With the dog days of summer in full swing, it is time again for German basketball and teams in various leagues around the country are preparing for the new season. One of those are the EPG Baskets Koblenz that play in the CGM arena without a doubt in the most beautiful gym in the league. The club is run with all the heart and energy of German Thomas Klein and that urge and need to reach the Pro A continues to grow. After last season’s unsatisfying playoff run, the team wants to finally get there in their third try. Sometimes 3 times a charm works and that could be with new coach Pat Elzie who is a coaching legend in Germany having brought success to so many teams including helping Vechta reach the BBL and Itzehoe the Pro A. He kept many key figures like Marvin heckle, Brian Butler and Dominique Johnson, but also brought in many new pieces like American guard Alani Moore who could be a big steal. On a cool Sunday, the EPG Baskets Koblenz welcomed the Romerstrom Gladiators who are also one of those teams that have talent, but can’t seem to put it together in the playoffs. On this day ambitious Pro B team EPG Baskets Koblenz came to play and for 3 quarters were clearly the better team while Pro A club Trier had to pay catch up basketball, but the guests were able to stage a comeback in the fourth quarter, but weren’t rewarded losing a tough nail bitter 91-89. After the win new coach Pat Elzie was all smiles. ‘I’m extremely happy that we were able to beat a Pro A team. It was good advertisement for basketball. We were very aggressive and played very physical. They made a comeback, but we held against it very well’, stressed ex Itzehoe coach Pat Elzie. The Romerstrom Gladiators are one of those talented pro A teams that had their hands full all afternoon long, but they did have respect for the Koblenz team. ‘It was a good test for us. We knew that Koblenz have high aspirations. They are well coached, athletic and disciplined. We did a good job finding ways to score. We have to do a better job of taking care of the ball. We can’t rely on Garai Zeeb to take all the responsibility’, stated Romerstrom Gladiators assistant coach Jermaine Bucknor.
The Romerstrom Gladiators had the better start in the first quarter jumping all over the EPG Baskets Koblenz taking the early 7-2 lead. Even if Koblenz got on the board first with a massive Brian Butler dunk, they had their defensive problems early as rookie and ex Villanova (NCAA) big Dylan Painter scored twice inside and ex Utah (NCAA) guard Parker Van Dyke hit a step back jumper. But the EPG Baskets Koblenz didn’t waste anytime and finally got their versatile offense going taking a 8-0 run to gain their first lead 10-7. In the run Koblenz got support from Marvin Heckel (190-PG-1997), Moses Poelking, Brian Butler and Dominique Johnson with baskets. Johnson who played in the easyCredit BBL got his offense going and the Koblenz offense got into a groove. They also upped their physicality something that Trier wouldn’t be able to match in the first 3 quarters. Before anyone noticed the EPG Baskets Koblenz led 20-12 as their many scoring options came to full sprout as Heckel scored with his left hand and ex Temple (NCAA) diminutive guard Alani Moore who played at the 2016 Albert Schweitzer tournament in Mannheim who stands at 178cm hit back to back three’s. Even when Trier found ways to score with a Jonathan Almstedt dunk and Zeeb lay in to cut the Koblenz lead to 20-16, they were never able to get over the hump because the EPG Baskets always found ways to score to keep the lead. Johnson hit a trey while new Spaniard Alex Rubiera scored in transition and made a runner to give Koblenz the lead 28-21 after 10 minutes. ‘Both teams played very aggressive and this was Pro A level basketball. Both teams were taking many shots and playing fast as well. I felt the only problems we really had was on the boards. It was just little things’, stressed EPG Baskets Koblenz manager Thomas Klein.
In the second quarter, the EPG Baskets Koblenz continued to control the game and began rapidly going on a 7-2 run to lead 35-24. The team’s two best and most experienced players Marvin Heckel and Dominique Johnson continued to be an instant threat dropping two three’s. German big man Moses Poelking continued to be aggressive scoring inside getting a bullet pass from Brian Butler. In the last 2 years fans usually saw the pretty spin moves and double and triple teams that Butler defeated, but this season he suddenly has a passing and mid range game. ‘In the past we saw him play 1-1 mostly, but under Pat Elzie he has been able to front and make that good pass. All our bigs can pass the ball well. Brian also has improved his mid range game. He worked hard on it this summer’, commented Thomas Klein. Basketball is always a game of runs which the Romerstrom Gladiators showed with a 13-2 run and microwave session cast by Parker Van Dyke. He really got going using his high energy play nailing two three’s and making a lay in to dead lock the contest at 39-39. ‘Parker can flat out shoot the ball. I have always said that if you can shoot the ball then sky is the limit. Plus he can also create his own shot which is special at this level. I expect him to have the ball more in his hands this season as well as also guarding the other team’s good player’, expressed Jermaine Bucknor. The game of runs continued as the EPG Baskets Koblenz didn’t panic, but instead shoved a 10-3 run in the face of Trier taking the 49-42 advantage into half-time. ‘It continued to be a high quality game. We stepped up our defense. We made it a lot more difficult for Trier on offense. They had to work hard for each shot. Van Dyke kept them in the game. Without him, they would have been down by 15 points’, said Thomas Klein.
