24 hours before Christmas Eve, the Dragons Rhondorf wanted to reach Christmas with a giant smile, but they had to get past the RheinStars Cologne. The match up of Rhondorf-Cologne is always a great match up as there have been some great games over the last years. The Dragons Rhondorf have been playing very spirited ball as of late and came into the RheinStars clash with a 2 game winning streak getting lots of support from their veterans like Florian Koch and Paul Albrecht. The RheinStars Cologne came into the game sporting a 6-5 record. The club led by head coach Stephan Baeck began the season up and down losing 4 of it’s first 7 games, but as of late were playing better ball having won 3 of it’s last 4 games. Both teams entered the court on a very untypical warm December night as the weather had shifted dramatically in the last week as before a cold front had been present. But The Dragons Rhondorf began the game on the wrong foot and never recovered as the RheinStars ruined their Christmas with a crushing 83-59 victory. Their 3 recipe to victory was low turnovers, domination of the boards and getting easy points in the paint. After the win Canadian Ali Sow (185-PG-1998, college: Laurier) who is an early MVP candidate for the Pro B was all smiles as team was first on this night. ‘We started on defense and we all played as a team. Everyone was aggressive and a threat all night long. We did a good job as a team staying composed when they went on runs. We had tried to play more as a team the last weeks and it worked tonight’, stressed Ali Sow. The 40 minute performance by the Dragons Rhondorf was one of the worst of the season if not the worst and there was really nothing to be positive about. ‘One can always make excuses, but I won’t do that. They are a very good team and had good energy the whole night. I remember losing by 30 in the pre season against Hanau. That is how it felt like tonight. I can’t remember scoring so little on offense. Nothing worked for us on offense or defense’, stated Dragons Rhondorf captain Paul Albrecht. It was just another day at the office for Ali Sow after the first quarter as his scoring really took off starting in the second quarter. He finished the game with 29 points, 13 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals and showed again why he is the massive MVP candidate. ‘I wanted to get a good feeling in the first quarter and get my guys more involved. I know I can be aggressive whenever I want and score’, warned ex Laurier guard Ali Sow.
Anthony Bauer at the FT line
The Dragons Rhondorf knew that it could be a long night as the RheinStars Cologne raced out to a rapid 10-2 lead. The guests did good scouting as they knew one of the Dragons Rhondorf weaknesses is their 1-1 defense. Elijah Schmidt who only averaged 4,0ppg last season with Cologne scored 3 baskets in the paint while aggressive guard Ruppert Hennen who played 140 pro A games for Trier scored twice. The guests attacked the paint and the tame Rhondorf defense was punished quickly. The RheinStars didn’t need the scoring from Sow as Hennen took over that role in the first quarter. Sow concentrated on his playmaking and ran the offense like a floor general. The Dragons Rhondorf had problems settling into a good offensive rhythm as the RheinStars played the shooters tight and didn’t allow much room in the paint. The RheinStars also did a good job slowing down top scorer Devon Goodman who seemed to get more and more frustrated with each miss. ‘We did a good job keeping him out of the middle and limiting his opportunities’, stressed Ali Sow. The RheinStars continued to move the ball well and just attack the paint and get easy basket after easy basket as ex Seattle (NCAA) big man Shore Adenekin scored twice and Antonio Pilipovic scored. Sow also got into the scoring action better as he squirmed his way through the zone and used that lightening speed that totally dismantled Rhondorf as he scored twice. It also helped that the 2 Rhondorf snipers Nicolas Buchholtz and Florian Koch couldn’t catch fire on offense. After one quarter the Rheinstars led 26-14. ‘We let them bully us all night long. At the end of the game it was 50-14 points in the paint for them. You can’t win like that. I have never seen something like that before’, stressed Paul Albrecht. The two key stats after 10 minutes was the 55% to 27% edge shooting from the field for the RheinStars as well as their 14-8 rebound advantage.
