The last time, The Fraport Skyliners graced the soil of the pretty Bavarian town of Wurzburg, Murat Didin was head coach in his first tenure there leading the club to the Beko BBL final, world class cyclist Lance Armstrong was only months shy of winning his record seventh Tour De France, the first presidential election was still months away in Egypt, the Chicago White Sox were on course of being the only major league team in history being in first place from day one until day 162 and the NFL played its first game outside the United States as the Arizona Cardinals battled the San Francisco 49ers in Mexico City. All these events occurred in 2005 and the last time that Frankfurt played in Wurzburg was March 19th as they escaped with a 89-87 win in front of 1,200 patrons. Back then, Wurzburg had current Phantom Nils Mittman and Walter Tigers Tuebingen head coach Igor Perovic in the line up while the Skyliners had a young 19 year old Alex King registering two points and high flying American Chris Williams who led all scorers with 28 points, seven rebounds and six assists. Yesterday the Fraport Skyliners returned again as scoring took a back seat as defense was the highest priority and the gang of Muli Katzurin found a away to win their fifth game in a row on the road and came to terms with the tough atmosphere prevailing 56-51. Despite the s.Oliver Baskets Wurzburg having a strong 8-1 home record, they aren´t invincible at home “This arena reminds a bit of the Cameron arena at Duke. That arena is small like this one and the fans pack it in and are great. It is usually hard to defeat us here”, stressed ex Umass American Ricky Harris. Wurzburg guard Ben Jacobson has had the luxary of playing in two very unique arenas the last years. “The Lok halle has its own mystique. However the fans here are very special. Even if you miss 15 shots in a row, they go wild when you hit that 16th shot. This place is small and the fans are on top of you. You don´t always have to play in a big arena to feel comfortable. We feel very comfortable here and use it to our advantage”, stressed Ben Jacobson.
It was really no secret that a defensive battle was being awaited as the best Beko BBL defensive team s.Oliver Baskets Wurzburg had given up an average 67 points this season while the Fraport Skyliners had only given up an average 64 points in the last 10 games. Many were speculating a score between 65-55 points, but that it would become such an extreme defensive game had many fascinated just how intense and aggressive two teams could battle for 40 minutes. During the game Devin Gibson sustained a cramp as did players from Wurzburg after the game. Both teams went to the limit not wanting to give any free gifts and just defended with their hearts. “We knew that Wurzburg is a very tough defensive team and we just had to slow down the game. Their defense at the start was the best defense that I have ever played against. It was a civil war battle. It calmed down in the second half and we were able to play our basketball”, warned Skyliner guard Jimmy Mckinney. S. Oliver Baskets Wurzburg guard Ricky Harris sat on the sidelines and couldn´t play due to injury, but understood that there was no beauty to this game. “This was an ugly game that was battled out on defense. This was like a heavy weight match. They came out throwing punches and then we came back throwing punches and it went back and forth”, stressed Ricky Harris. Skyliner forward Jacob Burtschi might not have had memories of having to play much defense in Hagen, but was used to defense at the Air Force in the NCAA. “This was the battle of the trenches. This was one of the biggest defensive battles I have ever been involved with. At the Air Force, we led the nation three years in least points given up. Patrick has a very tough minded team with guys like Boone and Tomazek and the guards are so physical. They really wear you down, but we were able to sustain their aggressive defense in the second half and also limited them to less shots”, added Jacob Burtschi. Skyliner captain Marius Nolte might only have played 2,50 minutes, but he played his part in the big win and had that big winner smile at the end. “I am so happy how we won this game and how much fighting spirit that we showed. It was so hard to play against them and especially after they pressured us so much at the start, we stayed calm at the end getting the win”, stressed Marius Nolte. “ This was the battle of two defensive minded teams. Both teams played at full speed and no team gave an inch. Frankfurt played with a lot of confidence and hit big shots. The difference at end was Davidson making his mid distance shots when he wanted to”, added s.Oliver Baskets Wurzburg head coach John Patrick.
