Avtodor Saratov Squeak Out A 71-68 Eurochallenge Hair Raising Victory On The Road Against The Fraport Skyliners

Even if basketball is the number one topic on the minds of fans in Frankfurt, at times one can get lost for a split second about the hair schedule of a Quantez Roberston throughout the season. He starts with his afro look in training camp where his hair standing up could give buckwheat from the Little Rascals a smile instead of that surprised look from his famous snap shot and then the Cincinnati native keeps it kept proper during the season with that braided look. It isn´t often that someone comes into the Fraport arena where his hair could be a major discussion factor and even cause a Robertson to ponder about future hair creations on his end. Even if his hair is as long, beautiful and wild like Reggae legend Bob Marley once had in the past, Avtodor Saratov guard Courtney Fortson may turn heads with his wavy and unending hair, but it is his play that has given him the opportunity to play in a combined 10 NBA games for the Los Angeles Clippers and Houston Rockets and made him a top notch point guard in Europe this season. Fortson is a 26 year old 180cm point guard from Montgomery, Alabama that is playing his fifth professional season. After two seasons at Arkansas(NCAA), he started his professional career undrafted in Europe in Romania. In the season 2011-2013, he was in the States getting NBA experience and tearing up the D-league with Rio Grande and the Los Angeles Defenders. Last season he returned back to Europe and helped Avtodor Saratov move up to the VTB league. He had strong stats last season averaging 17,0ppg, 5.0rpg, 3.7apg, and 2,5spg, but this season he has really gone to work and is dominating the VTB league and Eurochallenge play. In both competitions he is averaging an astounding 8,2apg. In VTB play he is averaging 18,8ppg, 4,4rpg and 7,0apg while in the Eurochallenge he has been on fire averaging 16,2ppg, 6,8rpg and 9,5apg. The American has been a real European traveler as VTB and Eurochallenge has taken him all over the place as his passport must be half full this season as he came to Frankfurt Germany to battle the Fraport Skyliners in his ninth country. Even if they don´t play the same positions, it wasn´t difficult not to have an eye on the scalps of Robertson and Fortson. Fortson played his seventh Eurochallenge game this season and helped lead his team to a 71-68 nail bitter win. After the win the Alabama native had a huge smile on his face even if his hair at times was hiding his joy on his face and hair was a topic of discussion. “We did a good job adapting to this street ball kind of game. There was a lot of contact in the game. Frankfurt was a scrappy team that played great defense and have great players and are well coached. I could have had an NBA contract to have my hair cut, but it is who I am. If you don´t like my hair well be it. I trim it at times, but I will never cut it”, smiled Avtodor Saratov point guard Courtney Fortson. His Alabama buddy Jermale Jones who plays for TV Lich arrived just in time at the end to greet Fortson as he had been in practice in Lich and then quickly drove to Frankfurt and gave his two cents about the hair of Fortson who looks like a Julius Jenkins double back in his Alba Berlin days. “Fortson has had his hair like that since middle school. That is just his style. He just isn´t ready to cut it”, added Jermale Jones. One of the first Avtodor players to exit at the end was Ukraine monster and ex NBA player Kyrylo Fesenko who played 140 NBA games and had 14 minutes against Frankfurt scoring six points wasn´t overly amused by the hair of Fortson, but lauded his play. “Fortson doesn´t have to score each game. He does a great job organizing the game and get everyone the ball. I don´t really care about his hair. It is his choice”, said Kyrylo Fesenko.

