Halloween may be three nights old and usually the theme lingers on in the States for days after with broken pumpkins or egg remains rotting away on window targets of poor residents who never knew what hit their house, but in Germany Halloween isn´t as popular or domineering as in Cincinnati where Fraport Skyliners seven year veteran Quantez Robertson hails from like in any other city there are numerous traditions dating back as far as to the late 1880s when these pranks started there with boys taking to the streets and doing mischief like removing signs and knocking over outhouses, and building bonfires or thugs stealing pushcarts and running wagons into the canal where the Central Parkway is located today. In the 1920s, communities began supplying a treat of candy and doughnuts as an alternative to pranks and vandalism. Trick-or-treating did attract the youngest, but older kids continued making mischief. When one observes Quantez Robertson off the court, he is a low key guy that watches a lot, but can joke around like any other 30 year old, but when he is on the court he is definitely a player that creates mischief not only in Halloween terms but also in terms of his defense as he has been one of the top defenders in the Beko BBL since entering the league in 2009 and has never averaged less than 1,3spg as a professional. This season new point guard Jordan Theodore has stolen his show a bit as he currently is averaging 1,8spg while Robertson is 1,0spg. Possibly Robertson could even raise his steal average if he would be outfitted each game with a special costume to totally scare his opponents and bring them to cough up the ball more, but at the moment Fraport Skyliners head coach Gordon Herbert doesn´t need to rely on these Halloween tactics as he can be very pleased with the defense of Frankfurt as it is helping them win games the most at the moment as well as his roster getting totally healthy again. In their current 4 game winning streak the team has given up an average of only 65 games as their keen and accurate scouting report of their opponent is becoming more and more despised, but is a big reason for their key to success. Halloween or no Halloween, the Fraport Skyliners were back at work again in Fiba Europe Cup looking for their fifth win in a row and were dressed in their normal uniform costumes and no Halloween theme anywhere to be seen as they met Slovenian team KK Novo Mesto and once again had to grind out a difficult win as last week Leiden gave them immense problems and this week they grinded out a tough 67-65 win as their offense was as desolate in the first half as Siberia, but in the second half it was Quantez Robertson and Jordan Theodore that supplied the fire power helping Frankfurt get back on track. After the game it didn´t take Robertson long to describe what mask could of scared away Novo Mesto early. “They weren´t afraid of us all game long. I think if we would have had five Leatherface masks from the Texas Chain Saw movie then that would of scared them away”, smiled Cincinnati native Quantez Robertson. Novo Mesto fell to 1-1 and played their hearts out and just came up a bit short at the end. “We knew that Frankfurt was a good team. We opened game up well defending well and Frankfurt didn´t hit shots. We wanted to continue to play like this in the second half, but Frankfurt found their rhythm and made shots. When you are down 10, it is tough to come back even if we had a chance at the end”, stressed Serb Dusan Katnic. The staple of Frankfurt´s success remains their defense, but their offense remains a problem. “We had problems executing in the first half and missing shots. We had problems getting through contact on the penetration. In the second half we found our rhythm and everybody got involved”, added Quantez Robertson.
The Fraport Skyliners got on the board first as German national player Johannes Voigtmann who scored 14 points in 19 minutes in Hagen in his return back after an injury hit his first shot with a catch and pop. However Novo Mesto took the lead on a wild Mirko Mulaic desperation shot as the shot clock was down at two seconds and Katnic followed with free throws as Frankfurt trailed 5-2. Frankfurt couldn´t get much going on offense and when they did it was more one on one plays as Quantez Robertson found some daylight and made a two handed dunk to cut the lead to 5-4. Serb Stefan Sinovec and Johannes Voigtmann then traded buckets and Luka Lapornik made a lay in as Novo Mesto led 9-6. Novo Mesto continued to hold the lead as they simply were more under control and executing better as 26 year old Igor Tratnik who played for three teams in Iceland showed his 207cm range from outside drilling home a trey as Frankfurt trailed 11-8. Frankfurt stayed strong even if their offense was sputtering but cut the Novo Mesto lead to 13-10 as Jordan Theodore found Mike Morrison for the easy lay in and still trailed 13-10. Novo Mesto ended the first quarter carrying the momentum as Sinovec made a steal and went coast to coast for the lay in and then it was Mulalic again who dropped a prayer that somehow went in closing out the first quarter as Novo Mesto led 18-11. “We played ok defense but had no rhythm on offense and missed open looks”, stressed Florida native Mike Morrison. Novo Mesto was shooting 60% form the field and 100% from outside while the Fraport Skyliners were shooting 40% from the field and 0% from outside. Novo Mesto had the 6-5 rebound edge and five turnovers as Frankfurt had six turnovers.