Zaba Bangala with the drive
The RheinStars continued their points in the paint dominance in the second quarter and led by 14 minutes at the break. The Dragons Rhondorf had their best span of the game going on a 11-4 run to begin the second quarter and trailing only 30-25. The Dragons finally let it rain three’s as Florian Koch connected twice and Jonas Falkenstein also scored. The RheinStars played more hectic and made erratic mistakes like missing 2 dunks and also overthrowing a touch down pass on transition. These mistakes allowed Rhondorf to come back, but they couldn’t hold it. Koch hit another three pointer, but the RheinStars got good support again from Schmidt inside as he scored twice and Sow scored on a coast to coast sprint that couldn’t have been more than 3 seconds as his speed definitely reminded one of Vincent 2-2 Golson who tore up the Pro B the last 3 years with the RheinStars as they led 38-28. The guests played with more energy at both ends of the court and deserved to have the lead. Down the stretch, the Dragons Rhondorf once again had lulls on offense and got only 2 baskets from Albrecht with an old school hook shot and a Koch lay in. While Cologne had so many weapons got a trey from Pilipovic and 5 points from Ali Sow who really could do what he wanted to on offense as the Dragons had no way to stop him. The RheinStars led 49-35 at half-time. Even if the Dragons Rhondorf had begin to shoot better and reached the 40% plateau and 39% from outside, they continued to be mauled on the boards tralling 26-17 and the guests only had 2 turnovers. ‘Sow reminded me a lot of Vincent Golson. But with Ruppert Hennen they have 2 very strong and dangerous guards. We couldn’t get a handle on either of them. It didn’t help when we let Schmidt get going either’, stated Paul Albrecht.
Ali Sow with the lay in
In the third quarter, the Dragons Rhondorf played their best defense allowing only 6 points through 9 minutes and 12 in all, but their offense totally let them down as they could compensate offensively from their stops. The Dragons burst out on a 6-2 run to cut the Rheinstars lead down to 51-41. On offense the Dragons got a key Goodman bucket and Albrecht trey while on defense had stepped up their intensity greatly. But the Dragons just couldn’t establish a fine line on defense as they became lax again in certain phases on 1-1 defense as Sow connected on a floater and young German Jannis Von Seckendorff rammed home a dunk for the 55-41 advantage. Then came a quick onslaught by Devon Goodman with 4 points to cut the guests lead down to 55-45. Then came that 3 minute phase where both teams went back and forth, but couldn’t execute. This was a golden opportunity for Rhondorf to make a run, but they couldn’t. In the last few minutes, it was Ali Sow again who showed why he dominates the Pro B scoring 6 points while Buchholz made a trey, but after 30 minutes the Dragons Rhondorf still trailed 61-50. ‘We had a little lull on offense having less energy and not getting the right shots. But we still did a good job staying composed and holding the lead’, stated Ali Sow. ‘We had a chance to come back, but we took forced shots and just couldn’t find good ones’, said Paul Albrecht.
Devon Goodman at the FT line
In the fourth quarter, the Dragons Rhondorf lost energy and opted for more 1-1 play and less team basketball as the 22-9 quarter by the RheinStars showed that they just weren’t a match for the RheinStars on this evening. The guests got quick baskets from Von Seckendorff and Sow while the Dragons Rhondorf received a three pointer by Buchholz who had a tough shooting night from outside at 3/11 trailed 68-54. The Dragons Rhondorf had one more burst of energy as Zaba Bangala scored 4 unanswered points to cut the Cologne lead down to 68-58, but that was as close as they would get. The RheinStars Cologne then closed out the game in style and slammed the door shut tight going on a 15-1 run to win. Von Seckendorff scored twice, Ali Sow nailed a trey and even 15 year old German Davi Remagen connected on a trey as did Pilipovic. ‘We did a great job locking up on defense and continued to work hard to get good shots’, warned Ali Sow. ‘The result at the end looks a lot worse than how we played. Even Remangen hit a three at the end. When you start hitting shots and feel good, then the rim starts to look a lot bigger. Then everything goes in’, stressed Paul Albrecht. The RheinStars Cologne were led by Ali Sow with 29 points. Elijah Schmidt added 19 points and 1^3 boards while the Dragons Rhondorf were led by Florian Koch with 13 points while Devon Goodman added 11 points and Paul Albrecht 10 points. The RheinStars Cologne shot 40% form the field and 26% from outside and had 53 rebounds and 7 turnovers while the Dragons Rhondorf shot 33% from the field and 32% from outside and had 39 rebounds and 15 turnovers.