In the German basketball world, there have been many special guys to play the game and still are where one could plaster a special name to their name as Rickey Paulding deservingly is known as Mr Oldenburg as he has been in the north German city since 2007 and helped the club win the Beko BBL league title in 2009 and cup in 2015 and most likely will finish his career there, then there was Mr rebound Chris Ensminger who played 16 professional seasons and 14 in Germany and was known for being a physical player that backed down to nobody and owned the paint as he led the Beko BBL in rebounding from 2001-2005 and from 2008-2011 from the ripe age of 35-38 was the second leading rebounder in the league as his body didn´t age or Bernd Kruel like Ensminger must be eating the right food and doing some magic on the side as he is Mr longevity as he is playing his 23rd season and came into the league in 1993 when Dennis Schroeder was born. Kruel can´t seem to stop wanting to play and turns 40 next year while Ricky Easterling has built a name for himself as mr Regionaliga. The 31 year old 188cm guard from Baltimore, Maryland has been playing in Germany his whole career and his ninth with Saarlouis. He played six seasons of Regionaliga where he tore up the league like there was no tomorrow averaging 28ppg, 32ppg, 23ppg, 34ppg, 29ppg and 26ppg. He finally moved up to the Pro B last season and prompt led the league in scoring averaging 22.9ppg), 4.5rpg, Assists-4(5.3apg), 1.4spg, FGP: 55.2%, 3PT: 25.0%, FT: 86.1%. Last season, he had his second best scoring game with 36 points in a loss in Frankfurt. This season Saarlouis is struggling with a 1-5 record and Easterling is averaging 22,7ppg, 4,orpg and 3,7apg and as always just annoying every opponent with his lethal mid distance shot that just can´t be stopped. Back home he is called pretty Ricky and one could also call his game that as he is a scoring machine and returned back to battle in the BCM in Frankfurt and didn´t disappoint anyone netting 31 points and leading a furious come back attempt with authority in the fourth quarter as Saarlouis outscored the Fraport Skyliners 28-7 to win 94-87. “We were searching for our rhythm in the first half as Frankfurt shot well and put us in a hole. We fought back in the second half and in the past played well for 37 minutes and then had a blackout, but not today. This was a big moral win for us. I like the netting here. It makes the rim look big and I just feel comfortable shooting in this gym”, stressed Baltimore native Ricky Easterling. His teammate Brennan Mcelroy was all smiles after the win and gave a lot o credit to Easterling. “There should be a patent on his mid distance shot. That shot is automatic and he loves the nets here. This win was an early birthday present for him”, added ex Indianapolis(NCAA2) forward Brennan Mcelroy. The Fraport Skyliners led for 38 minutes and then lost the game in a manner that will surely keep Eric Detlev thinking very long about this game. “This was the most preventable loss of my career. I can´t really pinpoint how we lost this. The game felt won at half time and after that we were too sure that we would win. We didn´t play concentrated for 40 minutes the way we should. We didn´t play concentrated the last 10 minutes and our transition defense was pathetic. We gave up too many turnovers in the fourth. Once they got some easy points they got rolling. Easterling´s mid distance shot is one of best I have ever seen. He has weaknesses, but we let him use too much of his strength tonight. To score 31 points against us is very good, but it felt like 40 points”, added ex Bamberg forward Johannes Richter.
