In the last week, 2004 Beko BBL champion Fraport Skyliners have brought back that old soccer saying a game has 90 minutes and in the end Germany always wins. For the Fraport Skyliners losing hasn´t been on the menu as of late as they have won four overtime games in a row that have occurred in the last five games. For any basketball experts who want to unearth the Beko BBL stats and records be my guest, but I am sure that there haven´t been many clubs that have had such a successful track record in such a short span. The Fraport Skyliners did it again last night getting their third overtime win in a row and this time in far-away Saratov, Russia 112-103 where they secured first place in the Eurochallenge group K withstanding a monster night from the Ukrainian beast and ex NBA player Kyrylo Fesenko who poured in 20 points and grabbed 16 rebounds, but also had amazing performances on their side with 30 points from the freak athlete Quantez Robertson, Sean Armand supplying 16 points while showing that he doesn´t only get buckets, but rebounds with 11, Los Angeles native Justin Cobbs being that consistent general powering 16 points and dishing out 12 assists, German national player Johannes Voigtmann chipping in with 18 points and Oklahoma native Jacob Burtschi scoring 17 points. Frankfurt ended the game with a back breaking 9-0 run where they hit seven free throws. Despite being outrebounded, the Fraport Skyliners showed a team basketball performance on offense and defense and mustered 15 steals. The Fraport Skyliners went into the last game in Russia having had to win by six points or more to be first in the group, but surprisingly Antwerpen defeated Enisey Krasnoyarsk and Turkish team Trabzonspor defeated Mons Hainaut. Instead of the Russian team Avtodor Saratov being in first place, it was Turkish team Trabzonspor, so the Fraport Skyliners went into the game more relaxed since with a loss they would of met their more desired opponent Turkey where they would have had to deal with a three hour flight and less travel woes then a 12 hour plane ride to Siberia. But as is so often the case, no matter what head coach Gordon Herbert might have said behind closed doors, the number one goal of any player is too win and that is what the club did getting the extra flight time to Russia in the quarterfinal, but more importantly the home court advantage in the best of three quarterfinal series.
It is just so crazy how big a difference one season and many new players can be as in the second half of last season the Fraport Skyliners were labelled as the choke team as they had this sickening ability of not being able to get over the hump in crunch time as they lost nail bitters against Oldenburg, MBC, Ludwigsburg, Tuebingen, Braunschweig and Phoenix Hagen by a combined total of only 10 points. Had they won at least three of these games, they would have been rewarded with a ticket to the playoffs. This season losing the close games haven´t been a disease like last season, but as of late they have taken being able to win in the last moments to an extra step as they have been able to do it in overtime, a period in a game where the muscles are sore, mental fatigue starts to creep in and being prone to extra mistakes is more prevalent. Fraport Skyliner captain Quantez Robertson played 91 minutes in the last two OT double overtime wins in Holland and Russia and even at age 30, the guy could of still taken on a fresh Alex Renfroe from Alba Berlin in a one on one game had he been asked to and probably held his own. In their first OT success against Alba Berlin some weeks ago, they had a complete team effort and got big shots from their two confident and always focused American rookies Justin Cobbs and Sean Armand that laid the foundation for the current Alba Berlin three game losing streak. The next overtime classic was held in Den Bosch, Holland. This was the battle of the two rookies Brandon Curry and Justin Cobbs, but it was a buzzer beater from the corner from Stefan Wessels that took both teams into the second overtime. There it was rejuvenated Skyliner Jacob Burtschi who hit a three pointer and just buckling down on defense secured the win for Frankfurt. 72 hours later, the Fraport Skyliners went to Oldenburg where Johannes Vogtmann and Quantez Robertson still probably knew exactly where on the court Ramon Galloway lost the ball which sealed the crunch time loss their last season. This time, Frankfurt had some luck as like against Medi Bayreuth were they eked out an ugly 90-89 win they had to worry until the last second air ball from Javon Mccrea on a turnover. In Oldenburg it was the same story as they coughed up the ball again at the end, but it was Rickey Paulding that wouldn´t be the hero as his last second shot didn´t want to fall. The way the last week has gone with three overtime wins a row, it wouldn´t be surprising for fans to wager some bets on the Fraport Skyliners going the extra distance again this Sunday against the Mitteldeutscher BC. If Gordon Herbert were to invite English football legend Gary Lineker to a basketball video session in the BCM and show him the last four overtime wins, it wouldn´t be surprising if Lineker would cringe and utter a new version of his once famous line “ As Of Recently A Basketball Game Has 40-50 Minutes And At The End The Winner Is Always The Fraport Skyliners”.
