It seemed at times like an eternity to when the Pro B regular season would finally begin for ambitious team EPG Baskets Koblenz. Since the announcement of Pat Elzie being the new head coach some months ago, the excitement of the new season was massive. The club did a super job holding key players like Dominique Johnson, Marvin Heckel and Brian Air Butler and added new pieces with the most interesting being diminutive point guard Alani Moore who is destined to turn many heads this season with his game. Their first opponent were the Fraport Skyliners Juniors who had the huge misfortune of playing on the same night as BBL team Fraport Skyliners and didn’t have some BBL double license players at their expense. The Fraport Skyliners have been known for a decade of being on of the leading organizations in youth work and it is always interesting to see which new young players are on the rise. On this cool late September night, the EPG Baskets Koblenz were the high favorite and nobody would have disagreed if people had predicted a 30 point slap in the face win for the home team. In the first few minutes it sure looked like the EPG Baskets Koblenz would run away with the game and win by an astronomic score, but up and down phases through out the game and a potent Frankfurt zone in the second half ruined their chances of winning by a massive margin as in the end, they won only by a score of 73-60. After the contest one could rapidly notice that Koblenz head coach Pat Elzie wasn’t overly content with the 40 minutes, but in the end a win is a win. ‘Frankfurt is a good young team that never gave up. We had a good first half, but then we made too many unforced errors. We were too hectic in the second half wanting to play too fast. We weren’t thinking enough. I’m just happy we won our first game’, stressed Pat Elzie. On paper coming into the game, Frankfurt was the heavy underdog with very many young unexperienced players and a few absent because they played a BBL game in Bayreuth. Frankfurt had some good spurts, but just couldn’t keep up with the physicality of Koblenz. ‘The Koblenz start hurt us. The 24 turnovers that we had was the dIfference. We did a good job with the zone confusing them, but they had the physicality edge that hurt us and kept us out of rhythm’, stated Nils Leonhardt.
The game had a prominent guest as ex German national player Robin Benzing who is the all-time leader in caps with 165 took in the game. The EPG Baskets Koblenz began with a major blitzkrieg putting up 13 straight points totally overwhelming the Fraport Skyliners Juniors. From the quality it looked like men vs boys, but also from the physicality and the difference in bodies was like night and day. Koblenz moved the ball well and let it fly from deep as ex Bremerhaven guard Marvin Heckel connected twice as did ex Iserlohn German forward Moritz Huebner who did the same twice. Frankfurt had extreme difficulty coming to terms with the Koblenz physicality and aggressiveness which led to many turnovers quickly. But that totally domination was rapidly halted as Frankfurt struck back and went on a 8-0 run to cut the Koblenz lead to 13-8. It was no secret that Frankfurt would need a lot of support from sniper Felix Hecker and got it as he scored 5 points and young German Dusan Nikolic scored on transition getting the quick pass from Hecker who seemed to be all over the court. Frankfurt upped their energy and Koblenz simply lost their intensity. Koblenz’s offense was still moving the ball, but shots weren’t falling against the zone which they had inserted after being down 13-0. Down the stretch of the first quarter, the Fraport Skyliners Juniors continued to be carried by Hecker who would score in traffic and then nail an open three. Koblenz got 2 valuable buckets inside form Germans Niclas Sperber and Moses Poelking (206-C-1997). After one quarter the EPG Baskets Koblenz led 21-13, but their fire of the first 4 minutes had been abruptly extinguished. ‘We lost rhythm against their zone which led to easy baskets. Our defense was ok. We forced them to tough defense and our 1-1 defense was good’, stressed EPG Baskets Koblenz manager Thomas Klein.
In the second quarter the EPG Baskets Koblenz continued to control the game, but had a few down phases that allowed Frankfurt to hang around. Koblenz’s offense was clicking early as they were able to lead in double figures again as Huebner hit a trey, Poelking made a lay in after getting a nice pass from Huebner and then ex BBL player Dominique Johnson hit his bread and butter with a fade away mid distance shot for the 28-17 advantage. Frankfurt then had a positive phase as they went on a 6-0 run to cut Koblenz’s lead down to 28-23. Frankfurt got vital support from young German Hector Izquierdo who was playing his first Pro B game after being a stalwart in their NBBL team the last years. He scored on a back door cut getting the fine pass form big man Alexander Richardson and then hit free throws. He would finish with 6 points in 16 minutes of play. ‘Hector is a guy I could see getting into the rotation this season. He got in because we have had injuries. He did get into early foul trouble, but showed responsibility and deserved his playing time’, stressed head coach Sepher Tarrah. In this Frankfurt run, Koblenz’s offense had become static and they lost physicality and couldn’t run the way they wanted to. But the EPG Baskets Koblenz did find back to their game closing out the second quarter with a 18-5 run to lead comfortably 46-28 at the break. In this phase ex Temple (NCAA) guard Alani Moore stepped up nailing three three’s. It was a phase where he had to display his scoring qualities. ‘Alani does a great job dictating the tempo. He always does what the team needs. In this phase his team needed scoring and that is what he did’, stated Thomas Klein. In this phase Koblenz also sparkled on defense as Moore got in passing lanes which led to 8 steals on the night for him and Poelking came up with key blocks. ‘Moses is very physical. I think the most physical in the league. He will surprise many this season with his offense’, warned Thomas Klein. Poelking finished with 18 points and showed that he can be that big man impact player in the Pro B not only on offense. ‘My defense didn’t surprise me. I ‘m just happy I could help my team. I want to be the best defensive player in the league’, warned Moses Poelking. Koblenz clearly showed when their offense is moving the ball well, Frankfurt was absolutely no match for them getting hit hard against the mismatches while on offense forced to many turnovers. Dominque Johnson dropped a trey in the last seconds for good measure. ‘Moore brought us speed and rhythm back into the game. We had ups and downs, but defensively we were physically strong and were rebounding well’, expressed Thomas Klein.
