When one puts the two basketball terms Fraport Skyliners and Artland Dragons together, one can look back at a very interesting and at times exciting basketball history dating from 2004-2015 as there were some spectacular games like their 87-75 OT win in 2009 where Skyliner legend Pascal Roller steered 26 points, or the high scoring type football classic as both teams opted for defense, but Frankfurt came out of the trenches as the victor 49-44 or in the Dashaun MVP season in 2010-2011 where they won 82-57 at Artland as AJ Moye led the way with 18 points and ex NBA player Roger Powell left all fans oohing with a hard crushing dunk or even the 2004-2005 playoff series where Frankfurt won a tight series paving the road for their encounter with Alba Berlin in the semi finals and finals loss to the Brose Baskets Bamberg. However in 2016 instead of seeing the likes of guys like Toby Bailey, David Holston, Tyrese Rice or Darren Fenn, fans can watch lesser known players like Austin Steed, Benjamin Fumey or David Watson in the smaller BCM training facility instead of the 5000 seat Fraport arena. The Beko BBL team Artland Dragons are no more, but only a distant memory as the club surprisingly closed shop last season. However the club never totally died as it arose from the ashes like a Phoenix bird and have played this season in the German Pro B. The Artland Dragons led by head coach Dragan Dojcin who played three season with Alba Berlin helped the team achieve a 12-10 record and sixth place finish in the Pro north standings which gave them a meeting with the Fraport Skyliners Juniors in the best of three playoff series. Even if there are different players on board and a gym like atmosphere, it is still the fascinating sport of basketball with many talented German players on both sides and ambitious American players looking to develop their game. The Fraport Skyliners Juniors had the home court advantage and took the commanding 1-0 lead in the best of three playoff series with a come from behind 80-75 victory in OT. It was an intense game as the 170 fans from Quackenbruck that made the trip made the usual quietness of the BCM into the noise level of a bustling central train station in a big city. Frankfurt played catch up basketball in the first half, but came back as the second half became a defensive affair and in OT Frankfurt took advantage of two Artland defensive lapses that Tomas Dimsa and Niklas Kiel used to nail baskets. “The atmosphere was very intense which helped the intensity of the game. Both teams played very hard and gave their all”, stressed Fraport Skyliners Juniors center Johannes Richter. “Frankfurt is a very good team and had good ball movement. That intentional foul at the end was key and changed the game. We need to be smarter at the end. We should of attacked their bigs more”, added ex Texas Tech guard Javarez Willis.
Both teams found their offensive rhythm quickly in the first quarter as the Frankfurt baby twin towers combined for the first Frankfurt bucket as Niklas Kiel fed Johannes Richter high for the tip in. However the Artland Dragons raced out on a 5-0 run as ex Hamburg Towers forward Benjamin Fumey scored inside and Willis hit a trey on the fast break. Frankfurt recovered nicely and smothered Artland with a 5-0 run as German Max Merz slid inside for the easy lay in and Alaska native Travis Thompson dropped a three pointer for the 7-5 advantage. The game continued to be wrapped in runs as Artland responded going on a 5-0 run to take the 10-7 lead as American Austin Bragg who hails from Washington made a tip in and Willis hit a 15 footer pull up jumper. Richter then nailed a trey over Austin Steed to dead lock the contest at 10-10. Artland then hit Frankfurt with a three point attack getting back to back three´s from Fumey and Willis. However Frankfurt got in come back mode early and would need to be alert many times not losing focus. Richter hit another three pointer to cut the Artland lead to 16-14, but Fumey was heating up and connected on a hook shot and another three pointer as Frankfurt trailed 21-14. After Thompson free throws, it was Fumey again making a bank shot and Merz closed out the first quarter with a lay in as the Artland Dragons led 23-18. “The first quarter was quite even with two very good teams battling in a playoff atmosphere. Artland was getting the 1-1 baskets while Frankfurt was playing more team basketball”, stressed Fraport Skyliner Phillip Scrubb. The Artland Dragons were shooting 64% from the field and 67% from outside while the Fraport Skyliners Juniors were shooting 32% from the field and 33% from outside. Frankfurt had the 10-9 rebound edge and three turnovers while Artland had five turnovers.
In the second quarter, the Fraport Skyliners Juniors allowed two Artland Dragons runs, but were able to keep their composure each time and battle back and go into halftime trailing only 40-39. Paderborn native Marius Nolte got Frankfurt on the board first being aggressive hauling down an offensive rebound and making the put back as Frankfurt trailed only 23-20. However Artland got on the board fast as Willis then used a miss match against Nolte and raced by him for the lay in and Bragg made a tip in dunk as Artland led 27-20. Frankfurt then got some an instant shooting push from Kiel and Gara Zeeb as they hit three pointers as Artland led only 27-26. However every time when Frankfurt got close again, Artland could pull away again as Willis and ex BG Karlsruhe guard David Watson hit back to back three pointers giving Artland the 36-29 advantage. Willis at 180cm demonstrated his unbelievable self confidence, audacity and knack of being able to challenge 206cm Johannes Richter and hit over him on more than one occasion during the game. “I have a quick release and I watch my defenders feet. I had the feeling that Richter didn´t know when I would shoot or drive”, stated Javarez Willis. “Fumey hit some three´s and we had to switch more which gave me the Willis mismatch often. He is hard to cover and can hit shots. At times I felt like he was Steph Curry out there. When I put my hand up, he used that against me and drove past me”, stressed Johannes Richter. Down the stretch, it was the continued hot shooting of Richter which propelled Frankfurt back as he nailed two trey´s as Frankfurt trailed only 38-36. In the last minute of the second quarter, it was ex Nordlingen Giant Austin Steed that hit a jumper and Merz made some free throws as Frankfurt went into the break trailing 40-39. “Richter kept Frankfurt in his game with his shooting. When one of best shooters is shooting like that, it gives the rest of the team confidence”, stressed Canadian Phillip Scrubb. “The Artland Dragons were shooting 52% from the field and 47% from the three point line while the Fraport Skyliners Juniors were shooting 35% from the field and 44% from the three point line. Frankfurt had the 21-15 rebound lead and both teams had five turnovers a piece.
