For guys like 18 year old Brit Jules Akodo who has had a whirlwind last couple of months after coming from the Union Olimpija Ljubljana junior team to Frankfurt where he has played NBBL and Pro B and last weekend was top scorer in two games against Urspring and BG Karlsruhe or Canadian Kyle Fossman who also can´t complain from an abundance of experience as a rookie having found action in the Beko BBL and Eurochallenge play came into the game against the Saarlouis Royals on a mission because with a victory they would be rewarded with a playoff berth while for Rickey Easterling of Saarlouis who poured in 42 points in the BCM in the 2009-2010 season against Eintracht Frankfurt and Filmore Beck came in very motivated and had nothing to play for except for pride since his club was sitting in last place and possibly headed back to the Regionaliga a place he had played six straight seasons if they don´t perform in the play downs soon. For Easterling who is a 31 year old 189cm point guard has been a legend in the German Regionaliga for years having dropped 56 points against Hanau, 48 points against Schweningen or 47 points against Mainz, but this season also proved that despite having moved up a level, the Baltimore native still has the knack of scoring. In the Regionaliga he may have averaged a ridiculous 29ppg in seven years including 30 points plus three times, but now in the Pro B he has been very solid averaging 21,4ppg, 4,7rpg and 5,3apg. Currently he is the fourth top scorer in the Pro B and has scored in double figures 19 times including twenty points or more 14 times and 30 plus points twice. Even if he isn´t quite as dominating in the Regionaliga where at times he was like a man playing with boys, he has proven over and over that he belongs to the top players in the German Pro B. With only a few games remaining in his season, he entered the BCM gym in Frankfurt motivated to end the season on a good note and with his exceptional play display why he could have his own nickname as “Mr Regionaliga” and with his slick looks also be approved with the other nickname “pretty Rickey”. However despite scoring 36 points, it wasn´t enough as Marius Nolte pulled an Easterling scoring 14 points in the fourth quarter including seven straight points to start the fourth quarter stopping the momentum of Saarlouis and demonstrated that he can score in bunches the way Easterling can powering the Fraport Skyliners Juniors into the playoffs with a 90-80 victory. “Marius Nolte was the reason why we won this game. He did what was necessary to win the game by fighting hard and scoring baskets. Nolte was the difference and if he hadn´t brought it it would have been difficult to win this game. We didn´t defend well enough and played their game and let Easterling do what he wanted to. The important thing is that we won and reached the playoffs”, stressed Fraport Skyliners Juniors head coach Eric Detlev. Easterling played out his heart and was happy to be back in the BCM and his face lit up when told the German national coach Chris Fleming was in attendance. “The BCM is such a nice facility that just makes you want to perform well. It is nice when guys from a higher level come out and watch us play. I felt comfortable from the start and we knew that this was a big game. We wanted to steal one on the road, but couldn´t get the job done in the fourth quarter”, added Baltimore native Ricky Easterling. It is always nice when one of the bench players and role players comes up big when the team needed a boost. “Nolte saved our butts tonight. He led the team and showed great leadership when I had four fouls. We defended better in the fourth quarter and got some stops on Easterling”, stated Fraport Skyliners center Johannes Richter.
The Fraport Skyliners came into the game with a two game losing streak and wanted to get back on track to their old strength defense after having given up an average 103 points in the last two games while the Saarlouis Royals were looking for their third straight win after victories against Speyer and Lich. 26 year old Mukarem Mujkanovic got going early giving Saarlouis the 4-2 lead with two lay ins. However the Fraport Skyliners Juniors found their rhythm quickly on offense getting a three pointer from Kevin Bright and Johannes Richter hook shot for the 7-4 lead. Even if Easterling was on the floor, it was Mujkanovic that continued to get on the board as he nailed a three pointer to tie the game at 7-7. The Fraport Skyliners Juniors also got infected by the three point bug connecting on three consecutive shots as Andrew Bock, Richter and Bright scored giving Frankfurt the 16-7 advantage. Frankfurt kept the lead getting a pull up jumper from Kyle Fossman and a put back from Niklas Kiel for the 20-10 lead. Frankfurt demonstrated a nice flow in their game with their inside out game as Richter dominated from all over the court nailing a jumper and Bock hit a three pointer for the 25-14 lead. Easterling started to get going showing his knack of being able to hit any mid distance jumper no matter how much traffic there was making two shots and cutting the Frankfurt lead to 25-18. California native Bock hit a few more jumpers giving the Fraport Skyliners Juniors the 32-22 lead after one quarter. “There wasn´t much defense in the first quarter as both teams shot very well as it was a fireworks show”, stressed Fraport Skyliners forward Jacob Burtschi. The Fraport Skyliners were shooting 52% from the field and 45% from outside while Saarlouis was shooting 64% from the field and 50% from outside. Frankfurt led the rebound duel 11-7 and had one turnover while Saarlouis had three turnovers.
