The number six has been present in the minds of the Fraport Skyliners in the last weeks as injuries and consecutive loses go hand in hand like Gold Medals and snow storms for citizens of the country Russia. Currently going into the next game in Ludwigsburg, the 2000 Beko BBL cup winner and 2004 Beko BBL champion has lost six games in a row and were still seeking their first victory in 2014. Winning six of seven games in a span from the middle of November to the end of December seems as ancient as remembering the last game Fraport Skyliner captain Marius Nolte played. The number six also has to do with the most number of injured players that Frankfurt has had out this season as they played in Oldenburg and almost won. One has to also mention that since the last game that Andy Rautins played was at home in the win against Vechta. Since then the club has only lost and there has been speculation that the ex NBA player might not even return back this season after having gone to the States to see medical specialists. The Fraport Skyliners already had one phase during this current losing streak where they had two weeks off between games, but couldn´t pull out the win in Oldenburg. Coming in Ludwigsburg, they had their second two week period off between the last loss in Bonn and wanted to make better use of the long preparation against John Patrick and co. The Fraport Skyliners with continued injured players on their game plan menu strutted into Ludwigsburg as motivated to finally break their long winning drought as Jason Collins is too show the world that he still has the basketball brute in him getting a 10 day contract from the Brooklyn Nets, wrestler Jake the snake Roberts telling a national TV audience “If the devil can’t defeat me, cancer doesn’t stand a chance in hell”, or singer Chris Brown getting through 90 days of anger management rehab school.The Fraport Skyliners prepared for the Neckar Riesen Ludwigsburg with a week of team building and intense practices on the Spanish island of Mallorca, but weren´t rewarded, but moreover heartbroken losing a nail bitter at the end in Ludwigsburg 77-76. Despite the bitter loss, the Fraport Skyliners were able to take many important basketball ingredients from Mallorca which was already incorporated into their game in Ludwigsburg. “The trip to Mallorca was important and we needed to to get away.We connected as a team. We stepped up as individuals in our play which carried over to the team as a whole”, stressed Fraport Skyliners guard Ramon Galloway. After the loss, Fraport Skyliners head coach Gordon Herbert exited the locker room with his hair standing up as if he had seen a ghost on the court and was also positive about the Mallorca training camp results up to that last play. “We came together as a team in Mallorca. We focused on roles and goals and team building. I think we made strides with that, but we worked also much on free throw defense, but it didn´t help us at the end with the Waleskowski bucket which is just frustrating”, commented Canadian Gordon Herbert.
The Fraport Skyliners entered the game riding a six game losing streak and were still winless in 2014. Especially in the last six games, they played very well against the Artland Dragons, EWE Baskets Oldenburg and Mitteldeutscher BC games they could of won and would be a lot higher in the Beko BBL standings and in Ludwigbsurg, the Fraport Skyliners played another very solid and spirited game and had a healthy eight point lead in the down stretch of the fourth quarter, but then let it get away as it was the little things like getting fouls, missing free throws and not controlling important defensive rebounds. Fraport Skyliner heart and soul Marius Nolte made his comeback after missing six months due to injury and one could feel the sadness in his voice and observe wet eyes as he was trying to explain what he had just witnessed at the end of the game. “We are all very sad now. You couldn´t have written a better script and we deserved to win this game. We were up by three points with five seconds and to give the win away hurts. We had a good chance to win this, but Waleskowski became the hero of the game. It was nice to be back on the floor and the last game I played was the last game of last season against Ludwigsburg. I had a tough injury, but was ready to help again. We really played very well on offense and defense in the second, third and fourth quarters. We had much energy and were able to distribute the scoring on many shoulders. Even if we had many injuries, we didn´t come to Ludwigsburg to get slaughtered. We played great team basketball and that is something that we want to build on”, warned ex Paderborn center Marius Nolte.The MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg entered the game in eighth place with a 5-3 record in 2014, but were coming off a bitter loss in Weissenfels last weekend. However the club had great memories of the last home win two weeks ago against 8 time Beko BBL champion Alba Berlin and were motivated to win again, but met a very scrappy Frankfurt team and let them take control of the game in the fourth quarter, but some how stayed together as a team and dug themselves out of the hole to somehow preserve the win. 2010 Eurochallenge winner John Patrick was as always soft spoken after the game, but one sensed that he was more than relived that the basketball god seemed to be on his side at the end more than with the Faport Skyliners and had much respect for the spirited effort from the 2004 Beko BBL champion as well as their physicality. “Frankfurt clearly played better than we did It was nice seeing Marius Nolte back on the court. I was very impressed by the Frankfurt guards Konstantin Klein and Max Merz who played very good defense. I thought that Frankfurt was more physical than we were. Frankfurt pushed us around and we were way to soft against an aggressive team. We were playing too much with slapping hands and simply too undisciplined and sloppy. We were very lucky at the end”, expressed Ludwigsburg head coach John Patrick.
The MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg came out roaring out of the start gate going on a 5-0 run as Ohio native Adam Waleskowski got hot nailing a three pointer and ex NBA player Coby Karl hit two free throws. American Ramon Galloway got the Fraport Skyliners on the board testing his 17% three point percentage getting his self confidence going which would help him throughout the game hit more big shots. However Ludwigsburg had found their rhythm rapidly as the basket from downtown seemed as big as the sea as they put on a shooting clinic as Coby Karl who played 23 NBA games connected as did Waleskowski two more times as Frankfurt trailed 14-7. Ludwigsburg also mixed it up a bit getting their inside game inserted as ex Florida State forward Waleskowski scored on a left handed shot and ex Bayreuth forward Gary Mcghee spun around Dane Watts and scored on an easy lay up. Ludwigsburg got five team fouls early and Frankfurt took advantage of it as German Max Merz made three free throws as Frankfurt trailed only 18-13. However Ludwigsburg kept having an answer on offense as German/Croatian Mario Stojic who played nine years in the Spanish ACB and 324 games hit form outside as Ludwigbsurg led 21-13. After a pair of Watts free throws, it was Michael Stockton who found some day light and scored inside with his left hand. The MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg led 24-15 after one quarter. “Ludwigsburg had a great start as Waleskowsi was hot, but they then settled down a bit. Patrick plays a physical game, but the referees didn´t go with it and called many fouls which resulted in us getting to the free throw line early”, said Oklahoma native Jacob Burtschi. The MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg were shooting 47% from the field and 63% from outside while the Fraport Skyliners were shooting 30% from the field and 33% from outside. Frankfurt had the 9-6 rebound edge, but four turnovers while Ludwigsburg had only one turnover.
In the second quarter, both teams stepped up their defense as fewer points were scored, but the Fraport Skyliners still had problems getting their offense going. Quantez Robertson who had been quiet offensively in the first quarter tested his miserable 9% three point shooting percentage nailing a three pointer. Ex Wake Forest stand out Calvin Harris responded with a pull jumper. He was only a shadow of his brilliant game he showcased in Frankfurt in the first half of the season as he attempted only one shot the whole game. Despite Frankfurt stopping Ludwigsburg on seven of the first eight possessions in the second quarter, they could hardly make any ground as they only got Danilo Barthel free throws and were trailing 26-20. After a Keaton Grant jumper, Danilo Barthel followed with a monster stuff on Washington native Michael Stockton. Frankfurt had problems making free throws as Klein and Nolte left two free throws on the rim. Shawn Huff who had four offensive rebounds got an offensive rebound and put back for the 30-23 Ludwigsburg advantage. Frankfurt then went on a 5-0 run to cut the Ludwigsburg lead to 30-28. German Konstantin Klein took control penetrated with authority and scored in traffic and nailed the free throw. Johannes Voigtmann then connected on his bread and butter the 15 footer. Waleskowski then ended the second quarter with his fourth three pointer of the game as the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg went into the break with the slim 33-28 lead. “We picked it up on defense limiting them to one shot and not allowing any easy penetration. However we did allow a few offensive rebounds and points on the rotations”, stated ex Phoenix Hagen forward Jacob Burtschi. The MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg were shooting 35% from the field and 50% from the three point line while the Fraport Skyliners were shooting 29% from the field and 20% from the three point line. Frankfurt had the 19-18 rebound edge, but had eight turnovers while Ludwigsburg had four turnovers.
In the third quarter, the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg took a lead again, but the Fraport Skyliners rallied tying the game and only trailing by one point after three quarters. American Ketaon Grant is always good for scoring in bunches and got Ludwigsburg out on a 5-0 run to start the third quarter hitting a three pointer and then a jumper as Frankfurt trailed 38-28. Frankfurt kept their game face on and kept chugging away at the lead as Robertson hit a three pointer and free throws as Frankfurt trailed only 38-32. Coby Karl was left open again and he penalized Frankfurt with a soaring rain bow shot as Ludwigsburg led 41-32. Despite the nine point lead, Frankfurt was never out of this game and shifted up a few gears to end the third quarter on a 16-8 run to trail only 49-48 after 30 minutes. Frankfurt clawed back going on an 8-0 run to trail only 41-40. Barthel finished in traffic, Robertson showed his calm hand from outside, then hit free throws as did Konstantin Klein. Karl then displayed his vast basketball IQ seeing Stockton in the corner of the eye strutting into the zone as he fed him from the base line for an easy bucket. Robertson then connected on another three pointer as he ran back on defense roaring as if he was Tez of the jungle as the game was dead locked at 43-43. Waleskowski then scored on a left handed runner, and Grant shot his fourth air ball of the game as Frankfurt came back on offense with a Marius Nolte lay in. Ramon Galloway then gave Frankfurt its first lead of the game with a jumper 47-45 shortly before the en d of the third quarter. Karl then once again showcased great eye work finding Grant open from the inbounds pass for a three pointer and 48-47 Ludwigsburg advantage. Klein and Karl then exchanged once free throw as Frankfurt trailed 49-48 after 30 minutes. “I don´t think that we made adjustments on defense in the second half, but just played better. We just buckled down and played very good one on one defense”, warned Ramon Galloway. The MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg were shooting 38% from the field and 43% from the parking lot while the Fraport Skyliners were shooting35% from the field and 29% from the parking lot. Frankfurt had the narrow 26-25 rebound edge, but 11 turnovers while Ludwigsburg had nine turnovers.
