After ending 2013 with a five game losing streak and being crushed shortly before Christmas 93-69 in Langen with the German twin tower duo of Danilo Barthel and Johannes Voigtmann and the playoffs at that stand point as far away as Uli Hoeness visiting his wiener factory in Nurnberg for some time, the Fraport Skyliners Juniors jumped out of the gates in 2014 in a very focused manner going on a eight game winning streak mostly without a healthy core of their regular Beko BBL license players and slipping into the playoffs. However their amazing winning streak was halted on the last game day in Lich a week ago as the team traveled to the small rural Hessen town a jump down the country road from Giessen with only a six man rotation and looked as helpless as a tattered abandoned cow who had been put on a blindfold from annoying carnival visitors looking for a joke. In the last season game, Frankfurt brutally was beaten 77-39 as Beko BBL head coach Gordon Herbert who has been hit hard this season with injuries needed Max Merz, Jan Novack and Nikolai Vuckovic in Ludwigsburg. The Juniors only had two regular contributers with Canadian Bryson Johnson and German Tim Oldenburg and the remaining four being bench and NBBL players. Despite this last regular season hardship, the players in that game surely got a valuable learning experience and with the 2014 Pro B playoffs to commence, the Juniors were back in their BCM living room with the usual roster that they have had in that eight game winning streak and were as focused to start the playoffs against Eintracht Stahnsdorf as cute humming birds battling for the sweetest tune on the first warm pre spring day and as NBA legend Phil Jackson is to starting new sweet history with the New York Knicks. The Fraport Skyliners Juniors were informed shortly before the game that starting point guard Max Merz would not play, but be rested for the Beko BBL game on Sunday against FC Bayern Munich. Despite Merz missing, the roster was fuller than the six in Lich. “I was happy to have a full team again. But too look back at that game in Lich, there was a reason for only having six players. Injuries and having our Regio team playing at the same time didn´t allow us to have more players. I was a little disappointed by the criticism we got for the six players we played. When the BBL team have a game at the same time and they have injuries than it is only natural that they have the double license players. The success we had in the second half of the season was with a reduced number of the BBL players. Danilo Barthel played one game and Konstantin Klein three games”, stressed Fraport Skyliners juniors head coach Eric Detlef. Despite having a more full roster, the Fraport Skyliners Juniors suffered a bitter loss at home losing on a buzzer beater by American Richard Thomas, but that didn´t shed Canadian Bryson Johnson from having a twitch of humor in his voice after the loss. “It was great seeing some familiar faces on the court and having more than one sub”, smiled Nova Scotia native Bryson Johnson.
The Fraport Skyliners Juniors entered the game with a very stellar 8-1 record in 2014 and were the team to beat in the Pro B South as their success was made with overall team play, some luck and just vast improvement within the young roster while not depending very much on many of the Beko BBL license player. Eintracht Stahnsdorf had a season of two faces as they finished the season with a 12-10 record and after having a 10-3 record in the first half of the season, they finished very poor losing seven of their last games on account of injuries and not getting added needed production from young Germans who didn´t have the needed experience in crunch time situations. Game one was a defensive battle where Eitracht Stahnsdorf picked up their game in the second half and were the better team, but the Fraport Skyliners Juniors made a run at the end, but weren´t rewarded as New York native Richard Thomas won the game with a buzzer beater. “This was a very tough game that displayed good defense which resulted in low scoring. Both coaches were scheming against the other teams offense, but made the defensive stops at the end and came out with the win”, added Richard Thomas. “We found out late that Max Merz would not play and it is always difficult making an adjustment like that. We played good defense in the first half. We made the best out of this situation and all played hard, but we will have to execute and rebound better in game two. I held the ball a bit too long at times on the pick and the role and take full responsibility”, explained Bryson Johnson.
