The RheinStars Cologne Shock The Fraport Skyliners Juniors 73-62 to Win Game 1

It was finally that time of year again where you know it’s time for playoff basketball in the Pro B when the days are longer and warmer. The Fraport Skyliners Juniors finished the regular season in third place with a 14-10 record and had had a great stretch in Feb and March winning all 6 games, but entered the playoffs a bit flat suffering a 2 game losing streak where they lost 2 tough games in crunch-time. They met the RheinStars Cologne who had finished in 6th place in the Pro B north with a 12-12 record. They came into the playoffs having won 4 of their last 5 games scoring 90 points or more 3 times, but had lost the last regular season game to the BSW Sixers. The Fraport Skyliners Juniors had to be sharp on offense as they met the leagues fifth best defensive team as they only allowed 76 points per game. On a mild Saturday spring night with a real zealous fan base from both clubs, both teams gave a crazy playoff atmosphere, but the RheinStars Cologne came out physical and aggressive and controlled the game for 4 quarters and withstood a Frankfurt come back attempt in the fourth quarter to prevail 73-62. ‘We did a good job sticking to our game plan being physical and taking them out of their stuff and playing fast. We had some lapses in the fourth quarter, but we closed out the game well’, stressed Cologne guard Ali Sow (185-PG-1998, college: Laurier). The Fraport Skyliners Juniors played a solid defensive game, but just couldn’t execute on offense the way they know how as their three point shooting was miserable. ‘We began slow. They were more aggressive. We couldn’t match it and they overran us. We didn’t have the confidence and hesitated on making decisions. We found a rhythm at the end and finished with a good feeling. We will be ready in game 2’, stated Frankfurt guard Nolan Adekunle.

Nolan Adekunle at the FT line

The RheinStars came out strong, but the Fraport Skyliners Juniors came back only to have a severe defensive lapse in the last minutes to trail by 6 points after 10 minutes. The RheinStars Cologne began quickly finding an offensive rhythm sharing the ball nicely as German veteran Steffen Haufs made a step back, American Elijah Schmidt made a lay in and ex PS Karlsruhe forward Antonio Pilipovic drained a trey. The Fraport Skyliners Juniors also found their groove finding German big Alexander Richardson for 2 baskets and a lay in by 2018 JBBL champion Nolan Adekunle. Frankfurt came back playing transition and allowing Adekunle to be aggressive as he nailed a three pointer for the 10-9 Frankfurt lead. Frankfurt had problems matching the Cologne physicality and then lost control in the last minutes as huge German talent Jannis Von Seckendorff who began his career in Rhondorf scored 7 points in a row to close out the first quarter. He made a lay in, tip in dunk and three pointer to lead 18-12. ‘He does so much that doesn’t appear on the stat sheet. He is our longest and best defender. He showed just how good he is”, stated Ali Sow. Both teams shot under 40% from the field while Cologne was at 25% from outside and Frankfurt was at 0%. Both teams had 10 rebounds but Frankfurt had 7 turnovers and Cologne 2 turnovers. ‘It was a real playoff battle that was defensive orientated. We played physical and were focused on each possession’, stated Ali Sow. ‘Cologne played physical and tough. They made tough shots. We didn’t get through screens and didn’t rotate on crosscourt passes and weren’t vocal’, said Fraport Skyliner Quantez Robertson.

Jannis Von Seckendorff to the hoop

In the second quarter, the Fraport Skyliners Juniors fell asleep in the last 5 minutes allowing a massive run to trail by 16 points at the break. The Fraport Skyliners Juniors began well going on a 9-4 run to trail only 22-21. The combination of Marco Voeller to Nils Leonhardt functioned twice as the ex Gotha big man showed that he is an excellent passer. He also showed he has range from outside drilling home a three and Drago Crnjac made a nice floater. The Fraport Skyliners Juniors had found a groove and seemed like they might change the game, but instead the RheinStars hit them back with an even bigger run of 15-0 to have the very comfortable 37-21 advantage at half-time. Ali Sow who entered the game averaging 23 points per game found his rhythm scoring 5 points, while German reserve and ex Dragon Rhondorf player Robin Straub hit a trey. Ex Trier guard Ruppert Hennen who is a bundle of energy added 5 points including an offensive rebound and put back and Von Seckendorff topped off the run with a big dunk. Cologne was playing great pick and roll defense and Frankfurt allowed too many open shots and their 1-1 defense was suspect. At the break the guests shot 43% from the field and 36% from the three point line and had 18 rebounds and 6 turnovers while the Fraport Skyliners Juniors shot 32% from the field and 7% from the three point line and had 17 rebounds and 12 turnovers. ‘Frankfurt was rushing their offense and weren’t patient. Frankfurt wasn’t talking on defense and Cologne had to many open shots’, said Quantez Robertson. ‘We had a flow on offense and moved the ball well. We couldn’t come to terms with their physicality’, expressed Nolan Adekunle.