In the second quarter, The Fraport Skyliners were able to cut the Novo Mesto lead to two points, but Novo Mesto was able to close out the second quarter on a 9-4 run and lead 30-23 at halftime as the Frankfurt offense continued to be in a nasty winter sleep that even had problems of melting with small glimpses of heat in their offense. However the Fraport Skyliners actually had a solid start into the second quarter going on a 8-3 run to trail Novo Mesto only 21-19. 21 year old Max Merz who was in Australia for the first six months of 2015 got the 2004 Beko BBL champion on the board first with a magnificent floater. Both teams attacked the paint with success as Morrison scored inside and Robertson scored with a nifty left handed lay in while Slovenian talent Ziga Dimec who led the Telemach league the last two seasons in field goal percentage scored. However the Fraport Skyliners were unable to hold that offensive power as Novo Mesto went on their run to go into halftime with the seven point lead. Frankfurt began to miss shot after shot and were coughing up the ball too many times which Novo Mesto used to their advantage to keep their lead. It was 29 year old 211cm work horse Jure Lalic who supplied seven of the nine Novo Mesto points doing damage inside and scoring at ease. Frankfurt got production from Robertson and Doornekamp. “We still couldn´t get going. They packed the lane well and forced us too tough shots”, expressed Mike Morrison. Novo Mesto was shooting35% from the field and 25% from the three point line while the Fraport Skyliners were shooting 35% from the field and 0% from the three point line. Both teams had 17 rebounds a piece and Frankfurt had nine turnovers and Novo Mesto had six turnovers.
It is very hard to hold a team like the Fraport Skyliners offense less for 40 minutes and in the third quarter, the club finally broke out of their offensive funk going on a 14-3 run to recapture the lead back at 37-32. In the run the main figures were Americans Quantez Robertson and Jordan Theodore who combined for nine of the 14 Frankfurt unanswered points. Robertson nailed the teams first three pointer of the game after it had been 0/7. Theodore started finding more space and picking his spots better as he hit a mid distance shot and trey. Canadian national player Aaron Doornekamp also made a running hook shot in the run. The Refs were calling the game close and both teams had suffered their fifth team foul with five minutes remaining in the third quarter. Lalic, Matej Rojc and Sinnovec hit free throws and for Frankfurt it was Barthel. Doornekamp and Katnic traded three pointers as suddenly Frankfurt led only 42-40. Frankfurt had problems at the free throw line as Morrison and Doornekamp hit only one a piece allowing Novo Mesto to get closer again as Katnic continued to be hot from downtown nailing a trey cutting the Frankfurt lead to 44-43. However in the last two minutes, Frankfurt buckled down on defense getting big shots and extended their lead to 50-43 as 2010 Eurochallenge winner John Little connected on a one hand floater and free throws and Morrison was successful twice from the free throw line. “Coach Herbert told us at halftime that we had to execute better and play more together. We stepped up our defensive pressure which got us going getting on fast break and getting to the free throw line”, stressed Quantez Robertson. The Fraport Skyliners were shooting 37% from the field and 17% from the parking lot while Novo Mesto was shooting 32% from the field and 29% from the parking lot. Frankfurt had the 29-23 rebound edge and both teams had 11 turnovers a piece.
In the fourth quarter the Fraport Skyliners kept the lead, but never fully escaped from Novo Mesto as they had one last shot on the final play for the win, but were unable to connect. Tratnik got Novo Mesto on the board first with a three pointer, but the Frankfurt offense was in better shape now in the second half and they were having more luck now as Quantez Robertson nailed a step back jumper against man to man coverage with two seconds on the shot clock and silver medalist at the 2015 University games Konstantin Klein hit a three point bank shot that wasn´t his intention after observing his look after hitting the shot, but at that point Frankfurt took any offense they could get success off of and were leading 55-47. Novo Mesto continued to fight staying in the game as Lapornik hit a pull up jumper cutting the Frankfurt lead to 55-51. Frankfurt then drifted away on a 7-1 run to have their biggest lead of the game at 62-52. Theodre had found his range nailing two off balance mid distance shots and Robertson hit another three pointer. After Lalic free throws, it was Theodore who scored with authority making a tough reverse lay up as Frankfurt led 64-54 and the first fans were leaving as there seemed like nothing could rattle Frankfurt from taking home the win, but Novo Mesto had different ideas. They closed out the game with a 11-3 run almost catching Frankfurt with their pants down and going home with a bitter 67-65 loss. Frankfurt went back to old habits again of the first quarter not being able to execute on offense and not taking care of the ball in crunch time. Novo Mesto got to the free throw line as Ivanov and Lapornik made free throws to cut the Frankfurt lead to 66-60. After another Frankfurt miss, it was Ivanov that made a key lay in cutting the Frankfurt lead to 66-62. Still with under a minute to play, much still had to go right for the Slovenian team to prevail, but they continued to do everything right and hit shots. Morrison could of sealed the win with two free throws, but made only one as Frankfurt led 66-62. With 20 seconds to play it was Sinovec hitting a clutch three pointer to cut the Frankfurt lead to 67-65. Frankfurt coughed up the ball with 3,2 seconds to play under their own basket and the ball fell into the hands of sharp shooter Dusan Katnic, but he quickly was double teamed and heaved up an air ball ending the game. “We defended very well at the end. However we needed to have been closer earlier instead of being able to win with three seconds. We need to play like the first half in each game in order to advance”, stressed Dusan Katnic. “It looked like Barthel was fouled at the end. Luckily Jordan Theodore and I were on their shooter and we put our hands up. The most positive thing was getting the win. We have much to work on. We have to get a better flow on offense. We can be a much better team”, stated John Little. The Fraport Skyliners were led by Quantez Robertson with 17 points while Jordan Theodore had 13 points. Novo Mesto was led by Jure Lalic and Dusan Katnic with 13 points a piece. Frankfurt shot 40% from the field and 21% from outside while Novo Mesto shot 36% from the field and 31% from outside, Frankfurt won the rebound battle 34-29 and had 15 turnovers while Novo Mesto had 14 turnovers.