Almost three months ago, the Fraport Skyliners Juniors and Dresden Titans met in a clash in Frankfurt that the home team barely won 90-86. If someone had told Eric Detlev that these two teams would meet again in the semi-finals of the playoffs, he probably would have been a bit reserved and remained conservative and came up with a witty remark, but probably wouldn´t have thought that it could be possible. Dresden had just dismissed their coach and brought in fire man Steven Clauss who had had the same duty a season ago not only saving the Hebeisen White Wings Hanau from the Regionaliga, but bringing them into the playoffs. So with that history a known fact, having a Clauss on board in Dresden was the best thing that ever could have happened. Since that nail bitter in Frankfurt, the Dresden Titans have become the little darlings of the pro B together with the Giants Nordlingen as it collected nine wins out of their last 10 including two do or die wins against Rostock, the team Clauss bowed out to last season with Hanau in a bitter three game series and then just dismantled top Pro B south team BG Karlsruhe as if it was second nature. Dresden hasn´t just done it with top point guard Randall Holt and work horse David Sturner under the glass, but with a 12 man rotation where every German has their defined role and have gotten extreme support from Phillip Lieser, Walter Simon and Daniel Krause. Clauss has been able to install team togetherness for 40 minutes no matter what and kept their offense consistent as it has never scored below 80 points since his arrival at the start of 2016. Dresden and Clauss now were seeking revenge against the Fraport Skyliners Juniors who had won both battles in the regular season by a combined score of only eight points. Clauss was back in his old living room where he used to work together with Murat Didin back in the day and now was in upset mode again as the Fraport Skyliners Juniors were next on the menu, but like in February got a rude welcome home as his team battled for 40 minutes, but had to duel without key players David Sturner and Walter Simon while Frankfurt had their star ensemble on board and Niklas Kiel in beast mode. The Fraport Skyliners Juniors were never really threatened as they played a strong game for 40 minutes and got some extra motivation watching the A team dismantle Oldenburg the night before. “It´s always nice to watch the BBL team and you can learn by watching so when we come out we try to do what they did. As a rookie I try to suck up as much as possible. We had a good first quarter, but got too comfortable in the second quarter. We came out in the second half and executed better and moved the ball better. Richter and Kiel had a strong second half and Tim Oldenburg also stepped up. It is always nice when you have that kind of support from the big men”, stressed Alaska native and Fraport Skyliner Junior Travis Thompson. The Dresden Titans fought well for 40 minutes, but it was clear that there was an obvious class difference with the personnel on the court. “The Fraport Skyliners Juniors clearly deserved to win this game. There is always that borderline between how many mistakes you can make. Frankfurt defended well and played smart offense and we didn´t have that. We had some chances, but we didn´t finish well on transition”, stressed Dresden Titans head coach Steven Clauss.
In the first few minutes of the game, there were three lead changes as both teams were feeling each other out, but the Dresden Titans had the early lead 10-6. Dresden got valuable production from their Germans as Max Von der Wippel and Philipp Lieser got buckets as well as 203cm forward ex Spot Up Medien Baskets Forward Marc Niagora as they were getting production inside. Frankfurt got a trey from Travis Thompson and Johannes Richter and German Daniel Krause who played 27 BBL games with SC Rasta Vechta nailed a jumper as Dresden looked in good shape, but then out of the blue, the Fraport Skyliners started to excel with their at times unstoppable offense thrust and when it gets going, it is difficult to control and stop. Frankfurt rolled of an amazing 22-6 run which totally paralyzed the Dresden Titans and led comfortably 28 to 12 after one quarter. In the run, the Fraport Skyliners demonstrated first class ball movement always finding open shooters as the Dresden rotating was stalling. Frankfurt got two clutch three pointers from Thompson, but also from Lithuanian Tomas Dimsa and German Lennart Okeke. They also divided their inside out play getting points in the paint as Kiel scored twice and also hit free throws. Ex Bremerhaven guard Garai Zeeb also scored a layup and ex Ludwigsburg guard Stefan Ilzhoefer connected on a turnaround shot. Frankfurt was defending very aggressively and also clogged up the lane as Dresden wasn´t getting inside as easily anymore as the first few minutes of the contest. “Frankfurt played very good basketball and hit their three pointers. Frankfurt also got easy baskets while Dresden couldn´t handle the aggressive Frankfurt defense”, expressed Fraport Skyliners U-14 coach Igor Starcevic. The Fraport Skyliners Juniors were shooting 56% from the field and 50% from outside while the Dresden Titans were shooting 35% from the field and 0% from outside. Frankfurt had the 10-7 rebound edge and had five turnovers while Dresden had seven turnovers.