Bennet Schubert to the rim

In the third quarter both teams heightened their offense scoring more, but that didn’t aid the Fraport Skyliners Juniors as they couldn’t get over the hump trailing by 22 points after 30 minutes. The guests got 5 points from Ali Sow and a trey from Ruppert Hennen while the Fraport Skyliners Juniors allowed Alexander Richardson to be a one man wrecking machine scoring 7 points. Pilipovoc made a trey, but the RheinStars Cologne still had the brutal 49-30 lead. The guests played nice team basketball and just had better options on the night and were executing better. Whenever Frankfurt had an answer so did the RhenStars Cologne. Frankfurt continued to have bad rotations and Cologne punished them with open shots. The RheinStars Cologne continued to execute well and got good production from their bench as Antony Bauer scored twice while ex easyCredit BBL player Andrew Onwuegbuzie made a lay in. Frankfurt got two buckets from Nolan Adekunle but just didn’t have much fire power on this night from other players. ‘We continued to play our game having a flow on offense and being physical on defense. We did a good job not giving up second chance points’, expressed Ali Sow. ‘We wanted to keep them to 73 points and did. We didn’t rebound well and not get enough stops to get closer. We also didn’t take good care of the ball’, added Nolan Adekunle. The RheinStars Cologne shot 46% from the field and 42% from the parking lot and had 26 rebounds and 9 turnovers while the Fraport Skyliners shot 35% from the field and 11% from the parking lot and had 27 rebounds and 15 turnovers.

Anthony Bauer at the FT line

The Fraport Skyliners sJuniors aved all their energy for a comeback, but it wasn’t enough. The Fraport Skyliners Juniors came into the fourth quarter spanking the RheineStars Cologne with a shocking 21.6 run to trail only 65-58. In the run Frankfurt was aided most by Nolan Adekunle who dominated and showed he can always be a major walking bucket as he led Frankfurt’s offensive comeback with 13 points and 4 three’s. It finally rained three’s as Felix Hecker also added one and Alexander Richardson remained aggressive scoring twice in the run. Frankfurt upped their defensive aggressiveness, but also was aided by some dumb RheinStars turnovers. But Frankfurt just ran out of gas as Cologne hit them with a 5-0 run to lead 70-58 with 2 minutes remaining. In the run Anthony Bauer nailed a three and Ali Sow dropped free throws. Voeller added a dunk and Felix Hecker an offensive rebound and put back to cut the guests lead to 70-62, but it was too little to late as time was running out. Von Seckendorff made a lay in to close out the game. ‘We had some lapses on defense and bad rotations. We were too complacent. Anthony Bauer is super physical and made a big shot. He always creates room and spaces the floor well’, stated Ali Sow. ‘We fought hard, but were back too many points. This was only one game, but it’s a whole series. We will be back and fight hard in game 2’, stated Nolan Adekunle. The RheinStars Cologne were led by Ali Sow with 18 points, 8 boards, 5 assists and 3 steals while Ruppert Hennen scored 13 points and Jannis Von Seckendorff 11 points while the Fraport Skyliners Juniors were led by Nolan Adekunle with 23 points while Alexander Richardson added 15 points. The RheinStars Cologne shot 44% from the field and 38% from outside and had 35 rebounds and 15 turnovers while the Fraport Skyliners Juniors shot 41% from the field and 23% from outside and had 34 rebounds and 16 turnovers.


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