The current playoff run by the EPG Baskets Koblenz hasn’t been anything near a cake walk, but moreover a real struggle against the Iserlohn Kangaroos. Koblenz were lucky to have escaped game one with a 73-70 win and not already home for an early summer vacation, because their disappoint loss in game two in Iserlohn where they mustered only 61 points set up a do or die game in Koblenz. Despite having a very deep and talented roster, scoring has been a problem all season long and especially in the last four games where they lost three times, they averaged only 65 points, but at least they were still defending well. A day before Good Friday, the EPG Baskets wanted to close out the playoff series against Iserlohn and advance to the next round, but also knew that Iserlohn would give a good fight. The do or die game was a real defensive struggle as no team led in double figures, but in the end the atmosphere of the Koblenz fans coupled with ruthless aggressive defense for 40 minutes was too much for the Iserlohn Kangaroos as the EPG Baskets prevailed 68-63 and will next play Duesseldorf or Oberaching. ‘We had a lot of ups and downs. But we showed good character. They are a good team, but we defended well. The difference to game two was that tonight we defended consistently. We had this mentality not to let this be our last game’, stressed EPG Baskets Koblenz center Brian Butler. Iserlohn that had 50 plus fans behind them gave a spirited effort and didn’t quit until the siren. ‘The difference tonight were too many turnovers. You can’t have that many in an important playoff game like this. We began well, but we struggled in the third quarter and they came back and got confidence. They then were able to play their game and play fast. We made their job easier with turnovers’, warned Iserlohn guard Toni Prostran.
The Iserlohn Kangaroos got off to a rapid start leading 5-2 as Prostran hit a trey and ex Dragon Rhondorf center Alexander Moeller made a lay in. Ex Giessen guard Lucas Mayer gave Koblenz a lot of energy in the first minutes getting a loose ball, offensive rebound and lay in. But the EPG Baskets Koblenz then got some real spark from ex easyCredit BBL player Dominique Johnson (194-SF-1992) who hit back to back three’s for the 8-5 Koblenz advantage. But it didn’t take Iserlohn long to grab the lead back as Moeller connected on an old school hook shot and ex G-League player Tidjan Keita made a massive tip in dunk for the 13-10 lead. Koblenz couldn’t take advantage of Iserlohn’s second string and Prostran on the bench. Koblenz were too inconsistent showcasing their strength transition and when they did they couldn’t connect. Both teams suffered their ups and downs as Koblenz finally took advantage of Iserlohn losing some intensity and getting a huge trey from German forward Niclas Sperber and steal and lay in from Johnson for the 16-13 advantage. But as usual the EPG Baskets Koblenz were unable to close out the first quarter strong as they allowed young German Moritz Schneider to sink a deep three to tie the score at 16-16. ‘This was a real defensive battle. Our three’s weren’t falling and we were a little unlucky with lay ins. But as usual our defense was strong with good rotations’, stated EPG Baskets Koblenz manager Thomas Klein.
The second quarter continued to be a real tight rope battle as despite the EPG Baskets Koblenz having a 5 point lead, they couldn’t keep it and even allowed Iserlohn to escape into the break with the four point lead. Iserlohn got the first bucket of the second quarter as German Moritz Huebner made a hard one hand dunk on penetration for the 18-16 advantage. Koblenz then had one of their best offensive phases of the game as they escaped out on a 9-2 run to lead 25-18. Ex Georgia Tech guard Shembari Philipps connected on a 20 footer and then like usual came the basketball feeding time of Brian Butler as he was hungry for baskets and made three in a row and a free throw. It is no lie that when the ex Ehingen center comes on the floor, good things happen. Unfortunately he soon had to depart again as he suffered three fouls. But Koblenz wasn’t able to hold their lead long as Toni Prostran took over leading Iserlohn on a brutal 7-0 run. He hit a trey and set up Keita twice with world class passes making a perfect long lob pass and then a no look pass for the 27-25 lead. Koblenz was able to dead lock the contest at 27-27 with a Sperber left handed lay in, but they couldn’t shift the momentum. Iserlohn got an open three from shooter Joshua Dahmen and another trey from Moritz Huebner. Despite the two three’s, Koblenz did make life extremely difficult for Iserlohn for most of the game really not allowing easy looks. Moeller made one free throw at the end as Iserlohn led 33-29 at half-time. ‘Our offense was weak. We weren’t able to do two key things in our game with attacking and transition. We defended 1-1 well, but our off ball wasn’t good’, stated Thomas Klein.
