At the moment it is very happy times in Rhondorf and it hasn´t been this merry since Kameron Taylor led the Dragons Rhondorf to the playoffs two seasons ago. At the moment the ex Pro A team was riding a 5 game winning streak and had climbed the standings nicely in the last weeks and rested in third place with a 8-3 record. In the last five games, they eclipsed the 100 point mark four times and last weekend creamed Essen 111-85 as the team celebrated having 7 players in double figures and dished out an incredible 29 dimes. But they knew that their next opponent the RheinStars Cologne wouldn´t be a cake walk as they rested in position one in the Regionalliga West standings with a 10-1 record. Their only loss was a bitter nail bitter against Recklinghausen 68-67. Last weekend they tore apart BG Dorsten 95-77. German Tibor Taras and American Vincent Golson led the ex Pro A team with 20 points apiece. Their big strength is their defense as they allow only 67 points per game second best in the Regionalliga. But the club has lost some spark on the defensive side allowing more points each weekend in the last three games. It was also the first battle between the club´s two best players Mr triple double Curtis Hollis and German Tibor Taras who hit BG Hagen with an incredible 51 points shooting 12/15 from downtown. It may still be Autumn, but outside there was already that touch of winter, but inside the usually cool Dragon Dome was sizzling with the atmosphere and the fight of both teams. It turned out to be a game that fans will look back in the next years as a real fight from two teams and where the Dragons Rhondorf showed their best all around performance at both ends of the court nipping and upsetting the RheinStars 86-83 having an answer for their defense which allowed only 67 points per game coming in. It was the sixth win in a row by the Dragons under new coach Yassin Idbihi as they moved to 9-3 while the RheinStars fell to 10-2. After the game a relaxed Curtis Hollis who was sporting a fine FC Barcelona sweat shirt reflected on the big win. “This was our best game of the season. We played calm and not fully hard in the first half, but in the second half we turned it up. We played hard, played solid defense, executed on offense and got out on transition”, stressed Texas native Curtis Hollis. RheinStars Cologne guard Vincent Golson played only his fourth game after coming off an injury and wasn´t pleased how his team performed. “We were careless with the ball. I felt we were selfish and had too many turnovers. We did a bad job not focusing on the scouting report. Their players reached their spots and goals”, warned Oakland, California native Vincent Golson.
Both teams had difficulty finding their offensive rhythm, but in the second half of the first quarter started to execute better, but no team could get away as the game was deadlocked 22-22. Three ex Rhondorf players were back in the Dragon Dome with Thomas Michel, Yannick Kneesch and Karl Dia, but the story of the game was the head to head battle between Cologne´s Tibor Taras and Curtis Hollis and they didn´t disappoint as they combined for 60 points. Both players got off to a quick start as Taras scored and Hollis hit a trey for Rhondorf´s first lead of the game at 3-2. There would be seven lead changes in the first quarter and while Taras continued to do his thing and score, Rhondorf was getting severe energy from ex Munich forward Killian Binapfl who was playing at a high level at both ends made two baskets for the 11-10 lead. German Benedict Van Laack also got going and took his team on a 5-0 run to put the RheinStars ahead at 18-16, but Binapl continued to carry his team while Hollis was being covered well and not getting shots. The German Binapfl scored a lay in and trey for the 22-19 Dragons lead. Taras tied the game in the last seconds with a three pointer. “We saw two very good teams that were even on the court. They were rebounding very well, while we weren´t boxing out well. We weren´t tough enough on the boards and didn´t show the will. Taras got going quickly and led their team”, stressed Dragons Rhondorf CEO Alexander Dohms. The Dragons Rhondorf shot 50% form the field and 60% form outside and had 7 rebounds and 5 turnovers while the RheinStars shot 43% from the field and 37% from outside and had 11 rebounds and 5 turnovers.
In the second quarter the RheinStars led by as much as 6 points, but couldn´t shake the Dragons Rhondorf as they never gave up and cut the lead down to 1 point at the break. The Rheinstars got 3 stops to begin and got a free throw from ex CS Dominguez(NCAA2) guard Golson and got a Taras lay in for the 25-22 advantage. After Slovenian center Jure Besedic made a lay in, the RheinStars let the ball fly getting two trey´s from Van Laack and Taras giving the guests the 31-26 lead. Rhondorf had problems getting out on the perimeter to make life harder for the RheinStars. But Rhondorf did a good job continuing to execute on offense while the RheinStars kept the slim lead. Spanish 37 year old point guard Enric Garrido Foz and Binapfl hit three´s cutting the RheinStars lead down to 33-32. Both teams went on little runs. The RheinStars went on a 7-2 run to extend their lead to 40-34 as German Tim Van Der Velde made a lay in and free throw while Golson hit four free throws. But the Dragons Rhondorf closed out the second quarter strong going on their very own 7-2 run to cut the guests lead to 42-41. Rhondorf showed another spurt of aggressive speculation defense something they took from the Telekom Baskets Bonn play book as Hollis made a steal and young German Simas Lukosius scored on transition, Besedic scored in the paint and 37 year Anish Sharda dropped a trey. “We showed good team play with many guys scoring. We defended better, but still gave up too many second chance points. The motivation is there on defense and slowly the team is understanding everything better and their confidence is rising. Hollis was being guarded well and Binapfl led the team”,added Dragons Rhondorf CEO Alexander Dohms. The RheinStars shot 38% form the field and 35% from the three point line and had 21 rebounds and 7 turnovers while the Dragons Rhondorf shot 42% from the field and 54% from the three point line and had 17 rebounds and 6 turnovers.