The Fraport Skyliners entered the game with a five game winning streak in Eurochallange play and recently had their 10 game home winning streak snapped. The club had recently just had everyone back from injuries, bit once again the ugly walking wounded list crept up again as Danilo Barthel entered the arena on crutches and most likely will miss 6-8 weeks with a foot problem, while American rookie Justin Cobbs got hit on his leg against the Brose Baskets Bamberg and missed the Avtodor game and will miss the game this weekend against BG Goettingen. Despite these problems, the Fraport Skyliners stayed together as a team and despite stinking up the house in the second quarter, they rallied in the third quarter and staged another comeback in the fourth and nearly won the game. After a long stay in the locker room where head coach Gordon Herbert must have really scolded his team, the players returned to the floor to stretch with hung heads the way a defeated dog reacts when their master had chewed them out. Sean Armand took the bulk of the scoring load as Justin Cobbs sat on the bench and delivered with an amazing 31 points. Despite his big performance one could see that he took the loss hard as he had been blocked at the end and lost the ball out of bounds in front of the Avtodor bench. “I just did my job scoring and found my teammates. We didn´t play as a team in the first half, but played better in the second half. We had energy near the end and executed well and we fed off each other. We had costly turnovers at the end and it was hit or miss and we can only learn from this loss”, stressed ex Iona(NCAA) guard Sean Armand. For Avtodor Saratov, they desperately needed a win after losing a shoot out to Tartu Rock last week 106-105. The Russian team was lucky to escape Frankfurt with a win and move to 1-1 in Eurochallenge play while the Fraport Sklyiners move to 2-1. “This wasn´t a great game and we can play better. Frankfurt gave us a good wake up in that we must prepare better in the future. It wasn´t a pretty win, but a win is a win”, warned Kyrylo Fesenko.

The First quarter was a real tight rope affair as no team could break free as it stayed pretty even. The Fraport Skyliners broke out on a 6-2 lead as German national player Johannes Voigtmann scored twice inside as did Sean Armand. Voigtmann got going fast as he nailed another mid distance jumper. However Avtodor Saratov got needed production from Americans Jeremy Chappelle who played at Robert Morris(NCAA) connected on a three pointer as Courtney Fortson preformed a finger tip role in Chris Paul style. Fortson was contained fairly well by Frankfurt throughout the game on the scoring end, but he got free a bit in the early going as he connected for a step back jumper giving Avtodor Saratov their first lead 10-8. The game kept going back and forth as Frankfurt regained the lead with Voigtmann free throws and a Mike Morrison second chance tip in for the 12-10 lead. Downs and Quantez Robertson made free throws as the game was dead locked at 14-14. Frankfurt ended the first quarter with a bang as Mikko Koivisto connected on a three pointer and Konstantin Klein drooped a tear drop as the Fraport Skyliners had the 19-17 advantage after one quarter. “Frankfurt came out strong getting some easy baskets. However one could see that the team was missing Danilo Barthel and Justin Cobbs who are a big part of the team. Armand was struggling early with his jumper, but he got his teammates involved”, stressed Fraport Skyliner Pro B player Jules Akodo. The Fraport Skyliners were shooting 44% from the field and 13% from outside while Avtodor Saratov was shooting 23% from the field and 28% from outside. Frankfurt had the 13-8 rebound edge and four turnovers while Avtodor Saratov had two turnovers.

In the second quarter Russian club Avtodor Saratov went on a wild run leaving the Fraport Skyliners searching for their tracks. A late second quarter comeback got them closer back to attack mode for the second half. Avtodor Saratov went on a bitter 17-0 run to start the second quarter to lead 34-21 as it took Frankfurt almost seven minutes to get the first points on the board. The Avtodor Saratov run was started by ex Gonzaga forward Micah Dowens with a put back, Fesenko added a baby hook shot, Travis Peterson added a three pointer and fade away shot and Jeremy Chappelle a three pointer. Frankfurt was missing easy shots, coughing up the ball and getting fouls which helped in the Avtodor Saratov run. Frankfurt retaliated after this horrible experience ending the second quarter going on a 11-7 run to trail Avtodor Saratov 41-30. Key in the Frankfurt comeback was the aggressive and menacing play of Cincinnati native Quantez Robertson who scored three times on the penetration and at times one has to ask themselves if he is actually getting better with age concerning his ball handling skills and amazing cut backs and spins that are still present in the 30 year old body. “Frankfurt had many open shots that they missed. Turnovers, fouls and offensive rebounds killed them. Tez did a good job getting to the rim as well as being a force on defense which kept stability in the comeback”, commented Jules Akodo. The Fraport Skyliners were shooting 41% from the field and 14% from the three point line while Avtodor Saratov was shooting 39% from the field and 36% from the three point line. Frankfurt had the 20-19 rebound advantage, but 12 turnovers while Avtodor Saratov had only seven turnovers.

