej Mangold connected on a trey for the 11-6 advantage. It took the Dragons Rhondorf a bit more time to get their groove but their three suddenly became present as ex Rostock sniper Nicolas Buchholz and Marek Kotieno connected from down town. The RheinStars were led by Vincet Golson who found his spots like usual and scored for the 15-14 Cologne advantage. But in the last few minutes the Dragons Rhondorf picked their game up a level going on a 9-2 run to lead 23.-17 after 10 minutes. Ex Artland Dragon Paul Albrecht hit two old school hook shots and Buchholz made another three pointer. ‘We were very motivated and had a lot of energy. Oshane Drews showed what we have awaited from him. His game didn’t surprise me’, stressed Dragons Rhondorf manager Yassin Idbihi. The Dragons Rhondorf shot 60% from the field and 38% from outside while the RheinStars shot 40% from the field and 20% from outside The Dragons had the overwhelming 12-4 rebound edge, but had 8 turnovers while the guests had 5 turnovers.
The second quarter was a real tight rope as no team could get away from the other. The RheinStars erupted on a 8-2 run to dead lock the contest at 25-25. In the run the RheinStars received good support from Vincent Golson who continued to lead the Cologne offensive attack scoring twice inside with his unstoppable drive and Mangold again unleashed a trey. The Cologne ball movement was exceptional as Rhondorf was always a step behind. From now on until the break, it would be a tight battle where Rhondorf had the slim lead. Rhondorf lived with their three pointer as they got some big shots from Buchholz and identity figure Viktor Frankel-Maus while the RheinStars got key support from Thomas Michel and Andrej Mangold as Cologne trailed 35-34. Oshane Drews continued to be in attack mode and kept Rhondorf in front with two lay ins and a free throw for the 40-36 lead. The game continued to be a typical Playdown duel as no team was going to give up a big run, but instead whenever one team had a punch, the other would retaliate with a blow right back. Cologne then briefly stole the lead back as Golson nailed a 20 footer and Mangold again showed his dangerous three pointer giving the guests the 41-40 advantage. But Drews had the last laugh sneaking inside and scoring and giving the Dragons Rhondorf the slim 42-41 lead after 20 minutes. ‘I thought that despite having a small rotation and getting more fouls, we played pretty well. We kept our energy up and Buchholz hit important shots. He knows that when he can see the basket well, then he should let it fly’, stated Dragons Rhondorf manager Yassin Idbihi. The Dragons Rhondorf shot 57% from the field and 36% from the three point line while the RheinStars shot 46% from the field and 36% from the three point line. The guests stepped up their rebound work trailing only 16-15 and had 9 turnovers while the Dragons had coughed up the ball 12 times.
The turning point of the game came in the third quarter as the RhienStars stepped up their defense allowing the Dragons Rhondorf to score only 10 points. The Dragons Rhondorf also succeeded with their 3-2 zone giving up 15 points, but trailed 56-52 after 30 minutes. The RheinStars came out stopping the Dragons first 9 possessions, but couldn’t capitalize well scoring only 8 points. In the RheinStars run, American Elijah Schmidt gave good energy down low scoring twice and racking up rebounds. Cologne also got a lay in from Mangold and from Golson who received the perfect bounce pass on transition from Mangold. This was a tough phase for Oshane who picked up three turnovers in a row. As a youngster he forced a little too much against the expereinced RheinStars. With the guests leading 49-42, the Dragons finally got on the board with their first points of the second half as German Ralph Hounnou scored at the 5,22 minute mark. Cologne would keep the momentum and lead and get some big baskets from Golson who scored from the parking lot as well as a Ron Mvouika (196-G/F-1991, college: St.John’s) lay in. Rhondorf stayed on the RheinStars tail getting a Drews lay in as his quickness could of got a thumbs up from Golson. Buchholz also connected on another trey, but the RheinStars led 56-52 after three quarters. ‘We got back to our defensive principles. We gave up too many easy baskets in the first half. We made sure that they finish over two defenders’, stated Vincent Golson. ‘We didn’t move the ball well. They defended more aggressive and we could establish a rhythm’, said Paul Albrecht. Both teams continued to shoot well from the field while the rebound battle was dead even with 27. Rhondorf had massive problems with taking care of the ball with 20 turnovers.
The Dragons Rhondorf continued to fight back in the first few minutes as Frankl-Maus and Hounnou made lay ins, but the RheinStars answered with a Florian Wendler lay in and another Mangold trey as the RheinStars led 61-57. Then came the final blow from which the Dragons Rhondorf couldn’t react. Ex St John forward Ron Mvouika who played for legendary player Chris Mullen scored 7 points in a row to give Cologne the 68-57 lead. Before the game Mvouika warned he would finally play well in the Dragon Dome and he didn’t lie. He finished with 11 points and stepped it up on the defensive end with 4 steals. ‘We switched him to the four some games ago. He feels really comfortable there. He gets more shots and makes good decisions. He did a good job against their zone’, stressed Vincent Golson. The Dragons Rhondorf couldn’t recover from this blow. The RheinStars continued to execute at will as ex Rhondorf center Florian Wendeler scored twice inside for the 76-62 advantage. The Dragons Rhondorf then got some luck getting 5 straight points from Hounnou to cut the lead of Cologne down to 76-67, but time was running down. The RheinStars didn’t allow the Dragons to extend their run and slammed the door shut with another Mvouika shot for the 78-67 lead. The Dragons Rhondorf did close out the game with a 6-2 run, but too little too late. They simply started their run to late. ‘They changed to a 3/2 zone. We didn’t want to get stagnant on offense. We continued to move the ball well, got easy baskets and got baskets from Wendeler. Offensive rebounds also were huge’, stated Vincent Golson. ‘We got tired. We also tried a new zone that we never played before. They made many drives and also had too many offensive rebounds’, stated Paul Albrecht. The RheinStars were led by Vincent Golson with 21 points. Andrej Magold added 19 points and 7 dimes. The Dragons Rhondorf were led by Nicolas Buchholz with 21 points while Ralph Hounnou had 14 points and Oshane Drews had 13 points and 7 assists. The RheinStars shot 48% from the field and 28% from the parking lot and had 34 rebounds and 18 turnovers while the Dragons Rhondorf shot 45% from the field and 25% from the parking lot and had 37 rebounds and 26 turnovers.