The Young Guns Of Gruenloh And Bayram Power Rasta Vechta 2 Past The Dragons Rhondorf In OT 99-93

The young guns Kaya Bayram and Johan Gruenloh

The Holiday season for the Dragons Rhondorf saw two sides as they went into Christmas having to somehow digest the poor 83-52 loss to neighbor RheinStars Cologne between the turkey and chocolate cake, but then again a week later were able to go into 2023 with an extra bang with the fireworks after destroying Iserlohn 100-82. The 8-4 Dragons Rhondorf wanted to continue the grand winning streak in 2023 with their overpowering offense and at times shaky defense. Their first opponent in 2023 was new Pro B team Rasta Vechta 2 who arrived in Rhondorf with a 5-7 record. They are definitely a very talented team and their average record doesn’t really show how good they are and have been a dangerous opponent for many teams this season. Despite losing the last two games to Wedel and Itzehoe in close fashion, they wanted to finally break their 3 game losing streak in Rhondorf. Both teams met for the second time this season and first time in 2023 after Rhondorf had destroyed them on the road in the first meeting and this time it was another high scoring affair that reached OT, but at the end it was a full team effort for the absent JJ Culver with the help of the young guns Gruenloh and Bayram that powered Rasta Vechta 2 to the 99-93 victory. ‘Both teams fought hard for 40 minutes. No teams gave away any gifts. They had injuries and so did we plus we had no JJ Culver. I felt like we controlled Goodman better than the first time. We had a few problems stopping their transition three pointers. But overal we played good team basketball and made the big shots when we needed them’, stated Rasta Vechta 2 guard Kevin Smit. The Dragons Rhondorf played a solid offensive game as usual, but continue to have problems defending with passion as they had massive problems all night long controlling certain plays of the guests. ‘I felt like we fought all game, but then again, it doesn’t feel like it even though we feel dead now a few minutes after the game. I felt like we played well offensively, but our percentages weren’t that great. They played good offense and we gave up too many offensive rebounds’, stressed Dragons Rhondorf forward Paul Albrecht.

Johan Gruenloh with the hook shot

The Dragons Rhondorf stepped on the court with only a 7 man rotation as Zaba Bangala and Jonas Falkenstein were out while Rasta Vechta 2 were without JJ Culver, Killian Brockhof and Noah Janen. The first few minutes was a back and forth tug of war as no teams could get away from the other. The guests spread the offensive love around getting baskets from Noah Bedime, ex RheinStar Leon Okpara and 2022 NBBL champion Kaya Bayram while Rhondorf got baskets from ex Bochum center Florian Wendeler, ex Rostock Seawolf Nicolas Buchholz and free throws from ex Schwenningen forward Adrian Bergmann as the game was deadlocked 7-7. But Rasta Vechta then found some daylight and broke free going on a 8-3 run to lead 15-10. In the run, the guests were led well by aggressive point guard Kaya Bayram who had a full load of responsibility with Culver out as he led the offense well hitting a trey while 6 year Vechta man Tim Insinger made a lay in and Bayram fed Gruenloh for the powerful 2 handed dunk. Rhondorf were a step behind on defense not upping their intensity and on offense made some bad decisions and got scolded by the Vechta offense. But basketball will always be a game of runs as the Dragons closed out the first quarter with a satisfying 11-6 run to tie the contest 21-21 after 10 minutes. In the run Rhondorf let it rain three’s as ex Giessen 46ers Koch, Albrecht and Bergmann connected. Bayram ended the quarter with a three pointer. ‘We didn’t shoot that well, but ended the quarter well making a lot of three’s. We always like to say that we don’t want to rely on our three’, smiled Paul Albrecht. Vechta was shooting better from the field at 42%, but the rebounds and turnovers were even at 11 and 2 apiece.

Devon Goodman at the FT line

In the second quarter, both teams had one run and then it was a close battle as no team led by more than 4 points. The Dragons Rhondorf began with more intensity and watched as Devon Goodman put on a show scoring 7 unanswered points to give his team the 28-23 advantage. The ex U Penn player could have had the dunk of the season, but missed in spectacular fashion, but he quickly wiped away the embarrassment and scored 3 lay in’s with 2 on transition as he and Paul Albrecht made steals. But Rasta Vechta 2 didn’t waste any time and just produced 2 three pointers in a flash as Bayram and Smit who has 50 easyCredit BBL games on his resume connected and Rhondorf only led 29-28. The Dragons continued to keep the slim lead as they executed at a fine rate on offense getting a Buchholtz trey, Goodman lay in and Bergmann jumper, but Rasta Vechta 2 had answers as Gruenloh made an impressive tip in dunk which was followed by Insinger and Smit three’s to dead lock the contest at 37-37. Florian Koch dropped a clutch three, but Smit made a lay in as the Dragons Rhondorf had the slim 41-39 advantage at half-time. ‘The Dragons Rhondorf shot an unsatisfying 33% from the field and 39% from the three point line while Rasta Vechta 2 shot 41% from the field and 35% from the three point line while both teams had 24 rebounds a piece and Rhondorf had 3 turnovers and Vechta 6 turnovers. ‘I think that Goodman was annoyed that he hadn’t had a really good game in this arena yet. That miss dunk sparked him. He is our TJ Shorts. We really needed him to take over’, stated Paul Albrecht.

