Saying it’s good to be home after a long road trip is a normal procedure, but saying it’s really really really good to be home is something the Dragons Rhondorf are saying now even after having played the weekend before winning a massive game against SC Rist Wedel. The Dragons Rhondorf had to play their first 2 home games of the season in another gym because the Dragon Dome was being renovated. Now they were finally home for good and had a solid 5-2 record. But now came the big showdown against 5-1 team Lok Bernau who are the farm team of Euroleague team Alba Berlin. They began in lightening fashion winning their first 5 games, but last weekend lost a brutal nailbiter against Itzehoe 91-87. On a very cold December evening, the Dragons Rhondorf welcomed Lok Bernau and also had top scorer American Devon Goodman back in the lineup after missing the last 2 games due to injury. Lok Bernau had a top roster there and they played a sound game for 40 minutes keeping the Dragons Rhondorf at bay and then when they rallied in crunch time stayed calm and poised and executed when needed to gain the satisfying 77-69 win. After the big win New Jersey native and Lok Bernau forward Isiah Small (202-SF-1998, college: Texas St.) was all smiles describing the reasons for the win. ‘We could of played better, but they scouted us very well. We started off fast and played our style, but in the second half we slowed down and shot more three’s instead of using our strength and attacking. We finished strong though’, stressed Isiah Small. The Dragon’s Rhondorf played good basketball for long phases, but it was usually dumb mistakes that hurt them especially at the end where they got stops, but poor execution cost them the game. ‘We fought hard until the end. We played way too slow in the first half. That wasn’t our game. We hit nothing. That won’t help you win games. We came back in the second half and played fast and got stops which helped us run our offense. In the end when your down 20 points, it will always be hard to win. We paid the price for our poor start’, stressed Dragons Rhondorf captain Paul Albrecht.
Isiah Small from outside
Even if both teams found their offensive rhythm quickly in the first quarter, it was Lok Bernau that played with a tad more intensity and energy and executed better. Greek junior national player Rafail Lanaras was an instant scoring machine scoring 8 of the team’s first 10 points. Rhondorf countered with Florian Koch and Zaba Bangala buckets, but the guests still led 10-6. Lok Bernau kept the pressure on and went on a 12-4 run to extend their lead to 22-10. Lok Bernau guard Abdulah Kameric who won the 2018 German NBBL title with Franz Wagner and Alba Berlin added 5 points and Small who plays like a Swiss army knife was all over the place and mustered 4 points. The Dragons Rhondorf had massive difficulty coming to terms with the physicality of Lok Bernau under the boards and the guests did a good job taking away the three ball. It also didn’t help Rhondorf’s cause that team top scorer Devon Goodman had a terrible start and would never recover. Rhondorf got a key three pointer from 16 year old Italian Leonardo Valesin and buckets from Koch and Paul Albrecht, but Lok Bernau still led 26-17 after 10 minutes. ‘We had problems with their physicality. There is a reason why they are the leagues best offensive rebound team. We were always a step to late. No arrive at the ball. They have good scorers and executed easily’, stated Paul Albrecht.
Devon Goodman at the FT line
In the second quarter Lok Bernau continued to have control of the game and even when the Dragons Rhondorf attempted a little rally, they blocked it and recovered well and went into the break with a 18 point advantage. Possibly the games 2 widest players Bangala and Akim Jonah got both teams going right away as Bangala scored 4 points and Jonah got 6 points with free throws, a lay in and a powerful stuff for the 32-21 lead. Lok Bernau continued to bang the ball inside and use mis matches which led to easy baskets. Rhondorf had problems executing against the stiff Bernau defensive pressure that led to turnovers. The Dragons Rhondorf then found some daylight going on a little 6-2 run to trail only 34-27 and getting some momentum on their side. In the run, the Dragons got key buckets from Koch, a floater from Jonas Falkenstein and a lay in from Devin Goodman. The game showed again why basketball is a game of runs as Rhondorf totally broke down allowing Lok Bernau to flee on a 11-0 run to lead masterfully 45-27 at half-time. Instrumental in the run was Rikus Schulte who played his first Euroleague game this season with Alba Berlin as he got back to back field goals. He had been cold all game long, but now stepped up as Lok Bernau also profited from costly Rhondorf turnovers. Lok Bernau continued to attack inside using mis matches and getting to the free throw line. Small also continued to annoy Rhondorf with his game at both ends. ‘Small is a very unconventional player. He is long and skinny and likes the mid range shot. He was like a Swiss army knife. We couldn’t contain him’, warned Paul Albrecht. The Dragons Rhondorf shot a pathetic 27% from the field and only 7% from outside while Lok Bernau shot 47% from the field and 27% from outside. Rhondorf had the surprising 23-22 rebound edge but 12 turnovers while Lok Bernau had 6 turnovers.
