For nature lovers the African Blackwood is a is a flowering plant in the family Fabaceae, native to seasonally dry regions of Africa from Senegal east to Eritrea and south to the Transvaal in South Africa. The tree is an important timber species in its native areas; it is used in the manufacture of musical instruments and fine furniture. Even in Germany one can find the magical Blackwood, but not in a forest or in a Botanical garden, but moreover in a wide range of basketball gym´s and smaller arena´s in Germany. The blackwood is a combination of two fine experienced player with 30 year old 203cm center form Tampa, Florida Jeremy Black and 33 year old 200cm power forward Marcus Smallwood from Illinois. Combined both have played 18 seasons and don’t seem to be slowing down with age. They may not be the tallest players, but what they can´t make up with height they make up with anticipation, quick moves, and experience to grab almost 20 rebounds combined per game. Smallwood has played most of his career in Germany for teams like Kaiserslautern, Cuxhaven, Kirchheim, MBC; Vechta or Speyer as well as gaining further basketball knowledge in countries like Finland, Sweden, Poland or Kosovo. He has averaged double double stats five times in his career and grabbing rebounds is as normal and easy to him as it is for Saarlouis guard Ricky Easterling nailing mid distance shots. Black has mostly played in Germany with teams like Jena and is playing his fifth season for BG Karlsruhe. He has been in the top 5 in rebounding in the Pro A each season and in his career in Germany has averaged 13,5ppg and 8,2rpg. They are without a doubt the top 4-5 duo in the Pro B and for each team a real challenge and battle to try to contain game in and game out. They met the German duo of Johannes Richter and Niklas Kiel who average 20 years of age while the BG Karlsruhe American du average 31,5 years of age. It was the raw youth that met the annoying experience and the Fraport Skyliners came together as team and fought of BG Karlsruhe and Blackwood 77-70. For Frankfurt it was a huge turnaround after their dismal showing in Wurzburg last weekend. “We made a 100 degree turn today. Our intensity was unstoppable today. We played the way Wurzburg did last weekend against us only we didn´t score as well. We controlled their big men somewhat. Our intensity was very important and we also made it uncomfortable for Rouven Roessler as he doesn´t like to be defended hard. Smallwood and Black are good players and when you don´t box out, they are very dangerous. We knew that if we wanted to somewhat control them that we had to play together as a team and did”, explained Fraport Skyliner Junior Tim Oldenburg. BG Karlsruhe came into the game as the favorite, but never could dominate the game the way they wanted to as the Fraport Skyliners kept them under their 82 points scored per game average. “Frankfurt came in with the height advantage, but we weren´t aggressive enough. We were looking more for the calls and I had some bad turnovers early that hurt us. We fought hard at the end, but just couldn´t make shots. The secret to Blackwood is that despite being undersized, we run the floor well, are physical and rebound well. We have good chemistry and read the ball well”, warned Tampa, Florida native Jeremy Black. “I am really proud of the team. We didn´t bring the needed energy in Wurzburg, but today we wanted to give it our all and we did”, stressed Alaska Native Travis Thompson.