The second half was one that EPG Baskets Koblenz head coach Pat Elzie had on his mind after the siren sounded and possibly even when he laid down to sleep later in the night. For a top team like the EPG Baskets Koblenz too lose the second half 30-29 was unacceptable. The Frankfurt zone was solid in the first half, but even better in the second half that gave Koblenz massive problems. ‘We have only practiced the zone a little in pre-season. We were unable to play well against their zone. We began to shoot too much and couldn’t fill the holes’, said Pat Elzie. Koblenz couldn’t find any rhythm early as Frankfurt stopped 5 possessions, but couldn’t compensate it on offense getting only 1 field goal from Izquierdo. Koblenz got free throws from Johnson and Brian Butler leading 50-34. Butler then finally got Koblenz’s first field goal with a transition bucket. But Frankfurt never gave up and just continued to chip away. Hecker was left open again at the top of the key and had little difficulty nailing a trey while point guard Alvin Onyia made a runner and Nikolic hit a tough three from the corner as they remained in striking distance trailing only 55-42. The EPG Baskets Koblenz couldn’t muster much against the Frankfurt zone, but did get another Butler basket and Heckel did reach the free throw line twice. Frankfurt German Alexander hit a three pointer to close out the third quarter as the Fraport Skyliners Juniors trailed 61-45. ‘We had no rhythm and didn’t play good 1-1 defense. When that happens, you can easily only win the quarter by 2 points’, expressed Thomas Klein. ‘We did a good job staying in the game. We couldn’t get even get closer, because turnovers hurt us. We did a good job getting open shots. We fought well and understood that we could compete against a top team’, stated Nils Leonhardt.
The EPG Baskets Koblenz continued to struggle in the fourth quarter mustering only 12 points, but kept their defense steady and withstood a last Frankfurt scare as Moses Poelking slammed the door shut at the end with big plays. Just like in the third quarter, the EPG Baskets Koblenz couldn’t get their offense going as the Fraport Skyliner Juniors zone continued to confuse and overwhelm Koblenz as it stopped their first 8 possessions. Frankfurt was able to only execute twice in this phase on offense getting 2 buckets from Felix Hecker to still lead 61-49. Marvin Heckel finally stopped the misery at the 5,57 second mark making a pull up jumper. He is so dangerous in the mid range area that once he has a little room, it’s good night. He didn’t waste anytime making a follow up runner for the 65-49 advantage. Poelking added a massive dunk after getting a beautiful lob pass from ex Coburg diminutive guard Yassin Turan. Koblenz seemed in cruise control after this 6-0 run, but the game wasn’t over yet as Frankfurt countered. Frankfurt had been fighting the whole game and raised their game not one step but two steps going on a furious 11-2 run to cut the Koblenz lead to 67-60 with 2 minutes to play. The CGM arena was getting very quiet as the shock of the fans was easily recognizable. As usual Frankfurt’s only real scoring option Felix Hecker came up with big answers as he scored 8 points including 2 three pointers. Richardson also added a basket on transition. Despite Frankfurt having momentum in crunch-time, they were unable to make the incredible come back reality as Moses Poelking stopped it with back to back lay ins. On the second, a Moore steal of an inbounds pass under the Frankfurt basket totally broke Frankfurt’s momentum. Turan added free throws in the last seconds. ‘Hecker did a great job getting us back, but Poelking made the difference and supplied the knock out punch’, added Nils Leonhardt. ‘Moses cam up big at the end. You can’t really ask for more than that’, stressed Pat Elzie. The EPG Baskets Koblenz were led by Moses Poelking with 18 points while Marvin Heckel added 14 points. Moritz Huebner contributed 10 points while Alani Moore added 10 points and 8 steals. The Fraport Skyliners Juniors only had one player in double figures with Felix Hecker with 27 points. The EPG Baskets Koblenz shot 44% from the field and 32% from outside and had 29 rebounds and 17 turnovers while the Fraport Skyliners Juniors shot 44% from outside and 38% from the three point line and had 30 rebounds and 24 turnovers.
Tags : MOSES POELKING, EPG BASKETS KOBLENZ, GERMAN BASKETBALL