Even though beko BBL basketball had been absent in the s .Oliver arena, there was a special basketball feeling in the small,sold out arena as if Dirk Nowitzki had left something behind since he had started his playing in the late 90s. There was an upbeat feeling on the Fraport Skyliners bench prior to tip off as Justin Gray was seeing how long he could spin the ball on his finger and smiling. The s.Oliver Baskets Wurzburg without pure scorer Ricky Harris who could of made a difference in this game had he played. As soon as the game did start, both teams showed quickly that defense was on the menu and offense was on the forgotten menu as both teams struggled to score as they were defending with heart. The s.Oliver Baskets Wurzburg did have the 5-2 lead half way through the first quarter getting a runner from Ben Jacobson and three pointer from Ivan Elliot. It seemed like both teams were in a contest to see who could force more turnovers as they were filling up the stat sheet early. Frankfurt had problems getting shots and chose to draw fouls as Quantez Robertson and Jacob Burtcshi went to the line tying the score at 5-5. Muli Katzurin inserted Devon Gibson that right away made an impact on offense making the offense quicker in the set play and giving the Fraport Skyliners the 7-5 lead back retrieving his own rebound and getting a put back. However the s.Oliver Baskets Wurzburg found some momentum down the stretch going on a 5-2 run to lead 10-9 after one quarter. Wurzburg got some production on offense as Jason Boone got his own rebound and lay up and Ivan Elliot hit a last second fade away jumper. The Fraport Skyliners had massive problems denying Wurzburg offensive rebounds and problems in the set play as they were being forced to too many turnovers. The s.Oliver Baskets Wurzburg were shooting 25% from the field and 14% from outside while the Fraport Sklyiners were shooting 33% from the field and 0% from outside. Wurzburg had the 9-8 rebound edge and five turnovers while Frankfurt had eight.
Thes.Oliver Baskets Wurzburg jumped on the Fraport Skyliners quickly going on a 6-0 run to extend their lead to 16-9. Little used German-polish big man Robert Tomazek who played two years for legendary NCAA head coach and chair thrower Bobby Knight at Texas Tech scored twice inside having no problem against the lax defense of Jermareo Davidson. Here and there the Fraport Sklyiners would display flashes of brilliance on offense as Jimmy Mckinney found Quantez Robertson back door for an easy lay up as Frankfurt trailed 16-11. The s. Oliver baskets Wurzburg then went on a mini 5-2 run to lead 21-13 as Ivan Elliot outworked Frankfurt for an offensive rebound and lay up and free throw and Jacobson made two free throws. Both teams continued to play as if this was there last ever game giving everything. The Fraport Skyliners closed out the second quarter with a7-4 run, but still trailed 25-20 at the intermission. Davidson made a pretty pull up jumper over German Oliver Clay and Gibson and German national player Johannes Herber hit free throws. “We were happy that we weren´t down by 20 points. We were 4/20 at halftime and were down only by five points. We had been lucky that Wurzburg wasn´t hitting their shots”, stressed Jacob Burtschi. The s.Oliver Baskets Wurzburg were shooting 29% from the field and 11% from the three point line while The Fraport Skyliners weres hooting 20% from the field and 0% from the three point line. Wurzburg continued to have the 22-16 rebound edge and 13 turnovers while Frankfurt had 14 turnovers.
It was no secret that the Fraport Skyliners slowly had to find a secure rhythm on offense and start to hit some shots. But it wasn´t the Fraport Sklyiners that had the scoring touch first, but the s.Oliver Baskets Wurzburg who got needed production from defensive pit bull John Little who hit a floater and one handed shot in the lane. Little has been known for years as one of the top man on ball defenders in the Beko BBL, but he has quietly stepped up his offense as well as he has scored in double figures 8 times this season. Jimmy Mckinney hit a pull up jumper as Frankfurt still trailed 29-22. Devin Gibson and Tomazek then traded buckets as the s.Oliver Baskets Wurzburg still led 31-23. However in the latter half of the third quarter it was all Fraport Skyliners as it was for most of the Patriots-Broncos game where Tom Brady showed that he is the real football god moving his team into the AFC championship game against the Ravens with a 45-10 shell shocking, as the Frankfurt club surprised the Wurzburg fans with a 11-0 run romp to retake the lead 34-31. Frankfurt picked up their defense again being more aggressive after taking more of a rest in the first four minutes as Burtschi hit a three pointer and Robertson a jumper as Frankfurt trailed 31-28. Jacobson and Little missed shots as Mckinney scolded Wurzburg with a three pointer to tie the game at 31-31. Burtschi then made a steal as Mckinney scored and Gibson made a free throw. Chester Frazier closed out the third quarter with a high rainbow three pointer as the score was dead locked 34-34 after three quarters.”Defense was key in this run. We played pick and roll, Gibson found open guys, I hit shots and we calmed down found the flow and started playing basketball”, stressed St Louis native Jimmy Mckinney. The Fraport Skyliners were shooting 27% from the field and 17% from the parking lot while the s.Oliver Baskets Wurzburg were shooting 30% from the field and 18% from the parking lot. Wurzburg still had the rebound edge 29-24, but 17 turnovers while Frankfurt had 16 turnovers.