Frankfurt continued to chip away at the Avtodor Saratov lead, but never could regain the lead in the third quarter as the Russian team held their own. Sean Armand started off the third quarter with a bang and much needed push carrying the Fraport Sklyiners on a 6-0 run as he nailed a three pointer on transition, made an offensive rebound and put back and free throw as Frankfurt trailed 41-36. Downs and Voigtmann then traded three pointers as Frankfurt still trailed 44-39. Frankfurt was fighting and chugging away wanting to take the momentum and turn the tide and almost did as they went on a 6-2 run to trail only 46-45. It was Armand again who supplied the fire power getting transition points and then drilling home a three pointer. The Fraport Skyliners lost some concentration in the last two minutes allowing Avtodor Saratov go on a 6-0 run to end the third quarter leading a bit more comfortable 52-46. 21 year old 214cm Russian big man Artem Klimenko scored easily over Johannes Richter and Alexey Vzdykhalkin scored inside. “We didn´t finish plays allowing them to get closer. I missed some easy shots and Frankfurt hit some outrageous three pointers”, stressed Kyrylo Fesenko. Avtodor Saratov was shooting 33% from the field and 31% from the parking lot while the Fraport Skyliners were shooting 40% from the field and 24% from the parking lot. Avtodor Saratov had the 32-30 rebound edge and 13 turnovers while Frankfurt had 18 turnovers.

In the fourth quarter, Avtodor Saratov kept the lead until midway through where the Fraport Skyliners made their last run. After Sean Armand started the fourth quarter with a runner over Chappelle, it was Avtodor Saratov that went on a 6-0 run to extend their lead to 58-47. The Russian team played great fast break basketball as Downs scored getting the feed from Chappelle and then the American from Cincinnati responded with another needed there pointer. Frankfurt kept believing in themselves and knew that they had to make a run soon as time was running out and responded with a timely 8-2 run to cut the Avtodor Saratov lead to 60-55. Armand started the run with a lay in as his confidence level was sky high on the penetration against Avtodor Saratov as he was very successful practicing it, Klein nailed a three pointer and then Johannes Voigtmann connected on a perfect touch down pass in Tom Brady manner that Armand caught and scored on the lay in as Frankfurt trailed 60-55. Avtodor Saratov didn´t let Frankfurt have the game that easy as they executed well on the offensive end as alltime leading scorer and rebounder at Samford Travis Peterson got some big production hitting a jumper and three pointer as Frankfurt trailed 65-57. It seemed like Avtodor Saratov had the momentum, but it went back and forth as now Frankfurt stole it back as Konstantin Klein was parked in the corner saw a sprinting Fortson made a quick up fake and let the American Bob Marley look alike jump over the German´s head set up and then nailed a three pointer which was followed by an Armand steal and coast to coast run and lay up as Frankfurt trailed 65-61. Peterson then made a lay in as Avtodor Saratov led 67-61. Frankfurt continued to fight as Klein nailed another three pointer and Armand made free throws to cut the Avtodor Saratov lead to 67-66. Despite his amazing game, Armand made two mistakes at the end getting blocked by Peterson and then losing the ball out of bounds which sealed the win for the Russian team. Forston hit free throws in the last seconds. A last bucket by Armand helped his stat line, but time ran out as Frankfurt lost 71-68. “Key at the end was that we were able to get shots on the drive and kick. Peterson made a big block which gave us the win”, added Courtney Fortson. “The Peterson block, big Chappelle rebound and Forston free throws sealed the win for us”, added Washington native Micah Downs. “When you are down by three you have to execute and we didn´t do that. We learned tonight that even if we had two key guys out, that we can stick with anyone. We just have to execute and make plays. We know that we have a lot of depth”, stated Los Angeles native Justin Cobbs. Avtodor Saratov was led by Micah Downs with 14 points. Travis Peterson had 13 points and six rebounds. Jeremy Chappelle and Artem Klimenko added 12 points a piece while Courtney Fortson had 10 points, six rebounds and six assists. The Fraport Skyliners were led by Sean Armand with 31 points. Johannes Voigtmann added 14 points and Konstantin Klein 10 points. Avtodor Saratov finished the night shooting 66% from the field and 28% from outside while the Fraport Skyliners finished shooting 41% from the field and 29% from outside. Avtodor Saratov won the rebound battle 43-39 and had 19 turnovers while Frankfurt had 22 turnovers.

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