With an excess of fouls, technical fouls, air balls and other bizarre stories after 30 minutes to this game, one may not have thought that the game could get any more crazy as it did as each fan left the arena with their money´s worth as Frankfurt let a nice lead slip away and went home crushed. After being rather silent in the first three quarters and having scored only two points, Missouri native Dane Watts took matters into his own hands carrying the Fraport Skyliners on his own 8-0 run similar to his outburst in Oldenburg in his Skyliner debut. Watts started his run with a quick lay in after he split the defense getting a quick inbounds pass from Robertson, then nailed two three pointers in a row which quickly silenced the crowd as Frankfurt had their biggest lead of the game 56-49. However as one run was broken, a new one was started as Ludwigsburg retaliated with their own 7-0 run to tie the game at 56-56. Waleskowski started the run with a turn around left handed shot, Huff got a put back as his continued aggressive play on the offensive board paid dividends and Stockton hit free throws. Nolte and Stockton then traded buckets as the game remained tight at 58-58. Frankfurt then went on a 7-0 run taking advantage of the five Ludwigsburg team fouls and making all free throws from Klein and Galloway as Frankfurt led 66-58. After Karl and Stojic made free throws, it was Mr fourth quarter Dane Watts again hitting a three pointer as Frankfurt kept their comfortable lead at 69-61. With the clock winding down, it seemed like Frankfurt was on the verge of their first win in 2014 and some writers may already have been crafting their Frankfurt win titles, but Ludwigsburg kept fighting as Waleskowski made three free throws cutting the Frankfurt lead to 69-64. After Galloway and Karl traded free throws, it was Karl banging home a clutch jumper as all of a sudden there was life in the arena again as Frankfurt led only 71-68. Grant then hit a lay in cutting the Frankfurt lead to 72-70. Tez and Grant then traded free throws, but Frankfurt still led 74-72. Galloway then made free throws as Frankfurt led 76-72. At this point with 30 seconds to go and the win as sure in the pocket as FC Bayern Munich soccer team are doing in the Bundesliga since October 2012, the turning point came where Ludwigsburg closed out the game in extreme dramatic fashion with a 5-0 run to win 77-76. With Frankfurt in a huddle, Coby Karl interrupted and was brushed back by Robertson where Karl fell back as if Shaq had secretly entered the court and steamrolled the ex NBA player. “It was flopping for me. Karl came over to our huddle and Tez told him to leave and then Karl fell backwards as if Superman had pushed him. That call was unbelievable”, stressed Ramon Galloway. “I didn´t flop. Robertson pushed me. I don´t remember it being illegal to go over to a huddle. The video will show what happened”, stated ex Golden State Warrior Coby Karl. Karl then made one free throw and missed the next on purpose which was scooped up by Waleskowski for the putback and one free throw and 76-76 game. “I communicated with head coach John Patrick that is was best to miss the second free throw and go for the rebound. I told my wing players to go to the right and big men to the left. I was hoping for the rebound to bounce to the right, but it went to the left which Waleskowski got. He did an amazing job. We kept fighting and crazy things happen when you stick together”, warned Coby Karl. Waleskowksi nailed the free throw which gave Ludwigsburg the amazing 77-76 win. “We lost focus at the end. We were up by two with six seconds and it is inexcusable to lose like that and it was a very tough call to decide the game”, added Frankfurt head coach Gordon Herbert. “I have never been a part of a crazy game like this before. It was an unbelievable ending”, stated Ramon Galloway.
The MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg were led by Adam Waleskowski with 24 points and 11 rebounds. Coby Karl chipped in with 17 points and Keaton Grant with 14 points. The Fraport Skyliners were led by Quantez Robertson with 15 points. Dane Watts steered 14 points and six rebounds. Ramon Galloway chipped in with 13 points and Konstantin Klein had 12 points. It was a poor shooting night for both teams as Ludwigsburg shot 35% from the field and 37% from outside while the Fraport Skyliners shot 37% from the field and 32% from outside. Ludwigsburg won the rebound battle 40-37 and turnovers 10 to 14. One thing that Skyliner players have been doing rapidly in 2014 is finding positives after loses and there were good things that the Fraport Skyliners did that they need to continue to carry on into the next games. “We have to keep our team spirit up. We continue to show that we can play with the top teams. Our energy was very good and we played together and it felt better than usual”, warned Ramon Galloway.