The Fraport Skyliners Juniors got out of the gate quicker taking the 4-1 lead as defense had a big fat x on the menu of both teams. Jan Novak got Frankfurt on the board first with a left handed lay in which was followed by a mid distance jumper by Johannes Richter for the 4-0 lead. Stahnsdorf than got on the board AS German Robin Jorch was found inside by Richard Thomas. Nikolaj Vukovic then connected on a three pointer as Frankfurt had the comfortable 7-3 advantage after a few minutes. Then came a long ineffective period for both teams as Frankfurt was held scoreless for six minutes, while Stahnsdorf chipped at the lead making only free throws. Frankfurt also had some fortune that Stahnsdorf forward Kellen Williams missed a few easy put backs after securing some offensive boards. Vukovic closed out the first quarter with a runner in traffic and connected as the clock sound with Frankfurt leading 9-7. “It was a very defensive orientated game as both teams were playing good defense. Stahnsdorf missed some easy shots and I felt Frankfurt held the ball a bit to long at times”, stressed Fraport Skyliner Konstantin Klein. The Fraport Skyliners were shooting 31% from the filed and 17% from outside while Eintracht Stahnsdorf was shooting 8% from the field and 0% from outside. Both teams had 11 rebounds. Frankfurt had three turnovers and Eintracht Stahnsdorf two turnovers.
The second quarter remained very tight where fans saw four lead changes and Frankfurt having the 23-20 lead at the break. Canadian Bryson Johnson gave Frankfurt the 12-9 lead dropping a big three pointer. Ex Beko BBL player Tim Modersiski who played a combined 15 Beko BBL games for Oldenburg and Tubingen snuck inside for a back door lay up as Kellen Williams found him all alone. After David Scheffels made two free throws for the 14-11 lead, Eintracht Stahnsdorf retaliated going on a mini 4-0 run to take their first lead of the game 15-14. It was the two Americans Richard Thomas and Kellen Williams supplying the bucket treatment. Thomas and Vukovic than traded some baskets as Frankfurt held on to the lead 19-17. German Thomas Schoeps then hit a catch and pop jumper to tie the game at 19-19. Johnson and Thomas then exchanged free throws. Johnson made an off balance jumper as the Fraport Skyliners Juniors had the narrow 23-20 lead at halftime. “It continued to be a very low scoring game, but both sides were playing hard. The key after 20 minutes was that no one was giving up easy baskets”, stressed Fraport Skyliners head coach Gordon Herbert. The Fraport Skyliners were shooting 30% from the field and 27% from the three point line while Eintracht Stahnsdorf were shooting 26% from the field and 0% from the three point line.Eintracht Stahnsdorf had the 20-19 rebound edge and only two turnovers while Frankfurt had five turnovers.
In the third quarter. Both teams found their rhythm better in offense as the shots started falling on a more regular basis in the first few minutes. Eintrach Stahnsdorf got two pick d pop shots from Robin Jorch and an easy coast to coast bucket from Kellen Williams who functioned as a guard coming into a passing lane and picking off an errand pass from Jacob Merz intended for Jan Novak. Frankfurt got a three pointer from Johnson as a Eintracht Stahnsdorf 10-3 run gave them the 30-26 lead. Eintracht Stahnsdorf came out of half time as the team with the more intensity and were more aggressive under the boards while Frankfurt had to work double hard for each shot. Frankfurt then got a flash of quick brilliance going on a 4-0 run to retake the lead 32-30 as Tim Oldenburg and Jan Novak contributed with buckets. The last few minutes remained hard fought as Eintracht Stahnsdorf retook the lead again going on a 6-0 lead to lead 36-32 as Williams scored inside, Thomas made free throws and Thomas Schoeps grabbed an offensive rebound and made the put back. Williams then scored a lay in and made a free throw making nine points in the third quarter. Frankfurt ended the third quarter strong with a 5-0 run to cut the Eintracht Stahnsdorf lead to 39-37 as role player German Jasmin Knothe broke the zone defense with a three pointer from the corner and Scheffels made a free throw. “We came out a little flat in the third quarter. We gave up a pair of Jorch pick and pop shots. Our biggest problem was our communication in should we hedge or ice on the screen. You can´t have mental lapses in the playoffs, because you can´t dig a hole and expect to come out. That bit us in the butt”, added Bryson Johnson. “Kellen Williams came up big. He always plays 110% on the court. He is a real fighter and just kept pushing. He is one of the most mental strong guys that I have ever played with. We also defended their pick and role better and got in the passing lanes”, added Richard Thomas. Eintracht Stahnsdorf was shooting 34% from the field and 13% from the parking lot while the Fraport Skyliners Juniors were shooting 31% from the field and 28% from the parking lot. Frankfurt had the 28-27 rebound edge, but 10 turnovers while Eintracht Stahnsdorf had five turnovers.