BG Karlsruhe came out on fire taking a quick 6-0 lead as the Fraport Skyliners Juniors still seemed as if they were doing their Christmas shopping in the mall as they were hit inside with three consecutive buckets. Blackwood struck right away as 33 year old Illinois native Marcus Smallwood made an offensive rebound and put back and later scored again and 20 year old German Marcel Davis made a lay in. However sometimes something hits a basketball club so suddenly like a lightening bolt does as they got out of their funk going on an unexpected 9-0 run to get the lead 11-8. Frankfurt finally got their offense going as they scored in many different ways as Paderborn native Niklas Kiel dropped a trey from the corner, ex Bamberg center Johannes Richter converted on a lay in and ex Bremerhaven guard Garai Zeeb played his usual calm game sneaking inside for a bucket and then found Richter for a lay in. After a Black lay in, it was Zeeb finding Richter with a lob pass for the easy lay in as Frankfurt led 14-10. Zeeb closed out the first quarter being unstoppable as he scored three consecutive baskets as the lane was his living room as he always made the right decision. American Hayden Lescault from Folsam, California came in the game and got the BG Karlsruhe offense going again with two assists finding Smallwood and German Adrian Lind for buckets, but the Fraport Skyliners Juniors led 20-14 after one quarter. “We got our defense going after the early Karlsruhe run and attacked the rim and hit our shots. Richter and Kiel did a good job on their big men”, stressed Fraport Skyliners Juniors forward Konstantin Schubert. The Fraport Skyliners were shooting 53% from the field and 17% from outside while BG Karlsruhe was shooting 47% from the field and 0% from outside. Frankfurt had the 10-8 rebound edge and three turnovers while BG Karlsruhe had five turnovers.
The Fraport Skyliners Juniors were able to increase their lead to 11 points, but basketball is a game of runs and BG Karlsruhe made a furious comeback in the last five minutes to dead lock the game at 36-36 at halftime. Both teams traded 5-0 runs to start the second quarter as Johannes Richter hit a mid-distance shot getting fed from Thompson and the American then nailed a shot and made the free throw giving Frankfurt the 24-14 advantage. BG Karlsruhe then got production from Smallwood who scored inside after getting the perfect pass from Lescault and ex Giessen 46er Rouven Roessler nailed a high rainbow three pointer cutting the Frankfurt lead to 25-19. Frankfurt kept up the offensive pressure getting a big trey from Lenny Okeke and Zeeb once again found Richter inside with the hook shot as Frankfurt led 30-20. However BG Karlsruhe now made their second quarter push going on a nasty 14-4 run to tie the score at 34-34. After having little success in the first quarter from the Parking lot, BG Karlsruhe turned it on from downtown nailing four three pointers as Simon Schmitz brother Aaron scored as did ex Gotha German Dmitrij Kreis, Adrian Lind and Hayden Lescault. Frankfurt got a bit sloppy on offense not having good shot selection, coughing up the ball more and giving up too many offensive rebounds. After Black and Kreis made one free throw, Richter made a massive dunk at the buzzer as both teams went into the dressing room with the game tied at 36-36. “We had problems on the boards as they got many more chances and made their open shots. They also hit better from outside. Garai Zeeb had a very good first half taking on the role of Max Merz well and leading the team”, added Konstantin Schubert. The Fraport Skyliners were shooting 50% from the field and 20% from the three point line while BG Karlsruhe was shooting 50% from the field and 45% from the three point line. BG Karlsruhe had the 19-14 rebound edge, but eight turnovers while Frankfurt had only five turnovers.
In the third quarter, the game became more defensive as both teams scored less and the beginning was back and forth until BG Karlsruhe could maintain a lead and keep it until the end of the third quarter. In the third quarter Rouven Roessler started to get going making three baskets early including a step back, but Richter got an offensive rebound and put back to tie the game at 38-38. Zeeb then used his agility and quickness scoring inside for the Frankfurt 42-40 lead. However then led by Roessler, BG Karlsruhe jumped out on a 10-2 run to extend their lead to 48-42. The run was commenced by the hot shooting of Roessler who can score in so many ways and especially make contested shots made two off balance shots that probably made Frankfurt Juniors head coach Eric Detlev wonder how a guy at 35 can still make those shots. Fraport Skyliners head coach Gordon Herbert got to the game at halftime and probably remembered the young Roessler back in the 2003-2005 seasons when he battled the then Opel Skyliners. Also in the run, Davis nailed a three pointer and Smallwood a free throw. Despite BG Karlsruhe having the lead, Frankfurt stayed at their heels notching two three pointers from Thompson and Okeke and trailed only 49-48 after 30 minutes. “We have struggled in the past in the third and fourth quarter not having the needed energy and wanted to make a stand. We knew that if we could keep it close we would be in it at the end and we were able to achieve that in the third”, added Fraport Skyliners Juniors guard Travis Thompson. “Frankfurt did a good job limiting our play inside so we had to rely on our outside shooting and moving the ball”, added ex Science City Jena center Jeremy Black. The Fraport Skyliners were shooting 45% from the field and 24% from the parking lot while BG Karlsruhe was shooting 44% from the field and 43% from the parking lot. BG Karlsruhe had the 33-20 rebound lead, but 12 turnovers while Frankfurt had seven turnovers.