Akim Jonah at the FT line
The Dragons Rhondorf played their best quarter in the third fighting back and trailing only by 6 points after 30 minutes. The Dragons Rhondorf came out of the locker room reborn and slapped Lok Bernau in the face with a swift 7-0 run to trail only 45-34. In the run Zaba Bangala came to life and upped his aggressiveness 3 gears up scoring 3 buckets in a row. ‘When he gets really aggressive, he is hard to stop. His passion and good defense helped spark us. He carried us’, warned Paul Albrecht. Rhondorf upped their defensive intensity and got 5 stops in a row as Lok Bernau still looked like they were in the dressing room. Lok Bernau finally got on the board at the 6,56 minute mark as Kameric scored on transition. Nicolas Buchholz who had been contained well in the first half, finally connected on a trey, but Elias Rapique matched him with a trey and Lok Bernau still led 50-37. The Dragons Rhondorf began to believe more and more that they could have a successful comeback and continued to chip away at the Lok Bernau lead and slowly come closer. The inside game continued to plague Rhondorf as beast Akim Jonah scored twice including a big dunk, but Buchholz slowly really came to life. He scored 5 points in a row and Bangala got free in the paint and also scored twice as Rhondorf trailed 55-48, but Buchholz closed out the third quarter with another trey as Lok Bernau led only 57-51. Both teams shot over 50% from the field, but were still disastrous from outside as the Dragons shot 17% and Lok Bernau 27%. ‘We were more aggressive and were arriving with the ball on defense. When we defend like that, then no team in the Pro B can compete with us’, warned Paul Albrecht. ‘We didn’t stick to our game plan. We gave up long rebounds and they pushed the ball and we didn’t get back on transition’, warned Isiah Small.
Florian Koch from down town
In the fourth quarter the Dragons Rhondorf continued to fight and cut the lead down to as much as 3 points, but couldn’t ultimately get over the hump. The Dragons Rhondorf got some early punch from Goodman and Albrecht to cut the Lok Bernau lead down to 61-57, but the guests always had a answer in Rhondorf’s burst’s of comebacks. Rapique and Schulte answered with baskets and suddenly Rhondorf trailed 65-57. Koch gave Rhondorf some instant production with 2 three’s, but Rhondorf just couldn’t get stops. Lok Bernau remained calm and poised and got key baskets from Small who made a dunk and Rapique a three pointer as Lok Bernau led 74-67. Lok Bernau may be a very young team averaging 21 years per player, but they played like a veteran team as they simply made smart plays and executed whenever needed. In crunch-time Rhondorf got 3 stops, but couldn’t capital on it making turnovers and missing open looks. Buchholz made a late lay in to trail 74-69, but a Small free throw and Jonah tip in in the last minute sealed the win for Lok Bernau. ‘We panicked the last game, but this time, we stayed calm and trusted each other. This was a team win’, stressed Isiah Small. ‘We made mental mistakes which led to turnovers while they stayed calm. We played on adrenaline and they played their game until the end to win’, stated Paul Albrecht. Lok Bernau was led by Abdulah Kameric with 15 points. Isiah Small and Akim Jonah added 14 points a piece while Rafail Lanaras added 13 points. The Dragons Rhondorf were led by Zaba Bangala with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Nicolas Buchholz added 15 points and Florian Koch 14 points. Lok Bernau shot 48% from the field and 26% from outside and had 39 rebounds and 21 turnovers while the Dragons Rhondorf shot 37% from the field and 20% from outside and had 41 rebounds and 22 turnovers.