In the fourth quarter there were three lead changes early until the Fraport Skyliners would take control of the game. Devin Gibson got the Fraport Skyliners on the board first with a coast to coast sprint and off balance lay up that liked Aubrey Reese in his days as a Skyliner as Frankfurt led 36-34. Jacobson gave Wurzburg the lead back with a three pointer 37-36, but Quantez Super Tez Robertson responded bringing the Fraport Skyliners on a 11-2 run getting seven points in the run starting with a slick spin move that had Chester Frazier twisted scoring on a lay up as Frankfurt led again 38-37 and they would never look back. Robertson still had some basketball offensive up his sleeve as he would connect too more times with a jumper and off balance jumper from the wing as the shot clock sounded as Frankfurt led 43-39. Gibson continued the run with two free throws and Davidson who is as secure with his mid distance jumper as teammate Justin Gray is from the free throw line nailed a jumper as Frankfurt led more comfortably 47-39. The s.Oliver Baskets Wurzburg weren´t done yet as they came back with a mini 4-0 run as Chris Kramer and Jason Boone hit free throws to cut the Frankfurt lead to 47-43. Wurzburg continued to press with their comeback, but Davidson showing as much self confidence with his mid distance jumper as he does rapping on You Tube hit his favorite shot giving Frankfurt the 49-43 lead. The Fraport Skyliners gave Wurzburg some gifts with turnovers, but the home team was unable to make good use of them getting stopped on defense countless times as Chester Frazier was denied in the lane twice as Davidson stepped up on defense under the hoop. “We had some funny opportunities at the end, but we just couldn´t hit our shots”, expressed Ben Jacobson. Thompson then hit free throws and Jacobson a lay in as Frankfurt led 51-45. Despite Herber missing four free throws at the end and Chris Kramer showing his agility and quickness for two lay ups to cut the Frankfurt lead to 53-49, time was running down and Thompson and Herber made free throws in the last seconds to preserve the win and only the second home loss for Wurzburg this season. “Frankfurt played great team defense at the end and Mckinney and Robertson hit the big shots”, stressed Ricky Harris.
The Fraport Skyliners were led by Quantez Robertson with 12 points and seven rebounds. Devin Gibson contributed 11 points, four rebounds and two assists and Jermareo Davidson produced 10 points. The s.Oliver Baskets Wurzburg were led by Ben Jacobson with 15 points. Ivan Elliot chipped in with eight points and eight rebounds and Chris Kramer with eight points and six rebounds. Skyliner rookie Devin Gibson was only playing his second Beko BBL game, but showed strides on offense and defense and despite sustaining a cramp and crashing into the stands, he was able to come back and play and is already getting respect of his teammates. “Gibson showed how important he was tonight. He was very aggressive and did a good job bringing the ball”, stressed Marius Nolte. The Fraport Skyliners shot poorly, but else should one expect in a defensive battle and were outrebounded 37-35 and will have some things to work on this week in practice. “We got a bit nervous in crunch time and had problems keeping a calm head at times and on offense there were phases where we didn´t get good shots”, warned Marius Nolte. Defense continues to be the strong point of the Fraport Skyliners as in the last 10 games they allow less than 65 points a game. “Frankfurt don’t really apply full court press, but their half court defense is excellent. They apply good pressure and the wings deny you. Defense is about hard work and effort and that is what they do”, warned Ben Jacobson. The Fraport Skyliners will seek to go for their second win in a row at home against the LTi Giessen 46ers January 20th.