It has been more than 10 years ago that the then Opel Skyliners won their first and only Beko BBL title against the always menacing Freak City team who were then called GHP Bamberg. Since then guys like Pascal Roller has become boss at the Hamburg Towers, Alex King has been made into a solid Euroleague player, Bernd kruel at age 39 is still playing helping build something sweet with the RheinStars Cologne, sharp shooter Tyrone Ellis is an assistant coach for D-League team Grand Rapids Drive while guys like Ibrahim Diarra and Mario Kasun have retired with the latter having basketball filled stories from his golden days with the Orlando Magic and FC Barcelona from 2004-2008. On the Bamberg side most guys have retired with only Steffen Hamann still playing in the German Pro A with Baunach. Even if I thought Chris Ensminger would play until he was 50 and have his snare and facial expressions in the paint forever be plastered somewhere as a memory, he has gone into coaching with Gotha while his ex teammate Gerd Kullame has done the same. Kullame is a 44 year old Estonian that has been coach with Tartu Rock since January 2012 and as a player played at the 1993 European championships where Germany surprised everyone winning the gold and won 5 Estonian and one Dutch and Belgium titles. However one title remained absent from his collection as he played two seasons in Germany with Bamberg and was on the floor on June 13th 2004 where Frankfurt won game five 84-78. Even if he hit the most three pointers in the game with three that won´t even be a consolation as he had been so close to winning the illustrious BBL title. Kullame had never been back to the Fraport arena to play a game or coach since 2004 and he was back again as head coach of Tartu Rock and had a double motivation to get a win as his team was 1-2 in Eurochallenge play and desperately needed a win and also wanted to erase that last loss against head coach Gordon Herbert and do it better this time with him barking the commands from the sidelines. It seemed like there could be a chance for Kullamae to get revenge as the game was close for 30 minutes, but a massive 35 point Frankfurt fourth quarter ripped apart Tartu Rock as the head coach once again had to exit the arena as the loser. “I wasn´t thinking about the last time I was here as this game tonight was most important. Frankfurt came out in the fourth quarter and basically hit every shot. Congratulations to Frankfurt”, stressed Tartu Rock head coach Gerd Kullamae. If you would have asked a Skyliner after the third quarter if it would be more possible to see pigs fly or them score 35 points they probably would have elected the first. “I would have called you bluff. The game was even for about 25 minutes. We upped our defensive intensity in the fourth. We just moved the ball better and hit shots”, stressed Fraport Skyliner forward Jacob Burtschi.
The Fraport Skyliners entered the game with a 2-1 Eurochallenge record while Tartu Rock came in with a 1-2 record and had a type of must win situation. The Fraport Skyliners took control early quickly as it was one half of the twin towers Johannes Voigtmann who supplied all points in the 9-2 start. He scored inside twice, hit free throws and even hit a three pointer for good measure something he had done 48 hours earlier against 8 time Beko BBL champion Alba Berlin. However Tartu Rock stormed back going on a 7-0 run to tie the game at 9-9. Joosep Toome who has won three Estonian league titles nailed a three pointer and two time Beko BBL cup winner with Cologne Janar Talts scored inside and connected on free throws. Frankfurt presented Tartu Rock with their versatile bench as they kept up the pressure despite having given up a big run by going out on a 8-3 run to take the 17-12 lead. Quantez Robertson connected on a lay up and Berlin native Konstantin Klein dropped back to back three pointers as he improved his astronomical 80% three point percentage in Eurochallenge play. “Since I came back from injury it seems like my three pointer is the only thing that works. My feet were dead, but my shot still works, but I did get some open looks”, smiled Konstantin Klein. Gerd Dorbek who won four Estonian league titles reacted with a three pointer and Frankfurt then closed out the first quarter with brilliant fast break basketball as Quantez Robertson forced a turnover and Florida native Mike Morrison led the fast break charge dishing the ball to Klein for the easy lay in. “Frankfurt did a great job getting Johannes Voigtmann involved early. Frankfurt moved the ball well, but then did some costly errors letting Tartu Rock back into the game. Klein hit some timely shots at the end. You could see that he was playing with confidence”, added Fraport Skyliner Junior Jules Akodo. The Fraport Skyliners were shooting 47% from the field and 75% from outside while Tartu Rock was shooting 38% from the field and 17% from outside. Tartu Rock at the 9-6 rebound edge, but five turnovers while Frankfurt had two turnovers.
In the second quarter the game remained tight as the Fraport Skyliners could never break away as Tartu Rock remained on their door step until half time. Tartu Rock started off the second quarter with a 6-2 run to tie the game at 21-21. Morrison got an offensive rebound and made the put back. Tanel Sokk then led Tartu Rock back with his aggressive play hitting a jumper and also finding Timo Eichfuss who won five Estonian league titles with a no look pass. Lithuanian Augustas Peciukevicius connected on jumper from the corner just as the shot clock went off. Frankfurt took the lead twice with a Sean Armand lay in and Justin Cobbs jumper, but Tartu Rock tied the game twice with a Marek Doronin lay in who is playing his 15th season with Tartu Rock having won 12 titles in Estonia and Peciukevicius scored on a lay in. Frankfurt then showed some new flash of offense going on a 6-0 run to lead 31-25. Frankfurt kept making the paint area their home as Voigtman and Cobbs scored and Canadian Aaron Doornekamp made a left handed lay in. Each time where it seemed like Frankfurt might break away, the Estonian team had an answer as big man Joosep Toome who likes to step outside nailed a three pointer to cut the Frankfurt lead to 31-28. Doornekmap kept up his offensive flow hitting a fade away jumper, but Janar Talts matched him with a fade away from the corner ala Kevin Mchale style as Frankfurt still led 33-30. Oklahoma native Jacob Burtschi and Janar Talts then exchanged three pointers as Frankfurt led 36-33. After the Talts three pointer, Tartu Rock got the ball back and finished a pretty mini ally op as one point guard Augustas Peciukevicius found the other point guard 30 year old Tanel Sokk who was the 2012 Estonian final MVP at the buzzer. The Fraport Skyliners led 36-35 after twenty minutes. “Frankfurt could have had a better lead, but they let Tartu Rock come back with second chance points and offensive rebounds. Doornekamp made some big shots that helped”, stressed Jules Akodo. The Fraport Skyliners were shooting 58% from the field and 80% from the three point line while Tartu Rock was shooting 50% from the field and 27% from the three point line. Tartu Rock had the narrow 13-12 rebound edge and both teams had coughed up the ball seven times each.
