The EPG Baskets Koblenz cruised through the Pro B south in the regular season, but the playoffs have been another story. With the help of their incredible fans in their living room CGM arena, the club led by head coach Pat Elzie were able to get by the EN Baskets Schwelm and Basketball Lowen Erfurt, but it wasn’t a cake walk as they had to go the distance. Their next opponent were the tough BSW Sixers who finished in second place in the Pro B north with a 20-4 record. In the playoffs they had an easier time disposing of Oberaching and the Fraport Skyliners Juniors both in sweeps. They had their defense spot on never allowing more than 66 points in a game. On top of that the EPG Baskets weren’t going to be in their living room in the CGM arena, but in their old living room in the Karthause gym, one that is a lot smaller, but that was something they had to deal with. When you get so far all that counts are very good performances on the court. The BSW Sixers came to Koblenz for game 1 and stuck with the EPG Baskets Koblenz for 40 minutes, but in crunch-time lost a little steam and allowed Koblenz to play their game. It was a disheartening loss, but at the end the EPG Baskets just had more left in their tank and executed better at both ends. ‘They are a very good team and played a very good game, but so did we. We had a few lapses on defense and they made us pay. They have good shooters and a good point guard. When the thin air comes, you have to be locked in and you can’t take any plays off’, warned BSW Sixers forward Donte Nicholas. The EPG Baskets Koblenz had their ups and downs in the first quarter, but in the second half upped their intensity and played better together as a team. ‘We stuck together for the whole 40 minutes. We had our ups and downs, but executed when we wanted to. We came together in the clutch moments and got stops and made shots’, stressed EPG Baskets Koblenz guard Alani Moore II (178-PG-1998, college: Temple).
Moses Poelking at the ft line
The EPG Baskets Koblenz were given a blow as top point guard Marvin Heckel couldn’t suit up due to food poisoning. The school gym was packed as 1,200 people were packed in the gym to see the BSW Sixers jump out to a 7-2 lead and soon after extended it to 17-8. The guests had their offense flowing early getting baskets from German big Marco Rahn, ex BBL player Aleksa Kovacevic and a trey from ex Rhondorf guard Ralph Hounnou. Koblenz had a slow start, but soon stuck to the game plan of going inside by getting Moses Poelking and Brian Butler to the free throw line and ex BBL player Leon Friederici nailed a trey as they trailed only 9-8. Koblenz controlled Mr triple double Donte Nicolas well as he had to pass way more than shoot, so someone else had to take control and that was 22 year old Latvian Kristaps Kilps who supplied back to back three’s and a lay in for good measure as the guests led 17-8. The EPG Baskets did a horrible job covering the three point line allowing the Latvian sniper too much room and struggled on their rotations. But after a Koblenz timeout, they came back rejuvenated and closed out the first quarter with a positive 16-7 run to capture the lead at 25-24. The EPG Baskets Koblenz shared the ball better and got more guys involved. They especially got the three ball rolling as ex Iserlohn forward Moritz Huebner and Moore connected, but also showed their inside presence getting lay in’s from Friederici and ex Bremerhaven big Niclas Sperber. ‘You could see that the team missed Marvin Heckel very much. We didn’t do a good job covering the three point line and allowed Kilps to get hot. We closed out the first half well though’, stressed EPG Baskets manager Thomas Klein.
Aleksa Kovacevic with the jumper
The second quarter was a tight affair until the last few minutes where the EPG Baskets Koblenz lost total control and served up free gifts which the BSW Sixers took total advantage of. The EPG Baskets Koblenz got a clutch three pointer from ex Coburg guard Yasin Turan and 2 Friederici free throws, but couldn’t make ground as the guests got free throws from Kilps and a pull up jumper from Kovacevic to knot the game at 30-30. Koblenz continued to have the slight lead getting a trey from ex BBL player Dominique Johnson and a turn around shot from close range from ex Ehingen center Brian Butler for the 37-32 advantage. After a Kilps lay in and Butler free throw, Koblenz still led 38-34, but the game then began to turn. The BSW Sixers closed out the second quarter with a swift 14-3 run to lead 48-41 at the break. In the run, the guests got a clutch trey from 2018 JBBL winner Evans Rapieque and a lay in on the back door cut by Kilps as Koblenz had no remedy to stop this play as Koblenz trailed 39-38. The BSW Sixers heightened their defensive pressure and got key steals by Kovacevic who scored twice, but he also sparkled with his playmaking setting up 2018 JBBL winner Hendrik Warner for 2 simple lay in’s as Koblenz got beat twice on the lob pass as the guests had the 7 point advantage. ‘We had too many unforced errors. We had a total lack of concentration. We were lucky they didn’t lead with 10-15 points. Their guards dominated on offense and on defense they were clever enough not to allow our bigs into position’, stated Thomas Klein. Dontae Nicholas missed a good amount of the second quarter with foul trouble. The BSW Sixers shot 53% from the field and 71% from outside and had 19 rebounds and 10 turnovers while the EPG Baskets Koblenz shot 43% from the field and 47% from outside and had 16 rebounds and 10 turnovers.