Leon Okpara from downtown

In the third quarter the Dragons Rhondorf did a good job keeping the lead, but they weren’t able to lead by more than 7 points as Rasta Vechta 2 stayed on their tail. In the last few minutes, the Dragons Rhondorf lost control of the game and Rasta Vechta 2 went on a shattering 17-5 run to have the 67-61 lead after 30 minutes. Devon Goodman continued to be super aggressive and kept attacking the rim scoring a lay in, but also remembered his 34% from outside and nailed a trey. Rasta Vechta 2 continued to play smart and executed their offense and shared the ball. Gruenloh continued to play very efficient and just made plays. He made a beautiful off balance shot and made a pretty old school hook shot His totally calm and cool play for 17 is unbelievable. ‘He works so hard on his game. He has that cool north German way in his play. The only guy I can remember being so cool in his play at that age was Sebastian Herrera. He has a huge future. His body, shooting skills, IQ and defense speak for him’, warned Kevin Smit. Okpara also added a jumper as Vechta trailed only 48-47. But then came the brutal lightening speed of draining three’s that the Dragons possess as Koch and Albrecht scored for the 54-47 lead. Bayram and Sam Nellessen then traded baskets as the Dragons Rhondorf led 56-50. But Rasta Vechta 2 then made a huge turn in the game closing out the third quarter with a commanding 17-5 run to take the 67-61 lead. The run began with a another Bayram trey which was followed by a Roman Bedime lay in on transition and Dutch player Sydnee Bijisma made a trey for the 58-56 lead. Gruenloh then added 5 points as his incredible versatile offensive play sparkled which was added by a Okpara runner and Smit lay in for the 67-56 lead. The run could have been a lot worse out of the eyes of the Dragons, but Albrecht closed out the quarter strong with 5 points. ‘We got the game going in our direction. We got a lot of stops and went on a run and made open shots. Gruenloh and Bayram carried us. It is fun to play with young talented kids like that’, stressed Kevin Smit. The Dragons Rhondorf shot 37% from the field and 41% from the parking lot and had 33 rebounds and 7 turnovers while Rasta Vechta 2 shot 47% from the field and 36% from the parking lot and had 35 rebounds and 9 turnovers. ‘Bayram was on fire. Vechta is known for producing many talents like Herkenhof and Van Slooten. Gruenloh is so cool. You think he can’t do much because he is so skinny, but he has great moves and a nice touch’, warned Paul Albrecht.

Nicolas Buchholz from outside

The fourth quarter was a very tight affair as the Dragons Rhondorf fought back and came back and grabbed the lead only to lose it again and then force overtime. The Dragons Rhondorf began strong in the fourth quarter getting 5 points from Koch on free throws and a trey from Buchholtz as Vechta led 67-66. 21 year old Roman Bedime who played with the Berlin Tigers (NBBL) before coming to Vechta was a huge asset in the fourth quarter on both ends. He made 3 big blocks including 2 consecutive ones on Florian Koch and made big plays on offense. He also showed his touch with a three pointer to keep the 70-66 lead. He finished with 14 points 8 boards and 4 blocks. Rhondorf was strong in this phase getting 2 offensive rebounds form Wendeler and Koch which led to 5 consecutive points by Koch and the 73-72 Rhondorf lead. It seemed like Rhondorf had the momentum back, but once again the guests showed how quickly their offense can turn the tide of the game as Smit and Bayram hit consecutive three’s for the 78-73 lead with crunch-time having arrived. Rhondorf felt no pressure as they kept fighting and got a huge offensive rebound and put back by Koch and Goodman free throws cut the Vechta lead to 80-79. Bedime continued to be a pest making 2 lay in’s from the wing coming in as the cuter, but Rhondorf had an answer each time getting a trey from Koch and Albrecht basket to force overtime at 84-84. ‘Bedime was annoying. They played short role and we committed too much and they always had a free player and could finish well. Bedime hurt us’, expressed Paul Albrecht. Rhondorf continued to shoot poorly at 38% from the field and better from outside at 41% and had 44 rebounds and 11 turnovers while Rasta Vechta 2 shot46% from the field and 36% from outside and had 41 rebounds and 13 turnovers. ‘Bedime was so important for us. He made big blocks on Koch. We got good stops and found our cutters. All played for the team. We needed a team effort with Culver out’, said Kevin Smit.

Florian Wendeler with the lay in

In the overtime period Rasta Vechta 2 got the lead first and never looked back. Vechta began with Bedime and Smit buckets from the 88-84 advantage. Wendeler answered with a reverse lay up, but Rhondorf just couldn’t step up their defense and they allowed easy baskets inside as Okpara and Bedime scored for the 92-86 lead. Wendeler scored again to cut the Vechta lead to 92-88, but the guests continued to execute as Okpara stayed aggressive until the end getting a trey and lay in for the 98-91 lead with less than a minute to go which was enough for the win. ‘Our execution was very good. We were able to find our bigs. We found our cutters, shots and played good defense’, added Kevin Smit. ‘We were a bit fatigued. I feel we were a bit too stubborn on offense. We forced to many shots instead of playing calm and finding the right shot’, added Paul Albrecht. Rasta Vechta 2 was led by Kaya Bayram with 20 points and 8 assists. Leon Okpara and Johann Gruenloh (210-C-2005) added 16 points a piece while the Dragons Rhondorf were led by Florian Koch with 22 points while Devon Goodman had 22 points, 8 rebounds and 10 assists. Rasta Vechta 2 shot 48% from the field and 37% from outside and had 48 rebounds and 13 turnovers while the Dragons Rhondorf shot 36% from the field and 38% from outside and had 48 rebounds and 12 turnovers.


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