In the fourth quarter the Fraport Skyliners broke away attaining a nine point lead, but as is so often the case in basketball, BG Karlsruhe made a comeback, but fell short. The Fraport Skyliners got going fast going on a 9-2 run as Kiel nailed a jumper and Thompson scored inside getting by Lind easily as Kreis was too late on the help and Marius Nolte stayed tough inside battling for the offensive rebound and getting a put back while Okeke snuck inside for a lay in and Frankfurt led 57-51. After a Lind bucket, Richter grabbed an offensive rebound and swung a quick pass to Nolte beside him who made the hard lay in as Frankfurt extended their lead to 59-43. After a Roessler step back jumper, it was Okeke Burying another three pointer as he was playing with a lot of self confidence as Frankfurt led 62-56. Then came a peculiar situation as German Adrian Lind was handed a technical foul as BG Karlsruhe head coach Nenad Josipovic was so furious that he sent the youngster to the locker room for an early shower. This seemed to power Frankfurt as they continued to keep up the offensive consistency going on a 7-2 run to extend their lead to 69-58 as it seemed like the game was decided. In the run, Frankfurt was aided by a bucket from Nolte who worked hard to find space get the ball and put it home and Thompson nailed a timely trey. BG Karlsruhe knew it was now or never and made an important 7-1run with three minutes remaining to suddenly be back in the game trailing only 70-65. BG Karlsruhe scored off two Frankfurt turnovers as Smallwood once again did his bread and butter getting an offensive rebound and making a put back and Roessler hit a big three pointer. With a 1.30 to play teams exchanged free throws as Kiel and Richter scored and for BG Karlsruhe it was Kreis and Lescault that made free throws cutting the Frankfurt lead to 74-70. With 50 seconds remaining, BG Karlsruhe had three chances, but their offensive rebounds weren´t rewarded with points. Zeeb closed out the game with three free throws. “We got people the ball who we wanted to have take the shots, but at the end of the day, they didn´t fall for us. The ball just didn´t bounce our way. This happens in this sport. We will be back at practice Monday looking to get better”, stressed Jeremy Black. “Our inexperience showed a bit at the guard spots during their comeback at the end. BG Karlsruhe did a press and we didn´t come to terms with it. Garai Zeeb played a great game though. He was given a lot of responsibility early this season and still needs time to get used to it. They got offensive rebounds at the end and we were a bit tired, but we were a bit lucky at the end, played with good intensity and made our free throws”, added Fraport Skyliner forward Tim Oldenburg.
The Fraport Skyliners were led by Johannes Richter with 16 points. Garai Zeeb had 14 points and nine assists. Travis Thompson contributed 12 points and Lenny Okeke and Niklas Kiel chipped in with 11 points a piece. BG Karlsruhe was led by Rouven Roessler with 15 points and eight rebounds. Marcus Smallwood added 14 points and 13 rebounds and Hayden Lescault had 12 points. The Fraport Skyliners shot 48% from the field and 25% from outside while BG Karlsruhe shot 38% from the field and 29% from outside. BG Karlsruhe won the rebound duel 47-31, but had 17 turnovers while Frankfurt had 12 turnovers. “The biggest strength tonight was our energy and defense. If we can play with this intensity in every game then we will be in every game, because our good defense leads to our good offense”, warned Travis Thompson.