In the last weeks facing top point guards in the Eurochallenge has been as usual for the Fraport Skyliners as it has been for them squeezing out overtime wins, Justin Cobbs scoring in double figures as he has in 20 straight games or Jacob Burtschi wining winning and winning as he is 7-1 since returning back to Frankfurt. In the last round of the Eurochallenge play the Fraport Skyliners battled against strong point guards Courtney Fortson who played in the NBA with The Los Angeles Clippers and Houston Rockets and rookie Brandyn Curry who played at Harvard(NCAA) together with Los Angeles Laker Jeremy Lin and is gaining steps toward his goal of becoming the best point guard in Europe with a very potent rookie season. Both guys had big games against Frankfurt as Fortson averaged 12ppg and 7,0apg while Curry was even more lethal in the scoring department scoring 27 and 26 points and was so close to winning in both games even taking Frankfurt to a two OT in Den Bosch, but was unable to win while Fortson won in Frankfurt, but lost in a double overtime game in Saratov. The intense point guard opponents didn´t stop with these two as the 2004 Beko BBL champion had to face the next gem in DJ Cooper from Russian team Enisey Krasnoyarsk in the quarterfinal of the Eurochallenge competition. Cooper is a 24 year old 183cm point guard from Chicago that played in Greece last season and is the classic pass first point guard that averaged 6,5apg in the Greek league and Eurocup for PAOK Thessaloniki. At Ohio(NCAA) he was the only player in the history of college basketball to record 2,000 points, 900 assists, 600 rebounds and 300 steals in a career and for many good enough for the NBA, but his size may have been one obstacle too much for him. This season he is dominating the VTB league averaging 11,2ppg, 3,8rpg and 9,0apg while his Eurochallenge stats are impressive as well as he is averaging 10,4ppg, 3,2rpg and 7,8apg. Cooper dished out an incredible 23 assists in a 95-86 victory against Astana and also had 17 assists against VEF Riga, but that was before the arrival of Fraport Skyliner Justin Cobbs who had a short stint in Lativa. Cobbs took his perfect 8-0 Eurochallenge record into the game facing off against the 7-5 record of Cooper as the big battle of the point guards was won by Justin Cobbs as he nailed a game winner in the last 20 seconds to give the Fraport Skyliners a huge 77-74 win to secure game one in the Eurochallenge quarterfinals. Cobbs set himself apart with both his scoring and playmaking as he scored 20 points and dished out 9 assists while DJ Cooper scored 12 points and had 11 assists. There seemed to be some real trash talking on the court as both guys were pretty mum about the others play after the game. “Cooper was alright. He was talking a lot”, stressed Los Angeles native Justin Cobbs. Oklahoma native Jacob Burtschi who has played with many talented point guards in his career took some time to reflect on the points guard C battle of Cobbs and Cooper. “Both are great point guards as Cobbs is the scorer and Cooper sets his guys up. He killed us in the first 10-15 minutes on the pick and role. The trash talking between the two started early, but competitive guys will always talk on the court. I think Cobbs took the Cooper talk as disrespect. When Cobbs grows in maturity he will let something like that go”, stressed Fraport Skyliner forward Jacob Burtschi. “The point guard battle was good. Cooper gets his 10-12 asissts a game while Cobbs is also a good point guard and can score. The Battle will continue Friday”, added 2010 Detroit Pistons NBA Draft Pick Terrico White.
Enisey Krasnoyarsk entered the game averaging 85 points and averaging giving up 80 points a game while the Fraport Skyliners came into the game averaging 80 points a game and were fourth best in the Eurochallenge averaging giving up only 74 points a game. The game went back and forth for the most part with the Fraport Skyliners seeming to always be on the comeback trail as the Russian team always had the lead mostly and were able to hold it with the strong rebounding and play in the paint as the three point shooting took a night off for both teams. The Fraport Skyliners have demonstrated it so often this season they do have fighting qualities especially in the Eurochallenge where they have won the last two games in overtime and eked out a thriller at home against Enisey Krasnoyarsk. “The game could of gone either way. We fought very well in the last 15 minutes as we picked up our defense and got many easy points on the transition. Cobbs hit some big shots and we stayed together for 40 minutes”, stressed German national player Johannes Voigtmann. Enisey now have a long 12 hour flight back to ponder what went wrong and what to correct for the do or die game two for them. The biggest problem that the Russian team has had all season long in VTB and Eurochallenge play has been their inability to conserve leads. “It was a tough game, but it was the old story. We are up by 15-20 points and can´t keep the lead. That happened again tonight. We have to learn how to close out games better”, added ex Ohio(NCAA) point guard DJ Cooper.
