Just exactly how Gordon Herbert was tipped or got the idea that a Dashaun Wood or Justin Cobbs could be those monumental vital players that could get the team to two playoffs and a Eurochallenge final 4 will always remain a secret, but he was very fortunate in those two seasons to have those players. This season it seems like waiting so long to find Jordan Theodore is now starting to really pay off after his BBL break through game with 28 points, 10 assists, five steals and no turnovers against a bewildered BG Goettingen team. But once in a while, Gordon Herbert doesn´t need to pull that magical slip from his blazer pocket with the right info to getting a player, but even more soothing is getting that timely medical document from the team doctor clearing not one, but two players to play again. Against BG Goettingen the Fraport Skyliners had German national players Danilo Barthel and Konstantin Klein back in the line up and just in time as the club has been playing very solid ball despite having serious injury woes. Especially now with the double game weeks, the Fraport Skyliners will need a deeper bench and finally had it going into their first ever Fiba Europe cup game which is a new event this season replacing the Eurochallenge. The 2004 Beko BBL winner went into the new competition riding a two game winning streak after disposing of Tuebingen and BG Goettingen and having their defensive scheme on the right track allowing an average of only 67 points. They met 3 time Dutch champion Leiden who came into the game with a 2-1 record and had suffered a bitter 73-58 loss against Zwolle and also had their defense ready as they were giving up 64 points per game in the Dutch league and both clubs gave the fans an ugly defensive game as the Fraport Skyliners grinded out an ugly 63-58 win. The themes of the game was defense, the uncanny non strenuous like play of Worthy De Jong who looked like he was playing on his own magical cloud on the court as his play left one dreaming of his amazing game and the ripped shoe sole of Jordan Theodore. But from these three themes the most peculiar was the ripped shoe sole of ex Seton Hall guard Theodore. In the first half the American was closed down nicely by the ZZ Leiden defense, but in the third quarter one of Theodore´s shoe soles was ripped which prevented him from being mobile at all, but for some reason it was the third quarter where the club came out of their funk and the offense started to flow despite the American not being able to move the way he wanted to. Even if the game was ugly and Theodore had a ripped show sole, the club was able to grind out the win. “It doesn´t get any uglier than tonight. Even if we didn´t play well, we fought until the end. The positive thing is even when we aren´t playing well on offense, we continue to get stops on defense and pull out the win”, stressed Jordan Theodore. Minutes after the siren sounded ZZ Leiden head coach Eddy Casteels who coached Antwerpen for 10 years and the Belgium national team at the last three European championships was pacing around back and forth in the catacombs of the Fraport arena and kept playing the last few minutes in his head as his team was so close, but then again got too hectic and produced bitter turnovers. “We did all we could on defense. We played an amazing game and this shows why we decided to play Europe cup. We want to compete well at this level and put our heart on the floor. I have to give credit to Frankfurt who defended very well and made it tough for us to create a good open shot. I think we could of won at the end if we would have been more patient and done more on offense”, stressed ZZ Leiden head coach Eddy Casteels.