In the second quarter, the Dresden Titans were able to combat the Frankfurt onslaught of the first quarter and claw their way back into the game. Max Merz got Frankfurt on the board first in the second quarter with a fingertip role extending the Frankfurt lead to 30-12, but the Dresden Titans then shot a shock wave through the body of Fraport Skyliners Juniors head coach Eric Detlev as they suddenly displayed that firepower on offense that Frankfurt usually shows going on a furious 15-5 run cutting the Frankfurt advantage to 35-27. In the run, they got valuable buckets from 21 year old 207cm center Max Von Der Wippel who continued to be very aggressive inside and a bang, bang, bang effect from Andrew Jones who fired home three three pointers in a row. Jones who has always been a scorer throughout his career as 25,7ppg as a rookie with Dresden in the Regionaliga and 18,2ppg and 17,8ppg two other seasons is having his worst scoring season as a professional coming into the game averaging 9,1ppg, but he is always good to explode. “I think the last time that I hit three in a row like that was last season with Aschersleben and in preseason. I can be a spark plug from time to time”, smiled Andrew Jones. Dresden continued to play at a level of high intensity on offense as Ohio native Randall Holt escaped for two buckets in the lane cutting the Frankfurt lead to 37-32. It seemed like Dresden might really be over the hump, but Thompson put a little dagger in the rapid Dresden comeback attempt coming to the rescue with two clutch three pointers keeping Dresden at bay and Johannes Richter made a dunk as Frankfurt led 45-34. However the Dresden Titans continued to fight and closed out the second quarter in fine fashion going on a 6-4 run to trail 49-40 at the break. Von Der Wippel also showed that he has some old school moves unveiling a hook shot, Holt sneaked inside again for a quick bucket and ex Central Washington(NCAA2) guard Lieser drained free throws. Frankfurt got a spectacular alley-oop dunk from Richter as Merz served up the perfect feed and little used blond hair blue eyed Konstantin Schubert made a tap in. “Jones hurt Frankfurt making three three pointers in two minutes making Frankfurt having to go more in the set play and making the game more even. Dresden got some good support von Max Von Der Wippel on the pick and roll, but honestly it was hard for Dresden to compete against this team that was like a Pro A level team”, stressed ex Lich head coach Igor Starcevic. The Fraport Skyliners Juniors were shooting 53% from the field and 45% from the three point line while the Dresden titans were shooting 46% from the field and 31% from the three point line. Frankfurt had the 19-15 rebound edge and had 10 turnovers while Dresden had eight turnovers.
