It seems like ages when the well liked Canadian Jermaine Bucknor was wearing a Frankfurt jersey and nailing three pointers and presenting that wide smile that one could recognize even halfway to Hochst train station even when a Dashaun Wood snuck into the zone with another fascination penetration move for two quick points and then had to be careful not to slip on the latest jock strap that he had left behind from his man. However the presence of Bucknor back in the Fraport arena was a beautiful thing, but it seemed almost like it was a minor detail to the game as fans were too worried about the current situation of the 2004 German BBL champion. This season has been anything but easy as many had the 2010 BBL finalist as a team that would be fighting for the playoffs and ending games with more points than their opponent, but coming into the game with TBB Trier had a 1-6 record and it seemed were like a basketball team that was on a hiking trip on the Feld Hill outside Frankfurt had gone off course and had fallen into a hidden fox den with no ladder in sight. It wasn´t 10 to midnight in basketball Frankfurt, but 30 seconds before midnight as the BBL season of the 2010 BBL cup winner seemed to be on the line between a season fight to escape the BBL cellar or finding a start out of the fox den and back to their winning ways. The Fraport Skyliners entered the game not only having lost their first three games of the season, then presenting their best game of the season with a well deserved home win against the Telekom Baskets Bonn, but then losing three games on the road, and an embarrassing 94-59 defeat in the opening game of the Eurochallenge in Belgium against Aalstar where a bitter 38-11 second quarter by the host team sealed the loss for Gordon Herbert and his players. A day after the loss in Belgium, Skyliner forward Danilo Barthel was quoted as saying that head coach Gordon Herbert hadn´t lost his coaching magic and he was right as the Fraport Skyliners found back to their old self digging their own imaginary fox hole on the court and keeping TBB trapped inside as they stifled their offense and out worked them 65-57 and ending their four game losing streak. Injured Fraport Skyliner center Mike Morrison watched the game from the sidelines nursing an injury and one could see that he had gone through a lot on the bench cheering on the team as he was sporting wet sweat marks around his arm pits on his shirt. “This was a huge win and our home crowd was great supporting us. We have been focused all season long, but we just hadn´t been able to connect the pieces. Our offense still needs work, but defense wins games”, warned Florida native Mike Morrison. One could sense that Canadian and ex Skyliner Jermaine Bucknor had been missed as he connected with many from the Skyliner family after the game and his disappointment after 40 minutes was written all over his face even if his Mohawk haircut tried to shield his pain. “You know Miles this was a must win for both teams. It really doesn´t matter who you play in this league, anybody can beat you from top to bottom. Winning on the road is made even more difficult. I felt that we did a decent job on defense making Frankfurt take tough shots, but Frankfurt played as if their life was on the line. They battled so hard even though they had injured players and found a way to beat us. They hurt us with their rebounding”, stressed ex s.Oliver Baskets Wurzburg forward Jermaine Bucknor.
The Fraport Skyliners came into the game with six healthy players and six Pro B players on the bench waiting for their chance to get their moment like Canadian Kyle Fossmann who made his Beko BBL debut playing 1.05 minutes and Stefan Ilzhoefer also found action playing 1.29 minutes. TBB Trier got on the board first as ex medi Bayreuth center Stefan Schmidt nailed a mid distance jumper and Bosnian Adin Vrabac hit a runner. Frankfurt got into their offensive sets well, but Quantez Robertson and Danilo Barthel missed easy shots. The Fraport Skyliners then got their first points as German national player Johannes Voigtmann showed his stellar big man passing skills finding ex Iona(NCAA) guard Sean Armand for the back door pass and lay in. Frankfurt did a good job keeping the two TBB Trier scorers and Canada connection Jermaine and Jermaine Bucknor and Anderson idle, but got sound production from Vrabac as he made a free throw and then scored inside as TBB Trier extended their lead to 7-3. However it was only a matter of time before the Fraport Skyliners would start hitting shots as the ball movement was there and they suddenly rushed out on a crushing 12-0 run to take the 15-7 lead. In this stellar run, Frankfurt got production from four different individuals. Voigtmann started the run with a difficult step back three pointer as the shot clock was winding down and would end the run with a lay in after getting fed by Robertson. Robertson made an amazing spin move so rapidly around Stefan Schmidt that he was looking where exactly he had lost his jock strap, Danilo Barthel made a running lay up and Richard Williams nailed a three pointer. Frankfurt did a great job being very aggressive on defense getting many hands on balls. The first quarter was the run quarter as TBB Trier didn´t back away and followed Frankfurt with their own run of 7-0 to cut the Frankfurt lead to 15-14. TBB Trier got some big three pointers from Laurynas Samenas and Adin Vrbac and Max Merz missing two free throws didn´t help the Frankfurt offensive cause. However Frankfurt halted the TBB Trier run and ended the first quarter with the momentum with a 6-2 run and led 21-16 after 10 minutes. In the run Frankfurt got buckets from Barthel and from Robertson who went coast to coast. “Frankfurt had the focus and intensity from the jump ball, but just didn´t hit shots. When they did find their rhythm, they went hard and found each other on offense. Frankfurt did a good job closing down Bucknor and Anderson and the lane not letting Trier penetrate”, stressed TV Lich guard Jermel Jones. The Fraport Skyliners were shooting 62% from the field and 50% from outside while TBB Trier was shooting 45% from the field and 40% from outside. Frankfurt had the nine to five rebound edge, but five turnovers while TBB Trier had four turnovers.