The Fraport Skyliners got off to a good start taking the 7-3 lead as Cincinnati native Quantez Robertson scored twice inside and Justin Cobbs hit a three pointer after Burtschi kept the play alive with an offensive rebound. However Enisey Krasnoyarsk went on a 5-0 run to take first lead 8-7 as 29 year old Evgeny Kolesnikov who won the 2013 Eurochallenge with Samara scored twice once inside and on a coast to coast scamper. The game then went back and forth as there were four lead changes. Voigtmann and Burtschi supplied offensive support with jumpers while White scored inside. However the back and forth game took an abrupt stop as Enisey Krasnoyarsk finished the first quarter with a 11-2 run to lead 22-13. The Russian squad got much support from many faces as Serbian Sava Lesic who won the 2010 Serbian cup with Partizan Belgrad hit a floater, Elmeden Kikanovic who has played 42 Eurocup games scored inside, Lesic scored inside again, White made a tip in and 2010 Eurochallenge finalist with Samara Artem Yakovenko nailed a three pointer. Frankfurt had a lull in their offense as shots were falling short and Enisey did a better job containing the Frankfurt pick and role. The best offensive play that Frankfurt mustered in this scoring drought was a perfect pick and role in which Florida native Mike Morrison finished with a monster two handed dunk off the quick Cobbs pass. “We gave up too many easy baskets and they took away our inside play”, stressed Johannes Voigtmann. Enisey Krasnoyarsk was shooting 60% from the field and 20% from outside while the Fraport Skyliners were shooting 38% from the field and 14% from outside. Enisey led the rebound duel 10-7 and had three turnovers while Frankfurt had four turnovers.
Enisey Krasnoyarsk controlled the first three minutes keeping the lead with 10 plus points, but the Fraport Skyliners started a furious run and comeback cutting the Enisey lead to only 36-33 at the intermission. Enisey Krasnoyarsk started off the second quarter with an annoying 6-0 run to carve their biggest lead of the game at 28-13. In the run it was the usual playmaker Cooper who averaged 6,5apg in college including a season at 7,0apga nd 7,5apg scoring twice once on the penetration finishing with his left hand and then getting fed a touchdown pass from Kikanovic on transition. Kikanovic also scored inside who was giving Frankfurt problems all day with his inside play as well as his consistent 15 footer. After a Gordon Herbert time out the Fraport Skyliners found back to their old self playing Frankfurt basketball and going on a crushing 18-4 run to cut the Enisey lead to 32-31. In the run the Fraport Skyliners upped their intensity on both ends of the court getting extra energy and fueling their offense with big plays on defense. Cobbs started the run with free throws, Aaron Doornekamp hit a jumper, and Voigtmann scored inside as Frankfurt still trailed 30-19. Cooper than showed his Jared Jordan like passing qualities as he fed Yakovenko with a slick no look pass as Frankfurt trailed 32-19. However Frankfurt held on to their run momentum as they got to the free throw line twice as Voigtmann and Robertson connected on free throws. Then came the play of the game as Cobbs led the fast break and heaved up a perfect ally-op pass to Robertson who slammed it home as Frankfurt trailed only 32-25. Voigtmann continued to be aggressive on the boards getting free throws and a tip in. Robertson then finished another fast break play as Enisey saw their lead cut down to 32-31. Enisey did keep the lead going into halftime as Pavel Sergeev hit free throws and Lesic made a lay in. Cobbs closed out the second quarter with a floater as Enisey Krasnoyarsk led 36-33. “The 12-0 break helped us get back into the game. We had more intensity then Enisey and got transition and secondary points which is our game. Our fighting qualities were also very important”, stressed Johannes Voigtmann. Enisey Krasnoyarsk was shooting 44% from the field and 8% from the three point line while the Fraport Skyliners were shooting 36% from the field and 11% from the three point line. Enisey had the slight 21-20 rebound edge and six turnovers while Frankfurt had seven turnovers.