The Fraport Skyliners started their first ever Europe Cup with Jordan Theodore, John Little, Quantez Robertson, Aaron Doornekamp and Mike Morrison in the starting line up while ZZ Leiden started without their two import players Eric Stutz and Deronn Scott. The Fraport Skyliners got on the board first as Mike Morrison made a bucket inside after making two Leiden defenders dizzy and dropping the and one free throw. ZZ Leiden showed that their big men have outside shooting ability as ex Den Bosch 25 year old 213cm center Jeroen Van Der List nailed a three pointer. Ex BG Goettinge guard John Little then hit a three pointer over Worthy De Jong giving Frankfurt the 6-3 lead. ZZ Leiden stayed close as Dutch/Moroccan Mohamed Kherrazi connected on a pull up jumper as Frankfurt still led 6-5. Both teams were defending well and forcing each other to tough shots. Then it was the two most athletic players on the court that went back and forth with Quantez Robertson and Worthy De Jong which caped off five lead changes until the end of the first quarter. Robertson started off the firing range with a lay in and then it was De Jong who is a 25 year old 194cm shooting guard that has won four Dutch titles, averaged 9,4ppg at the Euro 2015 for Holland and had numerous offers from Greek teams last summer, but somehow stayed in Holland to play hit a beautiful floater. He followed that up with a three pointer giving ZZ Leiden their first lead at 10-8. “De Jong attacked the rim nicely. He shoots well and does a good job getting in the passing lanes. I am sure he will get more looks from top teams in Europe”, warned Quantez Robertson. Konstantin Klein then made a nice kick out pass to Robertson who hit a trey from the corner as Frankfurt snatched lead back 11-10, but it was De Jong again securing the lead for the Dutch team 12-11 with a runner. After Klein free throws, it was big man Van Der List who closed out the first quarter with free throws as ZZ Leiden led 16-13. “We were not very consistent on offense and just not moving well. ZZ Leiden did a good job closing out Theodore. He lives by his quickness and couldn´t show it in the first quarter”, stressed Fraport Skyliner forward Tim Oldenburg. ZZ Leiden was shooting 38% from the field and 40% from outside while the Fraport Skyliners were shooting 28% from the field and 50% from outside. ZZ Leiden had the 10-7 rebound edge and both teams produced four turnovers a piece.
The second quarter was even tighter than the first quarter as it remained a defensive battle having nine lead changes. Just when one thought one had seen enough of the scoring clinic of De Jong in the first quarter, the Dutch national player caught Frankfurt sleeping in their own end as he came out of nowhere getting in a passing lane stealing the ball in mid air and picking off the play as if one was watching an ESPN Sportscenter play of the day from the NBA and making an easy lay up as ZZ Leiden led 18-13. However in basketball the tide can change as quickly as Eric Stutz does a head band as he has 30 in his collection as German national player Konstantin Klein got some noise going in the Fraport arena grabbing the lead back with back to back three pointers as Frankfurt led 19-18. Then both teams recaptured the lead back as Van Der List and Mike Morrison made tip ins as Frankfurt led 22-20. Then it was De Jong getting the lead back for ZZ Leiden with a sweet fade away trey as at times it looked like he really was all alone on the court as anything he touched turned to gold. Both teams kept retaining the lead as Theodore made free throws and Van der List hit a pull up jumper for the ZZ Leiden 25-24 lead. Theodore wasn´t getting shots so he decided to draw fouls getting to the free throw line and giving Frankfurt the 26-25 advantage. Then it was Roger Jansen who made a step back shot for the ZZ Leiden 28-26 lead. Frankfurt closed out the second quarter with a big timely 5-0 run to go into halftime with the 31-28 lead. Max Merz hit a three pointer and German national player Danilo Barthel made a perfect dish off to Theodore for the easy lay in. “We weren´t playing well, but had the ability to stay with them. Merz and Barthel made big plays at the end to give us the lead”, added Tim Oldenburg. “They played very good team defense. They slowed down the pace and we didn´t execute well. This all fell on my shoulders. I have to be able to get our team better into the offense. I was dribbling too much”, stressed Jordan Theodore. The Fraport Skyliners were shooting 31% from the field and 45% from the three point line while ZZ Leiden was shooting 38% from the field and 28% from the three point line. Frankfurt had the 19-16 rebound advantage and eight turnovers while ZZ Leiden had nine turnovers.