In the second quarter, the Fraport Skyliners kept their nose ahead, but could never fully get away from TBB Trier as they hung around going into half time. TBB Trier got on the board first as German Dennis Kramer who was picked up a few days ago after starting the season with Baunach after a solid NCAA career at San Diego(NCAA) got his first professional points hitting a three pointer and finding nothing but net. After Barthel hit one free throw to give Frankfurt the 22-19 advantage, fans saw some blood as the court resembled a boxing ring more than a basketball court as Skyliner guard Max Merz got an elbow to the face from Marko Lukovic and had to depart, but came back in the third quarter. Lukovic was hit with an unsportsmanlike foul, but Armand missed both shots. “I don´t think that that elbow from Lukovic on Merz was intentional. Lukovic was playing and as he turned, the head of Merz was just there and his elbow moved and he got hit”, stressed Jermel Jones. The Merz blood motivated Frankfurt as they hit massive three pointers from Williams and Canadian Aaron Doornekamp, but TBB Trier retaliated with an Anthony Canty jumper and Vitalis Chikoko as Frankfurt led 28-23. Frankfurt was on the midst of an 8-2 run and got added production from Voigtmann with a lay in and thunderous Barthel one handed dunk after he made a quick steal and went coast to coast. TBB Trier continued to fight back always chipping away at the Frankfurt lead and went on a 5-1 run to cut the Frankfurt lead to 33-28. Frankfurt continued to shut down Bucknor in the scoring department, but the ex Richmond(NCAA) player was so valuable in other areas. He made a quick feed to Mathis Monninghof for the lay in, then made two steals. Ex Bamberg guard Jermaine Anderson then made a crisp lob pass to Chikoko for the easy bucket. “We have so many scorers on the team. I don´t care if I score or not. I am happy if I can create for my teammates and just make the right plays”, stressed top assist man of the game Jermaine Bucknor who had six. Bucknor then would make the only bucket of the game hitting a very tough off balance shot that was helped by the back board. Anderson followed with a fade away jumper and Frankfurt led only 35-32. The Fraport Skyliners then closed out the second quarter in fine fashion ending it on a 6-0 run to lead 41-32 at the break. Sean Armand made an incredible jumper with one second on the clock and Richard Williams made a cross over then split the defense for the lay in. “TBB Trier was doing a great job staying with Frankfurt and just fighting back. Frankfurt was defending well , but TBB Trier made tough shots and there is nothing you can do. Williams really got it going. He got the team going on offense and transition. That lay up at the end where he split two defenders was nice”, added TV Lich American Jermel Jones. The Fraport Skyliners were shooting 56% from the field and 40% from the three point line while TBB Trier was shooting 54% from the field and 50% from the three point line. Frankfurt had the 17-10 rebound edge and both teams had seven turnovers a piece.