In the fourth quarter, Eintracht Stahnsdorf seemed to shift up a gear and led by as much as six points, but one of the strong points of the Fraport Skyliners Juniors this season has been their fighting mentality and never die attitude as they would come back and let the game be decided with a last possession. The Fraport Skyliners also were a bit flat to start the fourth quarter as they allowed Eintracht Stahnsdorf to go on a mini 4-0 run making a mistake on offense allowing Thomas a steal and coast to coast run and lay in and Williams made an offensive rebound and put back as Frankfurt trailed 43-37. However somehow the Fraport Skyliners quickly found some momentum going on a spirited 8-2 run to tie the score at 45-45. German Johannes Richter made a timely extra pass which Novak put home and Bryson Johnson electrified the BCM gym with consecutive three pointers. “That was a great comeback, but we also have so much confidence in each other that we can make the plays. We know that if we make the right play that we will make the shots. That makes it all more comfortable in situations at the end”, added Bryson Johnson. But basketball is a game and runs and Eintracht Stahnsodrf countered with their own 6-0 run to lead 51-45. German Thomas Schoeps who played a season in the States at Odessa(JUCO) with Kevin Schaffartzik continued to dazzle hitting consecutive off balance jumpers and Tim Modersitzki made a tough lay in while falling down. “Schoeps has been a scorer and playmaker for us all season long. I saw the fire in his eyes. He made some tough mid distance jumpers and a big reason we won the game”, added Richard Thomas. However Frankfurt kept fighting despite another Schoeps off balance jumper as Frankfurt trailed 53-47. However Frankfurt still had some energy in their gas tanks going on a 6-0 run to knot the game at 53-53. Vukovic made free throws, Jacob Merz made a spectacular shot coming in from the base line at a tough angle with two seconds left on the shot clock and Oldenburg got a solid lob pass from Richter for the easy lay in. Dimitrij Hasenkampf then made a mid distance shot and Thomas made a lay in where he waited until he found daylight as Frankfurt trailed 57-54. Frankfurt struggled making free throws and had they connected better wouldn´t have been in this position now. Frankfurt then got some fortune as Johnson and Richter made free throws to tie the game at 57-57. With 2,8 second to play, Eintracht Stahnsdorf had one last play and let Richard Thomas do his magic. He once scored 48 points against Wolfenbuettel and has hit game winning shots in his career and did it again getting a good look and making nothing but net. “I had a good feeling that it was going in. I had two game winners in college and two this season. We had two options to go to me or Kellen Williams. He was covered pretty good, so they got me the ball. I got the ball made a few dribbles to my left and had a good look”, stressed Richard Thomas. “Thomas is a good player and that was a tough shot. The best would have been to have kept the ball out of his hands. We on some close games this season. Tonight karma kicked in”, stressed Bryson Johnson. Eintracht Stahnsdorf was led by Richard Thomas with 14 points. Kellen Williams added 14 points and 15 rebounds. Thomas Schoeps added 12 points and Robin Jorch 10 points. The Fraport Skyliners Juniors were led by Bryson Johnson with 18 points while Nikolaj Vukovic had 16 points. Frankfurt shot 36% from the field and 30% form outside while Eintracht Stahnsdorf shot 41% from the field and 15% from outside. Eintracht Stahnsdorf won the rebound battle 35-33 and turnover game 8-12. “I expect another hard fought defensive game, but I hope with more points scored, but it might come down to a last possession again”, warned Richard Thomas. “We have to execute better and rebound better in game two”, warned Bryson Johnson.