The Fraport Skyliners continued to have the lead, but were never ever fully able to run away with the game as they let the Saarlouis Royals remain within striking distance. Easterling started off the second quarter with free throws and soon after hit another one of his bread and butter shots the mid distance cutting the Frankfurt lead to 34-26. However the Fraport Skyliners Juniors just had more offensive weapons that came through as Nolte got an offensive rebound and put back and Canadian Kyle Fossman dropped a pull up jumper keeping Saarlouis at bay leading 41-28. Whenever Saarlouis attempted to make a push as Detroit native Karl Moore snuck inside for the easy bucket to cut the Frankfurt lead to 41-35, Frankfurt was able to pull away again as they had enough means on offense as Richter hit his bread and butter the mid distance jumper and Bock connected on a three pointer as Frankfurt led 46-35. Saarlouis kept fighting back and went on a 9-4 run to cut the Frankfurt lead to 50-44. In the run Easterling scored in bunches with a lay in and floater and 21 year old German Waldemar Nap scored inside. Frankfurt closed out the second quarter with Bright free throws and a Richter lay in to lead 54-44. “The Frankfurt big men Niklas Kiel and Johannes Richter were doing a good job. Easterling was giving Frankfurt problems. The bad decision making and turnovers kept Frankfurt from having a bigger lead”, added ex Phoenix Hagen forward Jacob Burtschi. Frankfurt was well organized and did a good job with their inside out game”, added German national coach Chris Fleming. The Fraport Skyliners Juniors were shooting 47% from the field and 40% from the three point line while Saarlouis was shooting 63% from the field and 25% from the three point line. Frankfurt had the commanding 24-14 rebound edge and had two turnovers while Saarlouis had seven turnovers.
In the third quarter the Saarlouis Royals made their run and were able to cut the Frankfurt lead to only two points after 30 minutes. Both teams started to hit less shots as both tried to get a better handle on defensive assignments. The Fraport Skyliners started off the third quarter with a 5-0 run to lead 61-46 as it was the baby twin towers of Richter and Kiel that made baskets as the first deadly step of Kiel led to an easy lay in. However then it was the turn of Saarlouis to finally get something going on offense as they broke out on a 14-2 run to cut the Frankfurt lead to 63-60. Saarlouis got a lot or production from various guys including consecutive buckets from American Bloochy Valbrun who played at Staten Island(NCAA3) cutting the Frankfurt lead to 61-52. It was obvious in a big run like that that Easterling couldn´t be idle and he connected on two mid distance jumpers that Frankfurt continued not being able to figure out how to stop. Kiel then finally got Frankfurt on the board again scoring inside, but Easterling countered with a pull up jumper cutting the Frankfurt lead to 65-62. Nolte then made a heads up play getting a defensive rebound and firing a quick outlet pass to German Jamin Knothe for the easy break away lay up. A costly Frankfurt error at the end set up three free throws for Valbrun as Frankfurt led only 67-65 after three quarters. “We changed up our defense a little and just fought harder. On offense we took good care of the ball, executed and played as a team”, stressed Ricky Easterling. “Saarlouis played a box and one, but I feel that we just didn´t execute the way we knew how. We also got less offensive rebounds in that quarter”, added Johannes Richter. The Fraport Skyliners were shooting 40% from the field and 32% from the parking lot while Saarlouis was shooting 57% from the field and 14% from the parking lot. Frankfurt had the 37-26 rebound edge and eight turnovers while Saarlouis had 11 turnovers.
If one would of picked the likely player to get Saarlouis the big lead one would have picked Ricky Easterling and on the side of Frankfurt the baby twin towers or Kyle Fossman, but Marius Nolte? The 34 year old German that played 242 Beko BBL games and saw his share of brutal play inside has been the perfect role player from the bench giving the baby twin towers a rest, scoring here and there and getting rebounds, but in the fourth quarter the Paderborn native showed that Frankfurt had their own Easterling even if it was in the body of a 206cm center. After Michael Klein tied the game at 67-67 with a turnaround shot, it was Nolte getting busy scoring three consecutive buckets and giving Frankfurt the 73-67 lead. On all three buckets Nolte owned the paint area as he showed why he still loves to play the game giving his team 110%, intensity and heart. Fossman then set up Kiel for the two handed dunk ending a 9-0 run giving Franfurt the 76-67 lead. Easterling answered with a turn around shot as Frankfurt led 76-69. Nolte kept the momentum on the side of Frankfurt with a free throw and offensive rebound and put back for the 79-69 lead. Saarlouis still wouldn´t lay down and die as they fought until the end. Easterling scored inside cutting the Frankfurt lead to 79-72. Frankfurt continued to do a good job drawing fouls as Nolte hit two free throws for the 81-72 lead. Easterling and ex TBB Trier guard Alexander Goolsby hit timely three pointers to keep knocking at the Frankfurt back door trailing 83-78. However Richter ultimately slammed the door in the face of Saarlouis as he scored six consecutive points with a three pointer and reverse lay up. “We fell apart in the first five minutes. We had turnovers and gave up too many offensive rebounds to let them get the lead back to 10 points. Then we just ran out of time. When you play on the road you need to take advantage of everything and we didn´t do that in the fourth quarter”, stressed Ricky Easterling. “We reached our season goal and now the season really starts. Our biggest strength tonight was offensive rebounds”, stressed Johannes Richter. The Fraport Skyliners Juniors were led by Johannes Richter with 26 points and 10 rebounds. Marius Nolte added 21 points and 10 rebounds. Niklas Kiel added 14 points and 12 rebounds while Andrew Bock contributed 13 points. The Saarlouis Royals were led by Ricky Easterling with 36 points. Bloochy Valbrun and Muharem mujkanovic had 10 points a piece. The Fraport Skyliners shot 41% from the field and 30% from outside while Saarlouis shot 51% from the field and 27% from outside. Frankfurt won the rebounding duel 53-33 and had 12 turnovers while Saarlouis had 16 turnovers.