The Fraport Skyliners Juniors got rolling early as they cruised out on a quick 7-2 lead as 2014 NBBL rookie of the year Niklas Kiel drilled home a trey and Alaska native Travis Thompson who was only playing his second game dropped a three pointer. Saarlouis got some instant offense from ex Heidelberg guard Danny Rodriguez who scored back to back buckets as Saarlouis trailed only 7-6. Both teams had their offenses going as it was going back and forth as Richter and Mcelroy traded baskets and then it was ex Bremerhaven guard Garai Zeeb that scored with a nifty lay in via the cross over and Easterling dumped home his favorite baby and most lethal shot the mid distance, but Frankfurt still led 12-11. Then came five lead changes as Easterling connected on a step back shot, Thompson nailed his second three, Vilius Sermokas who averaged 20ppg in the second Regionaliga last season with Baskets 98 Volklingen hit a trey, 10 year Saarlouis veteran Mukarem Mujkanovic made a tip in off his own miss and Zeeb made a pull up jumper as Frankfurt led 18-17. Frankfurt then stepped up their defense and closed out the first quarter with a 9-1 run to lead 27-18 after 10 minutes. In the run they got massive support inside as Richter scored, Tim Oldenburg scored and Marius Nolte scored. Richter also dropped a three pointer for insurance. Frankfurt did a good job banging the ball inside and just taking advantage of their height and physicality and both teams were shooting very well except for Saarlouis who was at 20% from outside. Frankfurt was shooting 55% from the field and 80% from outside while Saarlouis was shooting 42% from the field. Frankfurt had the 12-9 rebound edge and two turnovers while Saarlouis had three turnovers.
In the second quarter the Fraport Skyliners Juniors instant offense and massive shooting clinic continued as they led as much as by 21 points and went into half time leading 56-42. The Fraport Skyliners went out on a 6-2 run to lead 33-20 as they continued to make the paint their own living room as Zeeb hit a tear drop, Richter made an offensive rebound and put back and Nolte scored inside as Richter fed him nicely after faking a three pointer. Saarlouis then went to a zone momentarily stifling the Frankfurt offense and going on a mini 4-0 run as Mujkanovic made a pull up jumper and Easterling a tough under hand lay up as they trailed Frankfurt 33-24. However Frankfurt quickly adjusted and went back to their offensive consistency going on a potent 15-3 run to lead 48-27. It was Zeeb and Thompson with the instant offense as the German scored the first 5 points of the run with a runner and then countered with a trey of the fast break. Thompson then closed out the massive run with two three pointers and a jumper. Thompson finished with 18 points and had mixed feelings about his performance, but the bitter loss was still eating at him so close after the siren sounded. “I struggled in the second half, but this is only my second game since April so I am still getting off the rust and hope I had perform better down the stretch”, warned Travis Thompson. This run didn´t rattle Saarlouis in any way as they clawed their way back into the game going into halftime with a 15-8 run to trail only 56-42. Easterling was big in the run as he scored three times with his mid distance shot and German Kelvin Okundaye who played for teams like Heidelberg and Speyer scored a lay in and three pointer. Zeeb closed out the second quarter with a three pointer. “Frankfurt was doing a good job rebounding, hitting open shots and making second chances. I think that Fossman and Thompson are the same player as both can shoot and play aggressive defense”, stressed Fraport Skyliners guard Quantez Robertson. The Fraport Skyliners were shooting 57% from the field and 80% from the three point line while Saarlouis was shooting 51% from the field and 25% from the three point line. Frankfurt had the 24-14 rebound edge and both teams had 8 turnovers a piece.