In the third quarter, the Fraport Skyliners Juniors offensive arsenal became too overwhelming as they were able to extend their lead to plus 20 while the Dresden Titans couldn´t muster much on offense to stay in the game. Frankfurt opened up the second half just executing on offense while the Dresden Titans just watched going on a 19-4 run taking the very comfortable 69-44 lead. In the run, Frankfurt finally switched on Niklas Kiel and beast mode as he went to work inside seemingly being more aggressive than in the first half scoring three times any which way he wanted to and also hit a three pointer. Frankfurt also got needed production from Richter with a lay in, Merz lay in, Dimsa coast to coast sprint and lay in and Thompson free throws. This broke the back of Dresden, but they still continued to fight as they escaped out on a 6-0 run to cut the Frankfurt lead to 69-50 as Lieser hit a trey and Atlanta native Jones a lay in and free throw. However the beast mode of Kiel continued as he got two more buckets inside roaming the offensive glass and making put backs as Frankfurt led 74-58. Frankfurt continued to destroy Dresden inside as Dimsa and Okeke also added points in the paint as the Fraport Skyliners Juniors led 78-55 after three quarters. “Coach told us at halftime not to get complacent and just execute. You always have your ups and downs, but you always have to come together as a team. We swung the ball well and continued to get good shots”, stressed Travis Thompson. “We had the same situation as the first game in Frankfurt down by nine, but this time we couldn´t come back. I didn´t start off the third quarter well with a turnover. When your down, you need a spark and make the best of our opportunities, but we didn´t do that. You need to have a strong attitude when your down, but we didn´t have it”, stressed Andrew Jones. The Fraport Skyliners Juniors were shooting 55% from the field and 35% from the parking lot while the Dresden Titans were shooting 41% from the field and 24% from the parking lot. Frankfurt had the 31-24 rebound edge and 13 turnovers while Dresden had 15 turnovers.
In the fourth quarter, the Dresden Titans came together better and rattled off 26 points, but it wasn´t enough even if Frankfurt mustered only 16 points. Frankfurt got good production from Tim Oldenburg who saw his first minutes of the game in the fourth quarter and Konstantin Schubert continued to be very active on the glass as he finished with eight rebounds including five offensive rebounds. Dresden broke out on a quick 8-2 run to cut the Frankfurt advantage to 80-64 as Jones connected on two more three pointers and ex BBC White Devil Cottbus forward Max Jentisch made a fast break layup. Dresden just couldn´t get closer as the vast array of talent that Frankfurt possesses continued to make buckets as a Zeeb scored inside as did Tim Oldenburg twice extending the Frankfurt lead 86-68. Holt then scored inside again, but Dresden was losing energy on the defensive end and Frankfurt continued to make open shots as Thompson nailed his sixth trey of the game extending the Frankfurt lead to 89-71. Dresden made one last push in the last minutes going on a 8-2 run to cut the Frankfurt lead to 91-79 as Von Der Wippel annoyed Frankfurt two more times inside with buckets, Holt went coast to coast after getting a steal and scoring and quiet Daniel Krause also nailed a jumper. Kiel then nailed a three pointer which ultimately iced the win for Frankfurt. 21 year old 181cm German guard Cliff Goncalo ended the game with a lay in. “Dresden did a good job coming back, but they got tired, were without two players and four guys logged 30 plus minutes. We wore them down in the fourth quarter”, stressed Travis Thompson. “My adrenaline was high and I was worried about cutting down the lead and not if I was tired. We couldn´t limit our mistakes and they made us pay. We went on a little run, but they went off on us again”, stressed Andrew Jones.
The Fraport Skyliners Juniors were led by Niklas Kiel with 24 points and 11 rebounds. Travis Thompson added 20 points while Johannes Richter 13 points, four rebounds and four assists. The Dresden Titans were led by Andrew Jones with 22 points. Randall Holt added 20 points and Max Von Der Wippel chipped in with ten points. The Fraport Skyliners Juniors shot 51% from the field and 31% from outside while the Dresden Titans shot 45% from the field and 27% from outside. Frankfurt won the rebound battle 42-32, but coughed up the ball 20 times while Dresden did 18 times. The Dresden Titans will face a do or die game next weekend at home, but have won twice this season against Rostock and Frankfurt will be undermined as half the team will be in Chalon, France with the BBL team Fraport Skyliners as they attempt to bring the third club title back to Germany in the Fiba Europe Cup. “We are strong at home and will have David Sturner back. We won´t take them lightly. Whoever they bring, we will play them as if it was their first team. We are looking to come back to Frankfurt”, warned Andrew Jones. A key figure in game two will be Travis Thompson who will have to step up as he will be the central scoring figure. “I don´t find my shots, but play within the system. I won´t feel like I have to score next weekend, but we will need to play as a team. I will look for open shots and just play hard. We will go out have fun and let the chips fall. If we win then that will be amazing”, added Travis Thompson.