Enisey Krasnoyarsk held the lead in the third quarter as the Fraport Skyliners continued to battle never letting their opponent go on a run and sending the game into a crunch time duel in the fourth quarter. Enisey Krasnoyarsk came out of half time refueled and took something from the Frankfurt run book going on their own run of 12-5 getting the 48-38 lead and that sprouting danger again to possibly run away with the game. In the run Enisey Krasnoyarsk continued to demonstrate their potent offensive attack being able to score in so many different ways. Cooper continued to show a balance between scoring and setting up his teammates as he hit a runner and scored from way downtown. The Russian team also got production from Lesic who continued to find holes in the lane connecting on a runner and Kikanovic scored from the baseline getting by Voigtmann. Yakovenko ended the run with a left handed lay in. Frankfurt got buckets from Cobbs and Voigtmann. However Frankfurt reacted harshly against the run as Burtschi returned and showed his handyman skills as he repaired things on the court especially the poor three point shooting percentage as he connected twice as Frankfurt trailed only 50-46. After a White runner, it was Burtschi again scoring this time with a hard drive to the hole as Frankfurt trailed 53-49. Frankfurt was unable to get a healthy string of stops as Cooper continued his hot shooting even connecting on a three point bank shot as Frankfurt trailed 56-49. Frankfurt closed out the third quarter with a brutal 8-2 run and only trailed Enisey 58-57. On the run they scored four consecutive buckets to regain the lead shortly 57-56. Mike Morrison scored twice showing his energy inside, Klein scored on the fast break as Robertson made the long outlet pass and Cobbs hit a jumper for the lead. Sergeev silenced the crowd with a floater. “We struggled at the start, but good defense and Burtschi three pointers brought us back into the game”, stressed Johannes Voigtmann. Enisey Krasnoyarsk was shooting 49% from the field and 19% from the parking lot while the Fraport Skyliners were shooting 45% from the field and 21% from the parking lot. Enisey had the 27-26 rebound edge and 11 turnovers while Frankfurt had 10 turnovers.
Three was a charm for the Fraport Skyliners in the fourth quarter as they fought back and got the lead three times as the third time was the game winning shot from Justin Cobbs. Kikanovic started off the fourth quarter hitting his bread and butter the 15 footer, but the Enisey lead was quickly erased as Robertson nailed a three pointer dead locking the game at 60-60. Enisey then went on a lightening 6-1 run as Kolesnikov and Lesic dropped three pointers while Cobbs capitalized on a Sergeev technical foul, but Enisey led 66-61. Enisey continued to hold the lead as Lesic made a free throw and Kikanovic burned Frankfurt for the second consecutive time with a 15 footer as Enisey led 69-63. However with the home crowd support getting louder, it helped Frankfurt go on a stifling 8-0 run to regain the lead 71-69. Voigtmann was pivotal in this run as he finally was getting the ball inside again something that he hadn´t earlier in the game. The German big man scored twice including giving his team the lead again. Klein also scored free throws and Cobbs scored on the fast break on a coast to coast sprint. White who had been fairly quiet the whole night scored consecutive buckets while Voigtmann made a tip in, but Enisey still led 74-73. With time running down, Cobbs hit a jumper as he took what the defense gave him giving Frankfurt the 75-74 lead. Klein then made free throws securing the 77-74 win for Frankfurt. “Cobbs is the best at creating a shot for himself. Even if he can´t shoot, he is calm enough to find us. He is 9-0 in Eurochallenge play and so dangerous at the end of games. He also helped us win many BBL games. Since he has been here our BBL record is up”, stressed Johannes Voigtmann. “We didn´t play aggressive enough on Cobbs on his last shot”, added DJ Copper. “I was looking to pass, but they took Voigtmann away and I had the seven footer. I am happy it fell. We showed again today how much we want to win. It doesn´t matter who the leading scorer is because we play together and fought until the end”, added Justin Cobbs.
The Fraport Skyliners were led by Justin Cobbs with 20 points, six rebounds and nine assists. Johannes Voigtmann chipped in 19 points and four rebounds. Quantez Robertson added 13 points and Jacob Burtschi contributed 11 points. Enisey Krasnoyarsk was led by Elemden Kikanovic with 16 points. Sava Lesic had 15 points and seven rebounds. DJ Cooper and Terrico White added 12 points a piece. The Fraport Skyliners shot 46% from the field and 23% from outside while Enisey Krasnoyarsk shot 46% from the field and 23% from outside. Enisey won the rebound battle 36-31, but had 16 turnovers while the Fraport Skyliners had 12 turnovers. Game two is Friday night at Enisey Krasnoyarsk. Frankfurt can clinch a top 4 berth with a win. “It will be tough travel for both teams. We can go in a bit more relaxed as there won´t be as much pressure for us. We have to win one of two games, but want to come home with a win”, warned Johannes Voigtmann.