Tartu Rock had the edge in the third quarter as they took the lead and the Fraport Skyliners had to play pick up basketball. Both teams traded runs at the start of the third quarter as Tartu Rock took the lead with a 4-0 run, but Frankfurt ripped it back with a 6-0 run. Tartu Rock got points inside from Sokk with a floater and a hard penetration drive from Talts. Frankfurt countered with three buckets in a row from Voigtmann who got going again as he displayed his versatility of his inside and mid range game as Frankfurt led 42-39. Tartu Rock was always on the prowl to try to break open the game and achieved it a little bit going on a 11-2 run to lead 50-44. In the run Tartu Rock gave Frankfurt their version of three point buckets as Dorbek, Talts and Sokk hammered home bombs. Frankfurt kept fighting and chipping away at the Tartu Rock lead as Armand and Cobbs made free throws. Morrison then showed enormous anticipation and instincts catching an Armand air ball and making the put back cutting the Tartu Rock lead to 52-49. After Toome free throws, it was Burtschi nailing a three pointer as Frankfurt trailed 54-52. Kurbas then made free throws, Cobbs made a lay in and Morrison ended the thrid quarter with a lay in as Quantez Robertson was the recipient of the quick pass as Frankfurt gained the lead again 57-56. “Tartu Rock was hitting shots and we weren´t executing as well as we had to come back the whole quarter”, stressed Jacob Burtschi. The Fraport Skyliners were shooting 52% from the field and 56% from the parking lot while Tartu Rock was shooting 49% from the field and 37% from the parking lot. Frankfurt had the 21-20 rebound edge and eight turnovers while Tartu Rock had nine turnovers.
In the fourth quarter, the Fraport Skyliners started from scratch forgot the first three quarters and just exploded scoring 35 points and making a close game at the end into a rout. Frankfurt started off the fourth quarter with a 19-4 run to lead 76-61 which pretty much sealed the win for the 2004 BBL champion. Frankfurt had had high shooting percentages throughout the game, but now they just began seeing the court as an ocean where missing wasn´t an option. Frankfurt got going scoring from close range as after Cobbs made free throws, Frankfurt might have showed their best executed play of the evening as two good shots were past up for the best shot as Klein found Morrison for the two handed dunk. Cobbs and Voigtmann followed with pull up jumpers as Frankfurt led 65-57. Even if Tartu Rock continued to battle back getting buckets inside from Toome and Peciukevicius, Frankfurt just rolled over that with three consecutive three pointers from Klein, Burtschi and Robertson to lead 74-61. Frankfurt also did a good job getting to the free throw line as Cobbs and Voigtmann connected for the 78-66 advantage. Robertson then found his range again from outside nailing a three pointer, Voigtmann followed with a pretty hook shot and Cobbs then decided the game for good with a bomb form downtown as Frankfurt led 87-69. Voigtmann then found some serious daylight as no one was in the lane and he made a thunderous dunk and Cobbs followed with a pull up jumper as Frankfurt led 91-69. Tartu Rock closed out the game with a mini 4-0 run as Sokk and Eichbaum scored inside. “We executed very well, hit our open shots and made our free throws. We did a better job rebounding and played good defense while they missed some open shots”, stressed Quantez Robertson. “We risked some things trying to change on defense to change the rhythm, but they made their shots which was the difference. Frankfurt was more aggressive on defense and we didn´t make good options and had crucial turnovers”, stated Janar Talts. “We rebounded better, played faster, hit shots early which helped our confidence”, stressed Konstantin Klein.
The Fraport Skyliners were led by Johannes Voigtmann with 26 points and four rebounds. He hit 10/12 shots, but despite his highest point total in his career it wasn´t his finest performance from the eyes of his teammates. “Joe made his shots and free throws. Offensively it might have been his best, but I think he has had better games, but it was one of his better games”, stressed Konstantin Klein. “Joe has had many good games. He was outstanding. It wasn´t his greatest, but it was up there”, warned Jacob Burtschi. “This was one of many good games that he has had. He played big in the paint and knew how to knock down the mid distance jumper. He got it going early and kept it up”, added Johannes Voigtmann. Justin Cobbs added 20 points and four assists while Konstantin Klein chipped in with 11 points, four rebounds and four assists. Tartu Rock was led by Janar Talts with 19 points. Tanel Sokk and Gert Dorbek added 13 points a piece. The Fraport Skyliners shot 58% from the field and 64% from outside while Tartu Rock shot 46% from the field and 31% from outside. Frankfurt won the rebounding duel 27-25 and had nine turnovers while Tartu Rock had 14 turnovers. Frankfurt is in the driver´s seat with a 3-1 record with two games to go while Tartu Rock have a 1-3 record and uphill climb. “We have two more games and need a miracle”, warned Janar Talts. “We are sitting nice now, but still have two more tough road games. We need to win on the road”, warned Jacob Burtschi.