In the third quarter the Fraport Skyliners were able to lead by as much as 21 points, but couldn´t totally run away with the contest as Saarlouis continued to tread water and find their way back to the ship. The Fraport Skyliners came into the third quarter prepared as they commenced going on a fast 9-2 run to extend their league to 65-44 as they continued to play beautiful inside out basketball as German Michael Fuss dropped a three pointer, but they stuck to their biggest strength getting buckets inside as Kiel made a tip in, Thompson found Richter for the two hand dunk and the German then scored inside easily over Mujkanovic. Basketball remains a game of runs and it never disappoints as Saarlouis found some instant offense going on a 12-4 run to cut the Frankfurt advantage to 69-56. In the run, Frankfurt coughed up the ball and missed easy shots allowing the opponent to share the scoring as Easterling scored, Mujkanovic played old school making a hook shot, Sermokas finished off the fast break with a lay in, Mcelroy hit a one hand hook shot and Rodriguez made a steal and went coast to coast for the easy bucket and then released a pull up jumper that saw nothing but net. Frankfurt quickly put a damper in this run getting consecutive three pointers from Richter and Zeeb as they led 75-58. Frankfurt kept the comfortable lead continuing to rebound very well and getting added production from Zeeb with a trey and a Thompson lay in while Saarlouis got needed offense from Rodriguez and Mcelroy and Frankfurt still led 80-66. “We got a bit lazy. They made good defensive adjustments and we didn´t slow down and take good shots and didn´t read their plays well”, added Travis Thompson. “Easterling gave a little speech at half time telling us to take man up, get tough and show pride in our defense. We picked up our defense and switch up zone and man defense and did a good job switching guard to guard and big to big”, stressed Illinois native Brennan Mcelroy. The Fraport Skyliners were shooting 54% from the field and 71% from the parking lot while Saarlouis was shooting 60% from the field and 22% from the parking lot. Frankfurt had the 32-18 rebound edge and both teams had 13 turnovers a piece.
In the fourth quarter Saarlouis had 10 minutes left and used every second making a memorable comeback, buckling down on defense allowing only seven points while taking a chapter from the first half offense of Frankfurt and scoring 28 points. Saarlouis went on a 12-3 run to cut the Frankfurt lead to 82-79. In the run Saarlouis got production from many players like 32 year old German Ronny Weihmann who had been signed only a few days ago and last played in the Regionaliga with Kaiserslautern and also had two years of experience in the States with Emmanuel (GA) (NAIA) hit a big three after not playing in the first 30 minutes, Easterling made two clutch mid distance shots and Okundaye scored inside off a Mcelroy steal. Saarlouis had the momentum were in the game again and threatening while the Frankfurt offense was nonexistent as the once potent inside game was also nonexistent and the club couldn´t consistently hit free throws. Weihmann stepped up again hitting a big three to cut the Frankfurt lead to 84-82. After one Kiel free throw, it was the Easterling and Mcelroy show as Mr Regionaliga Easterling beat Zeeb again with a mid distance shot and then he stepped in the passing lane between Richter and Kiel making the steal and finding Mcelroy for the bucket and 86-85 lead which they would never relinquish again in the game. Mcelroy had 13 points, eight rebounds and five assists, but it was his four steals and one at the end that made the difference. “Mcelroy had a defensive role in college, but has more things to do here. In college he did the little things well and here he continues to do so, but in many more areas. He is such a smart player and it is a joy to play with him”, added Ricky Easterling. Frankfurt seemed shocked and just played hectic and the coolness of the first half had been blown away as they coughed up the ball for a 21st time as Sermokas made the lay in for the 88-85 advantage. Saarlouis closed out the game hitting their free throws. “Frankfurt executed well on pick and roll in the first, but we made adjustments in the second half. We have had problems closing out games this season and it was team effort, but those Weihmann shots were big in the fourth. Every player played their role and took care of business”, stressed Ricky Easterling. “We got too comfortable in the second half and didn´t shoot well. Easterling had a good game and really hurt us”, added Travis Thompson. “They had 21 turnovers and most were forced. We did a great job communicating on defense and getting in the passing lanes”, added Brennan Mcelroy. Saarlouis was led by Ricky Easterling with 31 points. Muharem Mujkanovic had 16 points, Brennan Mcelroy had 13 and Danny Rodriguez had 11 points. The Fraport Skyliners were led by Johannes Richter with 21 points and 12 rebounds. Garai Zeeb had 20 points and eight assists. Travis Thompson had 18 points and Niklas Kiel had 11 points. Saarlouis shot 58% from the field and 29% from outside while Frankfurt shot 45% from the field and 50% from outside. Frankfurt won the rebound battle 45-30, but had 21 turnovers while Saarlouis had 16 turnovers.