The EPG Baskets Koblenz came out of half-time fresh and continued to control the game. Alani Moore continued to show his combo guard skills scoring and also driving and kicking out something Koblenz had problems with last season as Nicholas Sperber made a shot as did Brian Butler. For Trier it was as usual Parker Van Dyke who scored 9 points in the first few minutes including two three’s, but they couldn’t make any ground as Koblenz still led 62-52. The EPG Baskets Koblenz have so many guys that can carry the team at any moment as Moore continued to score and make Kyrie like moves. Butler also got back into the scoring stat sheet with two baskets as Koblenz led comfortably 71-56. Trier had no answer for the physicality of Koblenz, but continued to fight and get good production from their key players like Garai Zeeb who hit back to back three’s, but Koblenz still led 71-62. Trier couldn’t make any ground in the last minutes as Marvin Heckel used his experience and smarts making a step back and getting to the free throw line twice resulting in 4 points. Ex Ehingen sniper Daniel Monteroso hit a late three, but the EPG Baskets Koblenz still led 77-67 after three quarters. ‘We were able to keep the lead because we were more aggressive and physical at both ends of the court’, added Thomas Klein. ‘We couldn’t match their physicality or our effort at the 50/50 balls. It is hard to win on the road if you can’t get the 50/50 balls. We also gave up too many offensive rebounds and turnovers’, said Jermaine Bucknor.
In the fourth quarter the EPG Baskets Koblenz lost their rhythm on offense and also didn’t have that high intensity anymore and lost their aggressiveness allowing the game to get exciting as the guests staged a big comeback. The Romerstrom Gladiators Trier began with an annoying 9-2 run to cut Koblenz’s lead to only 79-76. Surprisingly Parker Van Dyke didn’t figure in the scoring in the run, but moreover ex Bayreuth guard Nico Wenzl who came off the bench and gave valuable support with a three and lay in while Dylan Painter was a brute inside with a dunk and tip in. But the EPG Baskets Koblenz have so many weapons and guys that can produce at any time that they got valuable support from Heckel and Johnson who led them on a 8-0 run to extend their lead to 87-79. It seemed like the game had been decided, but the Romerstrom Gladiators Trier still had some gas in their tanks as they struck back with a 7-2 run to trail only 89-86. The guests got buckets from ex wiha Panther Till Isemann, a step back from Van Dyke and a huge trey from Luxemburg forward Alex Laurent. ‘We made more of an effort to get the loose balls. We took better care of the ball and got the defensive rebounds’, stated Jermaine Bucknor. With 1,11 to play Johnson stepped up with a difficult turn around shot for the 91-86 lead. Trier just kept coming back at Koblenz and responded with a massive in your face three pointer from Garai Zeeb to cut the lead of Koblenz to 91-89. With the seconds ticking down the EPG Baskets Koblenz could take care of the ball and coughed it over giving the Romerstrom Gladiators one last play to send the game into overtime or win it with a trey. Van Dyke had the last shot, having a great uncontested look, but the shot fell short. ‘ Parker has to knock that shot down. He will make it the next time. He will make that shot 9/10 times’, warned Jermaine Bucknor. ‘We stayed together. Everyone scored. The role guys did their job and our most important players took on responsibility when they needed to’, stressed Thomas Klein. The EPG Baskets Koblenz were led by Marvin Heckel with 22 points. Alani Moore added 20 points and Dominique Johnson 16 points while the Romerstrom Gladiators Trier were led by Parker Van Dyke with 23 points and Garai Zeeb added 15 points. The EPG Baskets Koblenz shot 57% form the field and 46% from outside and had 29 rebounds and 12 turnovers while the Romerstrom Gladiators Trier shot 52% from the field and 45% from outside and had 28 rebounds and 16 turnovers.