In the third quarter the Fraport Skyliners were finally to able to break the contest wide open and despite ZZ Leiden cutting their lead down to two later in the fourth quarter, they would never relinquish the lead again in the last 20 minutes. ZZ Leiden came out prepared out of halftime going on a 5-2 run to tie the game 33-33. 25 year old 201cm center Thomas Koenis got the Dutch squad going with a hook shot and then it was De Jong who used his wit and intelligence drawing a foul behind the parking lot and dropping all three free throws. Morrison then got Frankfurt on track again with a lay in off the pick and roll with Klein and made a free throw. Robertson also scored inside, but both times ZZ Leiden countered with Van Der List who made a step back shot and alley oop dunk after getting the perfect feed from Jansen as Frankfurt led only 38-37. However Frankfurt finally broke free getting some offensive going on a 8-0 run to lead 46-37. In the run Klein made a lay in, Doornekamp got the no look pass from Theodore for lay in and then after the best ball movement of the night the Canadian nailed a three after not getting too dazzled by the passing wizardry of Little and Theodore. Frankfurt was playing smarter now, Theodore was playing his fast game of penetration and transition as the offense was gelling and on defense they were doing a good job keeping their man in front. ZZ Leiden then went on a lightening 4-0 run as Eric Stutz found Kherrazi for the lay in and vice versa Stutz scored as Frankfurt still led 46-41. Morrison then pounded home a dunk while De Jong made a tip in alley oop to cut the Frankfurt lead to 50-43. After a Scott reverse lay up, it was Klein closing out the third quarter with free throws as Frankfurt led 53-45. “We did a good job rebounding and getting out on transition and got easy buckets. We are at our best when we get out on transition. We did all that despite me having a ripped shoe and I couldn´t move”, smiled Jordan Theodore. “We executed better, attacked the rim and got easy buckets and Theodore had a torn sneaker”, said Quantez Robertson. “The game remained close, but our offense was clicking the way it should”, stated ex Eastern Kentucky forward Eric Stutz. The Fraport Skyliners were shooting 38% from the field and 37% from the parking lot while ZZ Leiden was hooting 40% from the field and 21% from the parking lot. Frankfurt had the 27-23 rebound edge and 10 turnovers while ZZ Leiden had 12 turnovers.
ZZ Leiden remained in the game in the fourth quarter fighting as if there was no cheese available in Leiden ever if they lost, but could never retain the lead as the Fraport Skyliners buckled down keeping a sound consistency on defense. ZZ Leiden started off the fourth quarter with a quick 4-0 run and brought some NBA show time to the Fraport arena. A week ago it was the Jordan Theodore to Tomas Dimsa double connection on the alley oop while in this instance it was two Dutch players that supplied the wow feeling with amazing athletic plays. 22 year old Kasper Averink who played in Slovakia for BC Prievidza in 2011-2012 for current BG Goettingen head coach Johan Roijakkers made a beautiful penetration blowing by Theodore and getting around the long dangling arms of Morrison with the scoop lay up. Then it was De Jong who seemed to be in the air longer than allowed getting a hand on a high loose ball and somehow steering it into the basket as ZZ Leiden trailed only 53-49. Robertson and De Jong then traded baskets as Frankfurt still led 56-52. Frankfurt then lost a little focus letting ZZ Leiden get too close as they coughed up the ball one to many times and veteran Koenis scored consecutive buckets once getting by Barthel and then standing just right picking off the De Jong air ball and lay it in as ZZ Leiden trailed only 58-56. Frankfurt then calmed down in their next offensive play as Morrison scored as Frankfurt led 60-56. The last minute was hectic as ZZ Leiden just couldn´t settle down allowing Theodore two steals, but Frankfurt couldn´t capitalize on the offensive end. Doornekamp then closed out the game with three free throws as Frankfurt shut out the ZZ Leiden offense at the end allowing not a single field goal. “We still made turnovers at the end, but we still wanted to win the game more than they did. Even if we didn´t play well on offense, we knew how to fight through adversity and get the win”, warned New York native Jordan Theodore. “We had our chances at the end, but didn´t execute. We played a good defensive game and we need to keep up this intensity up on defense which will lead to good offense. We competed with a very good team Frankfurt and know what we have to improve to be successful in this competition”, warned Eric Stutz. The Fraport Skyliners were led by Mike Morrison with 17 points and seven rebounds. Aaron Doornekamp added 14 points. ZZ Leiden was led by Worthy De Jong with 22 points while Jeroen Van Der List chipped in with 15 points. The Fraport Skyliners finished shooting 33% from the field and 30% from outside while ZZ Leiden shot 41% from the field and 21% from outside. Frankfurt won the rebound battle 35-32 and had 14 turnovers while ZZ Leiden had 19 turnovers.