Miles Schmidt-Scheuber interviewing Dragons Curtis Hollis after dropping 28 points in the upset win over the RheinStars
The third quarter was tight until the second half of the third quarter where the Dragons Rhondorf broke away to lead by 8 points, but the RheinStars made a furious comeback to trail only by 2 points after 30 minutes. Curtis Hollis had a solid first half scoring 8 points and started off the third quarter shinning with his defense getting a steal and coast to coast left handed lay in. He also made a two handed dunk after a Sharda steal and then dropped free throws for the Dragons 49-46 advantage. Hollis really upped his intensity and gambled well on defense giving Rhondorf the momentum and lead back. But that didn´t faze the guests as they suddenly shifted up a few gears on defense forcing Rhondorf too tough shots and getting Tibor Taras to do this thing on offense getting a lay in and trey for the 51-49 RheinStars lead. “Taras is a smart player. He really could score the ball better than I thought. He picks his spots well and is smart on the pick and roll. When you’re a scorer you can score. He really can score at a high level”, stressed Curtis Hollis. Both teams were able to produce quick runs whenever they wanted to. After this rapid Taras explosion, the Dragons Rhondorf cruised on a 10-0 run to grab the lead back to 59-51. In the run the ex Pro A team received vital production from Hollis who scored on transition and dropped 4 free throws . Kotieno and Besedic also made free throws. The Dragons Rhondorf played smart and got to the free throw line. In the run, Binapfl was on the bench and the team was carried by Hollis. But the Dragons Rhondorf could n´t keep their momentum or lead as they broke down in the last minutes allowing the RheinStars to go on a 9-3 run to get back into the game and trail only 62-60 after 30 minutes. In the run, the guests got good team production from Taras netting a 20 footer, ex Speyer forward Yannick Kneesch scored inside after getting a perfect bounce pass from Van Der Velde and Van Laack hit another three pointer. “I was careless with the ball when they went on their run. They picked up their game, but we came back”, added Vincent Golson. “We got stops and scored ball well. Guys were scoring in key moments. In the end we got turnovers in key moments and didn´t get back on defense”, stated Curtis Hollis. The Dragons Rhondorf shot 40% from the field and from the parking lot and had 23 rebounds and 8 turnovers while the RheinStars shot 42% from the field and 38% from the parking lot and had 29 rebounds and 13 turnovers.
In the fourth quarter it looked early like the Dragons Rhondorf could finally break away as they led by 10 points, but when you have a Tibor Taras on your side, you aren´t ever out of it. He led his team back to dead lock the game, but in the end the Dragons Rhondorf had the better nerves and executed better at both ends of the court. The Dragons Rhondorf started the fourth quarter with a lethal 12-4 run to extend their lead to 74-64. The Dragons let the three fly and were successful getting four from Hollis, Binapfl, Foz and Besedic. Rhondorf was playing smart and executing their offense calmly while the Rheinstars were inconsistent on defense They played aggressive on the ball handler, but then let up on the closeouts. “Our confidence grew with every other three made. We did a good job getting guys into good scoring position and we knocked down shots”, added Curtis Hollis Both teams showed all night long how to react strongly and successfully to an opponents run as now the RheinStars stuck it to the Dragons going on a brutal 12-2 run to deadlock the contest at 76-76. Belgium guard Gael Hulsen nailed a trey to begin the run which was followed by a Golson lay in. then it was Taras doing his thing scoring three baskets in a row to tie the game. The Dragons Rhondorf made poor turnovers allowing the guests to come back. “Scoring is what Tibor does. When he is putting the ball in the hole, we have to feed him. When he catches fire, he gets us back into the game with his shot making abilities”, stressed Vincent Golson. But then came the turning point of the game. The Dragons Rhondorf went on a 6-0 run to extend their lead to 82-76 and they would never look back. Foz made a floater, Kotieno a lay in getting the shovel pass form Hollis and Hollis then also scored. On two stops, Hollis made two clutch defensive rebounds. “I had to help the big men rebound. Coach Idbihi got on me at the break about not getting a rebound in the first half. I crashed the boards harder in the second half to secure possessions”, added Curtis Hollis. “Our goal is to get better at defending and rebounding. Hollis´s two rebounds were important at the end, but it was an overall team effort to get the win”, expressed head coach Yassin Idbihi. Swedish center Michiel Petersen made a tip in and Golson a lay in, but Rhondorf hit big free throws from Foz as Rhondorf led 84-81. Golson scored with 24 seconds to go to cut the Dragons lead to 84-83, but Sharda and Hollis made key free throws and then stopped Taras on the last shot. “We made big free throws and stops”, added Curtis Hollis. “We had poor execution in the last minute. We had too much 1-1 play. We like to get the simple shot and get on transition, but we showed too much hero ball at the end”, warned Vincent Golson. The Dragons Rhondorf were led b Curtis Hollis with 28 points. Killian Binapfl added 18 points and 11 boards and Jure Besedic produced 11 points and Enric Garrido Foz 10 points The RheinStars were led by Tibor Taras with 31 points and 10 boards, Vincent Golson had 15 points and Bendict Van Laack added 13 points. The Dragons Rhondorf shot 41% form the field and 43% from outside and had 30 rebounds and 10 turnovers while the RheinStars shot 43% form the field and 36% from outside and had 39 rebounds and 16 turnovers.