The EPG Baskets Koblenz found back to their game in the third quarter stealing the lead back and holding it and leading by five points after 30 minutes. Koblenz upped their defensive intensity giving Iserlohn nightmares making them turnover the ball in their first four possessions. On offense this led to a 7-0 run as they executed with a quick trey by Dominque Johnson and lay ups from guards Marvin Heckel and Lucas Mayer for the 36-33 advantage. Koblenz was focused and attacked the rim and played transition and made Iserlohn struggle in the half court offense. Despite Johnson making another three for the 39-35 lead, Iserlohn continued to chip away and had real good efficiency making tough shots as German Emil Loch scored inside and Ruben Dahmen made a trey to tie the game at 40-40. The EPG Baskets Koblenz had an overall better execution rate on offense and were able to get away again going on a 8-2 run to lead 48-42. In the run, they received huge support from German athletic freak Jacob Mampuya as he steered home 7 points. He only played 12 minutes, but showed his versatility with 4 assists and 3 steals. Toni Prostran made a vital lay in to cut the Koblenz lead to 50-45 after 30 minutes. ‘We did a good job to get a good cushion when Prostran was out. We were able to play quick and had a way better offensive rhythm. Mampuya also gave us important impulses’, stated Thomas Klein. ‘We have struggled a lot in third quarters this season. They defended very well. They switched well and Butler and Johnson are very good 1-1 defenders. We couldn’t find a way to get easy shots’, stressed Toni Prostran.
The EPG Baskets Koblenz were able to control the game better in the fourth quarter, but couldn’t totally shake Iserlohn. Koblenz led only by 3 points with less than minute to go, but somehow survived. Koblenz got off to a good start getting some big baskets from Heckel, and Sperber for the 55-48 advantage, but Iserlohn never collapsed. Despite losing energy, they somehow were able to stay on their trail despite always having to work so hard for their points. The EPG Baskets Koblenz on the other hand got a lot more easy baskets and could conserve their energy better. After a Huebner lay in, Heckel used his speed and athleticism for an easy transition basket and 57-50 Koblenz lead. But Iserlohn always had an answer. Joshua Dahmen free throws and a Keita 20 footer to cut the Koblenz lead to 57-54. After a Mayer lay in and Huebner trey, Butler stormed back thrusting home a big two handed dunk and 61-57 Koblenz advantage with 1,50 to play. Heckel then added a lay in for the 63-57 lead and the CGM arena was in pandemonium. The last minute was a free throw clash between Prostran and Johnson. Prostran made a surprising steal and lay in with little time remaining, but that was it. Johnson poured home two clutch free throws to end the game. ‘We held our nerves. It was a great game. I think the support of the fans gave us the extra spark at the end to win the game. Our strong defense was the difference today’, said Brian Butler. ‘We got a little tired in the fourth quarter. They made big shots and played great defense at the end’, stated Toni Prostran. The EPG Baskets Koblenz were led by Dominique Johnson with 24 points and Brian Butler added 11 points and Marvin Heckel 10 points while the Iserlohn Kangaroos were led by Toni Prostran with 18 points while Tidjan Keita added 14 points and Moritz Huebner 11 points. The EPG Baskets Koblenz shot 38% form the field and 27% from outside and had 32 rebounds and 10 turnovers while the Iserlohn Kangaroos shot 39% from the field and 25% from outside and had 43 rebounds and 22 turnovers.