Sometimes misfortune plagues a team as long as Rajon Rondo takes apart defenses and it just doesn´t stop as the new Beko BBL team Crailsheim Merlins witnessed a little more than a week ago when they left for the 414 kilometer far away Hagen at 9:45 AM for a 19:30 game and still were unable to reach its destination and thus had to take an automatic loss. In the day and age where social media gives the world an up to date report about what is happening, basketball fans were informed what was happening by tweets and face book posts from players as for some the chic sunglasses of German center Jannik Freese was the big highlight during the team´s trek back to the last exit to hop into mini vans. That unforgettable experience has been just one of many this season for the last placed team who after many winning seasons in the Pro A have been losing as much this season as German soccer club Borusia Dortmund who have seemed to have forgotten how to win. Coupled with loses and players coming and going, it has been a season to forget and huge learning experience for the Schwaben team. After the calamity trying to reach Hagen last weekend, players might have had at the top of their 2015 New Years resolutions to try to reach their next destination or simply just leave even earlier or travel a day before game day. With their next away game against the Fraport Skyliners, they were a bit more than halfway as close at 217 Kilometers then they were traveling to Hagen. The whole Crailsheim to Hagen fiasco trip brings back memories to the Giessen 46ers who didn´t reach Ludwigsburg on time in 1996 as German national player Armin Andrers was on the team and then in 2008 were stuck in nonmoving traffic as the Hessen club once again didn´t reach their destination. However a new day and year and better weather conditions were on the side of the Crailsheim Merlins as they didn´t want to take the risk of leaving on game day and getting stuck in snow again as they left the day before and reached Frankfurt on time, but left their A game on the bus as the Fraport Skyliners came out smoking and with some ups and downs during the game easily won their ninth game in a row at home 88-71. After the loss, German Jannik Freese had no comment about the Hagen fiasco last weekend, but American teammate Garrett Sim did. “That was a very unique situation last weekend. I am just happy that we made it well to Frankfurt. We are going to take the break to get better. We let too many games slip away in the first half”, stressed ex Science City Jena guard Garret Sim. Fraport Skyliner center Mike Morrison who was idle on account of a one game suspension was doing his little dance in the catacombs which has become habit in the last few months with this winning streak intact and had his two cents for the Crailsheim Hagen affair. “I am happy that they made it safely to Frankfurt. It was misfortunate that you have to take a loss like that. You want to battle and then can´t even play. But that is a part of life. They can be blessed that there was no crash or something like that”, added Mike Morrison.
The Fraport Skyliners entered the game with a record of 7-9 and it was difficult to know if having the last place team as guest right before the two week break was the best medicine as ups and downs in the game showed that possibly the team was already on vacation time. The Fraport Skyliners never trailed in this game, but allowed Crailsheim to cut their seemingly not endangered lead to four points in the third quarter, but the 2004 BBL champion wiped that little scare away as quickly as a snowplower does unwanted snow from the road. Especially the Frankfurt Mainhatten twin towers of Danilo Barthel and Johannes Voigtmann combined for 37 points and 17 rebounds making it for a long afternoon in the paint area. “Crailsheim is a good team and we let them score. We had many turnovers, but we cleaned it up in the second half. We should of pulled away in the first half, but found our stride in the second half. Barthel and Voigtmann both played very well and were aggressive on both ends of the court. I know how good they are since I see them play each day in practice”, smiled St Petersburg Florida native Mike Morrison. “We did a good job leading the team today. I had some easy baskets early which helped me get into the game better. Joe had 12 rebounds and did a good job down low. We worked well together and when we are both present then we make space for the others”, stated Heidelberg native Danilo Barthel. “The German big men led their team today. They are athletic, physical and skillful and played great”, added ex Giessen 46er Jannik Freese. Crailsheim was reeling off a bitter loss against the Telekom Baskets Bonn a few days earlier and once again no one could complain about a lack of effort or fighting quality, but at the end the score and difference in points told the story of the game. “Frankfurt beat us in every aspect of the game if it was rebounding, 50/50 balls or execution. We were always a step behind”, added Portland, Oregon native Garret Sim.