Many like myself had predicted this too be an ugly defensive orientated old fashioned basketball game played in the trenches with head coaches Gordon Herbert and 1993 NCAA champion with North Carolina Henrik Roedl working the whips, but after both teams were scoring in the first half, it seemed like it would continue, but instead the game became more defensive as less points were made, and Frankfurt still were in command of the game and had the lead. After the blow to his head in the second quarter, Merz was back in the third quarter and witnessed as ex Braunschweig forward Aaron Doornekamp hit a three pointer. Chikoko followed with a lay in after getting a perfect feed from Bucknor in traffic who could have finished himself, but opted to give the better positioned man the ball as Frankfurt still led 44-39. With seven minutes remaining in the third quarter, the Fraport Skyliners were hit with their fifth team foul. However the opponent didn´t use this to their advantage as TBB Trier only scored three more points in the third quarter. After Chikoko made one free throw, it was Robertson who made a lay in and then followed with a three pointer as Frankfurt extended their lead to 49-40. A few minutes passed with both teams missing tough shots as both sides heightened their defense and both teams were hit with frequent turnovers. Anderson then nailed a jumper with two seconds remaining on the shot clock as Frankfurt led 49-42. Frankfurt closed out the scoring with a Robertson free throw and Williams ended the third quarter with a lay in as time expired as the Fraport Skyliners had the 52-42 advantage. “After getting our fifth team foul early, we set up our defense so that they had to shoot over us and not letting them drive”, added Mike Morrison. “With Frankfurt getting that fifth team foul early, we had a great chance to get to the foul line often, but didn´t because we didn´t do a good job executing and utilizing the situation. In this league, it is vital to do that to be successful”, warned Jermaine Bucknor. The Fraport Skyliners were shooting 46% from the field and 35% from the parking lot while TBB Trier was shooting 47% from the field and 36% from the parking lot. Frankfurt had the 24-20 rebound lead, but only 10 turnovers while TBB Trier had 15 turnovers.
The game remained a defensive combat, but the Fraport Skyliners hit the clutch shots while TBB Trier didn´t which was key in the end for the home team winning. It took both teams two minutes before either team scored as Anderson scored a bucket inside cutting the Frankfurt lead to 52-44. However the Fraport Skyliners then found some offensive spark going on a 8-2 run to lead 60-46 as this pretty much put the club near the winners circle as the only thing missing were some free throws at the end to seal the win. In the run, Robertson did what he does best using his athletic strength by scoring inside. He then hit a free throw. Williams followed with a perfectly timed San Diego style floater from the base line over an outstretched Chikoko and Doornekmap ended the run with a jumper and free throw. Williams and Doornekamp could have debated who had the prettiest shot of the game as Williams had had that beautiful penetration cross over splitting the defense shot in the first half, while Doornekamp hit an amazing off balance shot while falling to the ground backwards somehow getting the shot off. As he fell backwards hitting the ground, he did an incredible feat that perhaps only Canadians know how do since there is always an abundance of snow as he slid backwards as if the white soft stuff had been groomed on the Fraport arena floor especially just for him. “Aaron got a tough rebound and then made a shot falling back. Looked like he was going snowboarding as he was sliding backwards”, smiled Cincinnati native Quantez Robertson. With a few minutes left, TBB Trier made one last run ending the game on a 9-3 run, but it was too little too late as they ran out of time. TBB Trier got an Anderson step back jumper and Chikoko three pointer, but Frankfurt got insurance free throws from Williams and Armand putting the game out of reach for TBB Trier. “The second half was stressful to watch. IT was crazy how one half we hit everything and the second half nothing. We had the lead in the fourth quarter and our point guards did a good job dealing with the press. We didn´t get turnovers, got stops and used the whole shot clock”, added Mike Morrsion. “Key for getting the win was our team moral and having confidence. We got the win with effort and concentration. We weren´t perfect on offense or defense, but our intensity and aggressiveness made up for our lack of execution”, expressed Richard Williams.
The Fraport Skyliners were led by Richard Williams with 17 points, seven rebounds and three assists. Quantez Robertson chipped in with 15 points, four rebounds and four steals. Johannes Voigtmann and Aaron Doornekamp added nine points a piece. TBB Trier was led by Vitalis Chikoko with 15 points. Jermaine Anderson added 12 points and Adin Vrbacc chipped in with 10 points. The Fraport Skyliners finished shooting 39% from the field and 26% from outside while TBB Trier shot 45% from the field and 31% from outside. Frankfurt won the rebounding battle 36-29 and had 15 turnovers while TBB Trier had 20 turnovers. After a slow start from American point guard Richard Williams this season who wasn´t totally healthy, he is slowly starting to find his old self. Last weekend he hit the Artland Dragons with 20 points and against TBB Trier one could see that the old Richie Williams is coming out of his shell as his offensive presence is greater than in the previous weeks as his confidence is rising with every new good game and hitting buckets is on the menu again. Williams knows now how to control his mind something he couldn´t do previously. “I have a new approach to the game. Previously I was too worried about what coach wanted to see and I was thinking too much on the court. Now I am thinking less and just being myself. I am letting my instincts take over”, warned Richard Williams. The Fraport Skyliners next entertain Danish team Bakken in their first Eurochallenge home game on Wednesday November 12.