With the 2022 Pro B playdowns winding down faster and faster, the Dragons Rhondorf have constructed an incredible season ending furry with the hopes of remaining in the league. It couldn’t be any more exciting with two games remaining as three teams with the Dragons Rhondorf, RheinStars Cologne and Lok Bernau were all dead locked with 10-16 records and 20 points. The focus of the Dragons Rhondorf was to win their last two games against the RheinStars and Lok Bernau and all would be ok. The Dragons Rhondorf had had a solid showing against the RheinStars having won two of three this season. They did lose the last playdown game in their own living room, but they had won their first encounter in Cologne 90-79 and now had to simply do it again. After a strong week of practice and having won three of their last four games giving added self-confidence, the troops of head coach Julius Thomas arrived in Cologne with a do or die situation and gave an incredible performance for 40 minutes winning 78-65 forcing the RheinStars Cologne down to the Regionalliga. One of the hero’s of the win was guard Nicolas Buchholz (200-PG-2001) who dropped three clutch three’s in the fourth quarter. ‘We gave a very consistent effort and kept the lead well. We did give up some runs, but we fought until the end and played together as a team’, stated Nicolas Buchholz. The atmosphere in the ASV gym was breathtaking, but the RheinStars couldn’t reward their fans with a victory as they just couldn’t get over the hump in the fourth quarter. ‘We had good stretches throughout the game, but fell apart in the fourth quarter. We didn’t stick to our defensive principles. We didn’t play help side well and gave up too many offensive rebounds’, stated guard Vincent Golson.
The RheinStars Cologne didn’t waste any time jumping all over the Dragons Rhondorf taking a quick 7-3 lead. The intensity and energy of Cologne was extremely high as the Dragons Rhondorf still seemed to be a bit asleep. Top Pro B player Vincent Golson began the run dropping a trey and getting a transition lay in and rookie Elijah Schmidt scored on a lay in on a pretty back door pass from Thomas Michel. Nicolas Buchholz dropped a three pointer finding his rhythm right away as he would keep it until the end of the game. Rhondorf began to execute better moving the ball around well leading to a Paul Albrecht three pointer and a Oshane Drews runner to cut the RheinStars lead to 9-8. Rhondorf also stepped up their aggressiveness on defense making it a lot tougher for Cologne on offense. Rhondorf finally took their first lead of the game as Paul Albrecht made a lay in for the 10-9 lead as he was carrying the team early. The Rhondorf lead didn’t stand long as the RheinStars fought back as Golson scored in the paint as his quickness totally crippled the Rhondorf defense and German John Saigge nailed a big three pointer for the 14-10 advantage. But the Dragons Rhondorf closed out the first quarter getting free throws from Ralph Honnou and Marcelo Ruediger for the 15-14 lead. ‘We didn’t start well. But we quickly came together and built each other up and stayed together. Paul Albrecht was really important for keeping us together and keeping us all on the same wave length’, stated Nicolas Buchholz.
The second quarter was really tight as the RheinStars made a run to recapture the lead, but soon lost it letting the Dragons Rhondorf regain the lead and hold it until half-time. Mark Kotieno got Rhondorf on the board first with a 25 footer, but then the RheinStars took command jumping out on a 7-0 run to take the 21-18 advantage. In the run the RheinStars were led by Schmidt who scored inside on a lob pass from Thomas Michel, Golson made a lay in and young athletic German Jannis Von Seckendorff connected on a trey. The RheinStars were doing a good job taking advantage of the mis matches and feeding their bigs inside. Rhondorf had breakdowns on defense and didn’t play satisfying 1-1 defense. But the Dragons Rhondorf didn’t have long lapses on offense in this game as they mostly had answers for their opponent. For the next three minutes, both teams found their range as they traded three leads and let it rain three’s. Golson nailed two as did Kotieno. Buchholz continued to be on an offensive rampage as he scored 5 points including dropping a trey for the 30-27 lead. Rhondorf kept the slim lead continuing to get good support from Buchholz who scored on a drive and Drews also scored on two lay ins as his athleticism coupled with his swiftness gave Cologne problems all night long for the 36-32 advantage at the break. ‘We played a zone which took Cologne out of their rhythm. Drews remained aggressive and gave us the needed energy’, stressed Nicolas Buchholz. The RheinStars Cologne shot over 40% from the field and outside while the Dragons Rhondorf shot 40% from the field and 38% from outside. Rhondorf had the 19-16 rebound edge having the 9-4 offensive rebound edge and both teams had 8 turnovers a piece.