The Fraport Skyliners entered the game without Mike Morrison, Konstantin Klein and Kevin Bright. 5000 fans were on hand to witness this Sunday matinee as was injured Skyliner Max Merz who was back in the arena for the first time since his concussion against TBB Trier. The Fraport Skyliners exploded out of the gate going on a 9-2 run as Barthel scored five points as the club was making life very difficult inside for Crailsheim. The Frankfurt passing game was put into the forefront as Cobbs found Voigtmann and Quantez Robertson played some give and go with Barthel who found the Auburn alumnist for two quick points. Crailsheim took a time out and from that time on, the Fraport Skyliners would never find that flow again like in those first two minutes. Crailsheim came out refreshed and went on a 8-4 run to trail only 13-10. In the run, the Crailsheim Merlins got buckets from Jonathan Moore, Andriy Agafanov and Chris Otule. Frankfurt had lost their rhythm, but also weren´t playing calm basketball as turnovers and wildness was on their ball menu. Crailsheim gives up an average of 84 points a game and it was only a matter of time before Frankfurt would get more buckets again. Down the stretch they got big buckets from American rookie Justin Cobbs who really is deadly with his quickness and penetration last matched in Frankfurt by 2011 Beko BBL MVP Dashaun Wood. After one quarter the Fraport Skyliners had then 23-17 advantage. “Frankfurt came ready to play and were doing all the little things to get the job done. After the Crailsheim timeout they went away from what they were doing letting the opponent sneak back into the game. Crailsheim got easy buckets and Frankfurt had too many turnovers which was a result of a lack of concentration”, stressed TV Lich guard Jermale Jones. The Fraport Skyliners were shooting 50% from the field and 0% from outside and the Crailsheim Merlins were shooting 29% from the field and 14% from outside. Frankfurt had the 12-8 rebound edge, but five turnovers while Crailsheim had four turnovers.
In the second quarter, the Fraport Skyliners continued to keep the lead despite the Crailsheim Merlins cutting the lead to four points and were down by nine points at intermission. Fraport Skyliners Finish guard Mikko Koivisto started the second quarter by nailing a wide open three pointer. Crailsheim center Jannik Freese kept his team in the game getting two buckets down low getting one in traffic and making a fade away jumper as Frankfurt led 29-24. Voigtmann then closed out the pick and roll perfectly with Justin Cobbs making a massive two handed dunk and Danilo Barthel was fed with a bullet pass from Armand which almost didn´t happen because he almost lost the ball making a fancy dribble behind his back, but luckily found the 2015 Beko BBL allstar. Crailsheim kept fighting back going on a 10-5 run to cut the Frankfurt lead to 38-34. Ex Marquette center Chris Otule did severe damage in this phase as he made a put back, made a pretty left handed lay in and hammered down a crushing dunk. German Stefan Ilzhoefer connected on a three pointer that he threw down in line drive manner and Voigtmann made a put back. Voigtmann who is seen as one of the top big men passers in the Beko BBL wasn´t having a good day as he suffered his third turnover in the second quarter all resulting from bad passes. If my description to a colleague in the stands that top NBA passing big man Marc Gasol could learn a little bit from the passing qualities of Voigtmann when he is on left a curse in the Fraport arena air was unknown, but the big German took his bad passing day in stride. “There are games when this happens. I played more risk basketball. I need to reflect on this game and maybe next week I will play with less risk involved when making passes”, said Johannes Voigtmann. The Fraport Skyliners escaped out of the Crailsheim Merlins run going on a 9-4 run to go into halftime with the 47-38 lead. In the run, it was Sean Armand that connected twice, Cobbs turned defense into offense with a lay in and Barthel scored inside. “Crailsheim was able to cut it down to four late in the third quarter, because their offense started to work better which led to easy baskets and open shots. Cobbs once again was the reason for Frankfurt breaking away a bit at the end as he let his floor general tendencies go to work finishing himself or finding his teammates”, expressed Jermale Jones. The Fraport Skyliners were shooting 56% from the field and 44% from the three point line while the Crailsheim Merlins were shooting 45% from the field and 9% from the three point line. Frankfurt had the 18-13 rebound edge, but eight turnovers while Crailsheim had seven turnovers.