The third quarter was very tight, but the Artland Dragons were able to close out the third quarter with a 10-0 run to lead 60-53. Both teams upped their defensive intensity as there was less spacing and more contested shots which limited the points and lowered the shooting percentages. Willis was hit with his fourth foul early and wouldn´t return again in the third quarter, but Artland played very well without him. Fumey started the second half scoring in bunches with a three pointer and lay in and Frankfurt twice tied up the score with a Richter three pointer and Merz free throws to dead lock the game at 45-45. Then it was time for sharp shooter Alexander Goolsby who played three Beko BBL games for TBB Trier to nail a bomb from downtown, but on this day, it wasn´t the usual consistent shooting of a Thompson, but Richter that tied the score again at 48-48 with his sixth trey of the game. Then instead of Artland taking the lead again, it was Frankfurt as Frankfurt took the 50-48 lead as Tomas Dimsa who had been very quiet scored inside and ex ratiopharm Ulm center Alexander Heide who got his first BBL experience at age 16 tied the score at 50-50 with a lay in. Then it was Thompson and Bragg trading three pointers as the game was deadlocked 53-53. Bragg saved his best for the last minute as he followed up his trey scoring seven more unanswered points as he was unstoppable. Bragg was all over the court snatching an offensive rebound and making a put back, then stealing an inbounds pass under the Frankfurt bucket and making the easy lay in and then making like a guard and penetrating hard to the hole form the free throw line and finishing with authority as Frankfurt seemed shocked and behind 60-53 after 30 minutes. “The team is good with or without me. We still had the same principles with me out making good ball movement. Ghebreigziabiher did a good job with me out. I was never worried when I was out. We made the needed run at the end”, stressed Javarez Willis. “We didn´t adjust well when Willis was off the court. They hit open three pointers and went on a run at the end”, added Johannes Richter. The Artland Dragons were shooting 52% from the field and 48% from the parking lot while the Fraport Skyliners were shooting 36% from the field and 43% from the parking lot. Both teams had 26 rebounds a piece, but Artland had 10 turnovers and Frankfurt eight turnovers.
In the fourth quarter, the Fraport Skyliners Juniors fought back taking the game into OT. The Fraport Skyliners Juniors knew that they only had 10 minutes remaining and were down seven points, but didn´t waste any time in their comeback and they quickly stomped on Artland going on a 4-0 run as they became more aggressive inside as Richter scored hard inside over Heide and Steed and Tim Oldenburg made a floater as Frankfurt cut the Artland lead to 60-57 and had stopped the first four offensive possessions of their opponent. Willis returned back into the game at the 7.45 minute mark and quickly scored inside with a left handed lay in as Artland led 62-57. This didn´t faze Frankfurt as they shocked Artland going on a 7-0 run to take the 64-62 lead. In the run, they got an important trey from Merz and continued to be active inside as Richter made a dunk and Oldenburg a lay in. Despite key player Fumey fouling out, it motivated Willis to take control even more as he made a lay in and then riffled home his fourth three pointer and another tough shot over Richter falling to his left as Artland led 67-64. The turning point of the game came with a minute left in regulation as German Alexander Heide was hit with a flagrant foul. Thompson made three free throws to put the game at 67-67. The last shot of Watson was blocked sending the game into OT. “We continued to work hard and play to our strength. The Heide foul was key for us getting the game into OT”, stressed Johannes Richter. “We had some defensive breakdowns. I wasn´t able to control the game better”, expressed Javarez Willis. The Fraport Skyliners Juniors were shooting 37% from the field and 39% from outside while the Artland Dragons were shooting 44% from the field and 38% from outside. Frankfurt had the 36-34 rebound edge and 11 turnovers while Artland had 12 turnovers.
In the OT period, both teams had five team fouls and were going back and forth getting to the line as Heide and Willis hit free throws and Kiel made free throws. Then it was time for the Dimsa show as he made a lay in to tie the game at 71-71. Bragg then scored inside giving Artland their last lead at 73-71. Frankfurt then hit Artland with a burst of offense as Dimsa finally hit his first three pointe ron the night on his seventh attempt of the night and Kiel followed with a lay in giving Frankfurt the 76-73 advantage. Bragg would get one more tip in, but Frankfurt closed out the game with free throws from Richter and Thompson. “Dimsa is a great shooter as are all form Lithuania. If he misses six three pointers in a row then there is a good chance he will hit his seventh. Kiel then used the mismatch against Willis and scored. The game then was our side”, smiled Johannes Richter. The Fraport Skyliners were led by Johannes Richter with 27 points. Max Merz added 16 points and Travis Thompson chipped in with 13 points. The Artland Dragons were led by Javarez Willis with 24 points. Benjamin Fumey added 17 points and Austin Bragg contributed 16 points and 14 rebounds. The Fraport Skyliners Juniors shot 38% from the field and 39% from outside while the Artland Dragons shot 42% from the field and 32% from outside. Frankfurt won the rebound duel 44-38 and both teams had 14 turnovers a piece. The Fraport Skyliners Juniors head to Artland next weekend to wrap up the series. “I am looking forward to game two. I had my first BBL points with Frankfurt at Artland. The atmosphere is always good there as the people are close to the court. We have to play our game, defend better against Willis and Fumey and take away easy shots”, expressed Johannes Richter.