Both teams had runs in the third quarter, but at the end of 30 minutes, the Dragons Rhondorf still had the comfortable 59-51 lead. The RheinStars Cologne kept chipping away at the Dragons lead getting a Thomas Michel lay in who played in the BBL with Bonn and a trey from Golson cutting the Rhondorf lead to 40-37. Kotieno had his three pointer rolling all night long hitting another three pointer and Paul Albrecht finally got an old school hook shot to fall something that didn’t happen in the first half for the 45-37 advantage. The Dragons Rhondorf were in control, but the RheinStars Cologne retaliated and exploded for a 12-3 run to capture the lead back again at 49-48. In the run Cologne got their energy going as Michel served up the perfect alley-oop dime to Von Seckendorff for the crushing dunk. ‘That was a nice play from Jannis. He is super athletic and kept us going. I see it in practice all the time from him. He really gets excited on his dunks which sparks his defense. I think that he will be a real good player’, warned Vincent Golson. The run was continued by Mr ‘TJ Shorts of the Pro B’ Vincent 2-2 Golson who scored 10 unanswered points including two three’s. The RheinStars were playing on adrenaline and Rhondorf wasn’t able to match their intensity. But basketball will always be a game of runs as the Dragons Rhondorf fired back closing out the third quarter with a 11-2 run. In the run the ex Pro A team was led by Nicolas Buchholz with 6 points. Brazilian giant Marcelo Ruediger who was very present on the glass made a tip in and Bruno Albrecht and Drews made free throws. ‘The run at the end helped us get into a good position to win the game. We did it together pushing each other bringing them out of rhythm’, said Nicolas Buchholz. ‘We had good intensity, but didn’t stick to our defensive principles. I just played my game enjoying having the trust from my players’, said Vincent Golson. Both teams continued to shoot well, but the Dragons Rhondorf really controlled the rebounds 32-23 with 12 offensive rebounds.
In the fourth quarter there was no looking back for the Dragons Rhondorf as they took good care of their lead and played consistent basketball until the end. In the first few minutes it looked like the RheinStars Cologne could make it interesting again going on a rapid 6-2 run to cut the Dragons lead down to 61-57. In the run Cologne got vital production from Saigge, ex St Johns forward Ron Mvouika and ex Dragon Yannick Kneesch. Cologne continued to attack the rim taking advantage of the waning Dragons defense. But as the Dragons Rhondorf had demonstrated all night long, they didn’t have longer lapses on offense. Rhondorf got a key three point play by their identity figure Viktor Frankel-Maus making a very pretty submarine shot and as usual the team sniper Buchholz nailed two three’s for the 70-59 advantage. With three minutes to play the RheinStars had one last gasp of energy going on a lightening 5-0 run to cut the lead down to 70-64 as German Darius Perwan made a runner and Golson a tough off balance trey. But the Dragons Rhondorf didn’t let down, but instead slammed the door shut going on a 8-2 run to clinch the win. Buchholz hit his sixth trey of the game and Drews and Maus hit free throws to conserve the win. ‘Our consistency helped us keep our distance. I got the hot hand and my teammates put me in good position to make my shots. Plus the great support of the fans helped. This win was for the whole organization’, stressed Nicolas Buchholz. ‘They got offensive rebounds and made open three’s. We couldn’t execute, ‘stated Vincent Golson. The Dragons Rhondorf were led by Nicolas Buchholz with 25 points. Oshane Drews added 14 points and Marek Kotieno 13 points while the RheinStars Cologne were led by Vincent Golson with 34 points. The Dragons Rhondorf shot 44% from the field and 40% from the three point line and they had 44 rebounds and 17 turnovers while the RheinStars shot 37% from the field and 32% from the three point line and had 36 rebounds and 11 turnovers.