In the third quarter, the Crailsheim Merlins jumped on the Fraport Skyliners again going on a 6-0 run to cut the Frankfurt lead to 47-44, but once again the home team had enough ways to build on their lead and get back to 10 plus points. Sim and ex Bremerhaven German Jonathan Moore burned Frankfurt on back to back bombs from outside. However Frankfurt reacted with a lightening 7-0 run to extend their lead again to 54-44 as the German twin towers went to work as Barthel scored inside and dropped a three pointer while Voigtmann made a put back. Crailsheim still had fire power as they continued to launch three pointers with some luck as Brooklyn, New York native Chad Timberlake and Moore connected to trail only 56-49. Soon after fans saw the most spectacular play of the game as Sean Armand made a steal and had Super Tez on the right wing and ally-op seemed tattoed on both guys fore heads and they executed the play to perfection as Frankfurt led 60-52. Down the stretch Frankfurt kept attacking and were able to hold the comfortable lead. Barthel continued to be active on the offensive glass getting a bucket as well as Cobbs finishing with a pretty lay up high off the glass. Crailsheim got some clutch buckets late Otule hit a runner and Sim made a three pointer. Cobbs ended the third quarter scoring somehow in traffic as Frankfurt led 71-59. “Coach told us at halftime that we should have been leading by more, but that our bad defense led to easy Crailsheim baskets. We executed better in the third and started to play better defense”, stressed Mike Morrison. “We should of played with more intensity, but we weren´t able”, added Texas native Chris Otule. “We came out strong hitting shots, but then fell apart. We took a step forward, but two steps back”, added Garret Sim. The Fraport Skyliners were shooting 57% from the field and 42% from the parking lot while the Crailsheim Merlins were shooting 43% from the field and 35% from the parking lot. Frankfurt had the 28-18 rebound lead, but 12 turnovers while Crailsheim had 11 turnovers.
In the fourth quarter, the Fraport Skyliners kept the lead and were never threatened again as the Crailsheim Merlins could not cut the Frankfurt lead to less than 14 points. Offense took a back seat in the fourth as the game was pretty much decided. Justin Cobbs helped his personal stat sheet with a three pointer and lay in as the Los Angeles native once again found the perfect mix for finishing and finding his teammates as Frankfurt extended their lead to 76-61. Frankfurt got some more production from Sean Armand who hit a three pointer, Robertson who had foul problems made a big offensive rebound and made the put back and Canadian Aaron Doornekamp nailed a three pointer who did a lot of the dirty work on the glass as he finished with five points and seven rebounds. Frankfurt led 85-66 with 1.52 minutes to play and Gordon Herbert inserted 2015 NBBL allstars 17 year old Niklas Kiel and 18 year Armin Musovic who breathed their first Beko BBL minutes. Frankfurt ended the game with four Pro B license players including Stefan Ilzhoefer and Johannes Richter while Quantez Robertson played point guard. “I was very excited to play and as the game moved on I had a feeling that I might come in. I knew that I had to be ready, play defense, give 100% and not let up. I wasn´t disappointed that I didn´t get a shot off, but more that I couldn´t play point guard, but overall I am very happy that I played”, expressed Armin Musovic. Ilzhoefer scored the last Frankfurt points with an open three pointer. The Fraport Skyliners were led by Danilo Barthel with 21 points and five rebounds. Justin Cobb contributed 17 points and dished out five assists. Johannes Voigtmann added 16 points and 12 rebounds. Sean Armand added 12 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. The Crailsheim Merlins were led by Chros Otule and Jonathan Moore with 12 points a piece. Joshiko Saibu chipped in with 11 points and Jannik Freese had 10 points. The Fraport Skyliners shot 52% from the field and 41% from outside while Crailsheim shot 39% from the field and 33% from outside. Frankfurt won the rebounding battle 40-27, but had 15 turnovers while Crailsheim had 13 turnovers.