If one were to break down why the Fraport Skyliners have been so successful since their 3-7 start into the Beko BBL, one would stress that there have been many key factors that have helped propel the team to new heights. Of course the rise of the twin towers Johannes Voigtmann and Danilo Barthel have been key as they have achieved making another step in their development as Barthel has become that consistent scorer as has Voigtmann as well as improving his defense and passing. One also has to give a lot of credit to the team in that since Danilo Barthel got injured, the team was able to keep their head up as they have learned to deal with a diversity especially with the walking wounded list being news all season long. Even if Canadian Aaron Doornekamp mustered only two points in Saratov, he is on the rise as he had 21 points in Den Bosch and 22 points in Oldenburg in back to back games showing that he is for real and giving hope that there is still a lot left in him for the stretch run. Quanantez Robertson continues to be the guy that holds the team together on offense and defense while rookie Sean Armand woos fans with his “you want buckets, there you go mentality” as his timely shooting has brought the club back and brought them forward in key game situations. However if one had to name two key factors why the Fraport Skyliners are one of the hottest Beko BBL teams and on the move higher up the standings and only four wins away from their first international title, you have to mention the players Justin Cobbs and Jacob Burtschi. Their combined record of 24-3 this season speaks for itself. The amazing thing about Cobbs is that he has been brilliant since he came to Frankfurt and just hasn´t let up and has scored in double figure games in 19 straight games. The only game where he didn´t score in double figures was his first in Leipzig against the Mitteldeutscher BC where he had just arrived to the team a day earlier. Cobbs is a guy like Dashaun Wood that can score in bunches and become explosive whenever he decides to turn on that Cobbs switch. He looks so controlled out on the floor most of the time and is a master of changing speeds. He gives Frankfurt so much stability something they didn´t have previously this season. Even though his stats may suggest that he is a scoring point guard, he actually is a pass first guard even if its hard to believe. When that night comes when his shot is cold, then one will see his passing qualities come to light. You could have been trapped in the bathroom and missed the game and not know who won after Cobbs exits the dressing room because he always has that same expression. The guy is always focused and just all business. He doesn´t want to be the best guard in Europe, but battle with the likes of Paul, Curry and Wall in the NBA. The club would not be sitting in the quarterfinals of the Eurochallenge without Cobbs. His record is 8-0 in Eurochallenge play. The one time where he sat out because of injury, Frankfurt lost at home to Avtodor Saratov 75-70.
Burtschi is such a heartwarming story. Last season was probably his toughest as a back injury seemingly seemed to end his career. How many times did everyone want him to shoot, but he didn´t which wasn´t more prevalent than in the last second loss to Tuebingen where he opted to dish a lob pass to Danilo Barthel that Frankfurt lost. Later after the season the club released a vague press release where no one really understood what was with Burtschi as he still was on the team, but the Oklahoma native stated that he was taking a break from basketball implying that retirement had set in. Burtschi spent much time at home in Oklahoma with family and helped his dad AD with team practices at Putnam City while also working out. Then all of a sudden came the news that he would resume his playing career in all places Mexico which is more known for its soccer than basketball. He never signed a contract and after one game and possibly a few burrito´s was back in Frankfurt. Since the arrival of Burtschi the team is 6-0 and the rest is history. Burtschi is known most for his strong shooting as he demonstrated as a rookie with Phoenix Hagen and in that year also won the Beko BBL allstar three point shooting contest in Trier. However Burtschi is so much more about having the ability to have that knack of hitting as if he was on a beach and his target is the ocean. He is the ultimate team player as he always demonstrates it again time in and time out. He can fill up the stat sheet and will risk an extra night of ice and headaches for that extra Boris Becker dive on the floor for the loose ball. In Den Bosch he set up three consecutive Frankfurt buckets with his unselfish play. He would probably battle Johannes Voigtmann for the best non point guard passer on the team. He will mix it up with anyone under the basket and just does so much that isn´t seen on the stat sheet. He may only have scored in double figures in two of six games, but he is still getting into rhythm after being out so long. At least in Eurochallenge play he has had the hot hand shooting 8/15 at 53% from the parking lot. But most importantly, Burtschi is the perfect extra captain on the court. With the untimely injury to Barthel, Burtschi is like that second captain on the floor. His leadership and return back has been a blessing in disguise. Just having the presence of Burtschi on the court has added a special touch of solidarity that the team didn´t have before. Burtschi is as deserving of a contract extension until the end of the season as Eddie Redmayne was for winning best actor 2015 for the theory of everything. Let me not forget to mention Grodon Herbert who has done an exceptional job finding Justin Cobbs and always believing in Jacob Burtschi that he could return and could still help the team at age 30. Herbert has always been a coach that knew how to get the most out of his players, but when that talent is raised a few notches, then there is almost always guaranteed success. The Fraport Skyliners are a delight to watch and the sky is the limit for the 2000 Beko BBL cup winner. The next two months will show if they can get to the Eurochallenge Final four and if they will finally reach the playoffs again since 2011. But first the question is can the overtime streak continue as for some reason as of late overtime is in the blood of the Fraport Skyliners or will fans see a boring blow out win against the Mitteldeutscher BC on Sunday something which probably would do them and the players bodies and mind some good for a change.