Donte Nicholas at the FT line
The third quarter was a real classic example of playoff basketball as the EPG Baskets Koblenz fought back and stole the lead back, but led only by 3 points after 30 minutes. The BSW Sixers kept the good lead for a few minutes as Hounnou hit a 15 footer and Marco Rahn a trey for the 55-46 lead. But then came the big moment for sniper and scoring in bunches guard Leon Friederici who has demonstrated so often this season that he can carry his team with his hot shooting. He nailed three in a row and suddenly the BSW Sixers led only 56-55. ‘Leon is so important. I had wanted him since 2016. Now you know why. He always plays all in. I just like him’, said Thomas Klein. ‘We knew coming in what he is capable of. You turn your head for one second and he is already hitting three’s. He is a good player’, stated Donte Nicholas. The hot three point shooting continued as Dominque Johnson connected and Rahn and Hounnou scored as the guests got the lead back at 62-60. Koblenz grabbed the lead back as they did a good job on the offensive glass as Poelking scored and Moore secured free throws for the 67-62 lead. Nicholas who had been controlled well in the first half found some daylight scoring twice and Kilps made a trey to once again dead lock the game at 69-69. With 39 seconds to play energetic guard Aleksa Kovacevic lay on the ground with severe pain holding his knee. He exited the game and seemed like he wouldn’t return. ‘Oh he’ll be back’, warned Thomas Klein. Moritz Huebner closed out the third quarter with a 3 point play and 72-69 EPG Baskets lead. ‘Coach told us at half-time that we were playing too soft. We took it personal but in a positive way. We raised our energy and IQ. We also felt this sense of urgency. We all hit shots and gave 120%’, stated Alani Moore II. ‘They ran a set that we hadn’t prepared for. We made adjustments but still had defensive lapses’, commented Donte Nicholas.
Dominique Johnson from outside
In the fourth quarter the EPG Baskets Koblenz gained control despite a valiant effort by the BSW Sixers and true competitor Aleksa Kovacevic who returned to the game after hurting his knee at the end of the third quarter. Little used German guard Moritz Schneider drilled home a trey to tie the game at 72-72. Turan reacted with a three point play and 75-72 Koblenz advantage. Then at the 8,28 minute mark, Aleksa Kovacevic returned. He was limping a bit, but still playing at full force as his adrenaline mus have bene pushing him. He took over the reins again as he hit a trey and made a lay in displaying a pretty pass fake to the wing and finishing himself as Koblenz had the slim 78-77 lead. ‘I knew Aleksa was coming back. He is Serbian. They are different. It must be something in the water’, smiled Donte Nicholas. ‘He is a good point guard. I like playing against good competition. A guy like that makes me better. He showed real heart coming back on the court after his injury. He gave all he had for his team’, stated Alani Moore II. As crunch time was arriving the EPG Baskets Koblenz knew they had to continue to execute and keep their high intensity against a more fatigued Sixers team and did that executing well as Friederici and Moore connected on clutch three’s for the 88-81 advantage. Moore had double duty without Heckel on his side, but he did a fine job shuffling the scoring and playmaking by himself as he finished with 17 points and 12 dimes. ‘I knew that I had to make more plays. I took over and got the ball to the hot hand. I tried to be the best leader I could and kept everybody going’, warned Alani Moore II. Butler followed with a dunk for the 90-81 advantage. The Sixers weren’t done yet as Hounnou came through with another trey to cut Koblenz’s lead to 90-84, But Koblenz closed out the game with a massive Poelking dunk for the 93-84 lead. Moore and Johnson added free throws for good measure sealing the victory. ‘We got them into foul trouble and exploited the mis matches. We went on a run when we do it’s hard stopping us’, warned Alani Moore II. ‘We had foul trouble and then the snow ball effect came. They made shots and drew fouls. The game went their way’, said Donte Nicholas. The EPG Baskets Koblenz were led by Leon Friederici with 23 points. Alani Moore II added 17 points and Dominique Johnson 14 points while the BSW Sixers were led by Aleksa Kovacevic with 25 points while Kristaps Kilps scored 18 points. The EPG Baskets Koblenz shot 48% form the field and 44% from outside and had 38 rebounds and 18 turnovers while the BSW Sixers shot 49% from the field and 50% from outside and had 32 rebounds and 19 turnovers.