Basketball players usually remember their first and maybe even second professional games especially when they gave a good effort. It seems like it has been ages since Fraport Skyliners power forward Danilo Barthel was a rookie in the 2011-2012 season, but he got on the right track in his first two games at home against Oldenburg and on the road in Tuebingen scoring 8 points in each contest in limited minutes, but at once letting the German basketball world know that there is potent basketball coming from the historical city of Heidelberg. For Barthel playing on the front line squeezed between the eccentric ex NBA player Jermario Davidson who will be remembered for playing with his cell phone on the bench while being injured and possibly studying new rap lyrics at an away game in Tuebingen and the talented young German Tim Ohlbrecht who had already played his first Beko BBL game at age 17 with Leverkusen, won the German league title at age 19 with Bamberg and played at the 2008 Olympic games at age 20. After that his career stagnated a bit and seemed at a low point when he came to the Fraport Skyliners in 2011. After the wasted season in Frankfurt where he never really got going under the hard nosed head coach Muli Katzurin where he averaged 6,0ppg and 4,0rpg and was even humiliated having to play 4 Pro B games with the farm team. After that season, he knew he had to make a change in his career as it was going nowhere, so he decided to go to the United States and try his luck even if that seemed like a reach at the time. He worked hard during the summer of 2012 in New Jersey and then made it to the NBA via the D-league. He played 3 NBA games for the Houston Rockets and won 2 D-league titles with Rio Grande and Fort Wayne which was no easy feat. Last season he came back to Germany and laced up his sneakers with ratiopharm Ulm and averaged 12.1ppg, 5.3rpg, Blocks-5(1.2bpg). This season he took the bucks and went to Russia to Enisey and has been a key figure in their success as he is averaging 11,3ppg and ,4,0rpg while shooting a strong 65% from the field. Last season the 27 year old German played solid games against Frankfurt with Ulm posting 17 and 15 points. Ohlbrecht probably won´t remember the first two games of the 2011-2012 season where he put up the goose egg in the first two games against Oldenburg and Tuebingen, but Barthel will surely never forget those first two games where he put his first mini stamp on the Beko BBL with his rugged play. Ohlbrecht was looking for another title while Barthel was still looking for his first title and both were motivated to help get their teams going and into the coveted final on Sunday as the Fraport Skyliners needed a strong fourth quarter to grind out a dirty 59-56 win over Russian team Enisey and will face off against Italian team Varese on Sunday as they dispatched home team Chalon 91-82. It was another game where Ohlbrecht didn´t fair so well as he notched only three points in the loss. One got a feeling very quickly that it would be a grind out game as both teams focused on defense and just couldn´t get anything going on offense as players had a new obstacle to contend with the ball. “It was a dirty game get down fight to the end. Both teams really wanted to win, but it was difficult playing in a totally new gym and it was hard adjusting to the Molten balls since we are used to the Spaulding. We didn´t play well for three quarters. We were too excited in the first three quarters and we are supposed to be under control, but we missed too many easy lay ups and free throws, but in the fourth quarter we stuck to our principles moving the ball and playing great defense”, stressed ex Seton Hall guard Jordan Theodore. Enisey fought hard for 40 minutes, but in the fourth quarter got an extra dose of aggressive defense thrown in their face and were unable to tame the Frankfurt inside out game. “It was a real grind out game and the Frankfurt good team defense really helped them. They also did a good job getting fast break buckets and our transition defense hurt us. Frankfurt hit big shots at the end and we couldn´t make the plays which was the difference”, stressed ex George Washington(NCAA) guard Tony Taylor.
In the first semi-final, the arena atmosphere was breathtaking as the whole building was in a sea of white except for a small area of red that was occupied by the Varese fans. However the noise that was made it hard to understand the person next to you abruptly left after Chalon had lost and for the second semi-final between Frankfurt-Enisey the difference in the atmosphere in the areana was like Bamberg/Crailsheim in the Fraport arena. Both teams had to get used to the quieter arena and neither team could find a groove early as missed shots were making an early statement that would carry on through the game. Tony Taylor did get the Russian squad on the board early as the Fraport Skyliners were struck out in their first four possessions until German national player Danilo Barthel made a tip in. Frankfurt was rewarded right away with another basket after a Taylor turnover as other German national player Johannes Voigtmann made a hard dunk as Ohlbrecht was too late on the steal attempt off the quick Aaron Doornekamp feed as the Fraport Skyliners led 4-3. Then it was Taylor again who scored, but he demonstrated his versatility as he sped inside for the easy lay in and 6-5 advantage. The Fraport Skyliners then used their biggest weapon their defense which sparked their transition game as they caused three consecutive turnovers which led to transition baskets from Theodore, 2010 Eurochallenge winner John Little and a crushing Mike Morrison dunk as Frankfurt led 10-5. This spark of energy was brought by bench players Little and Morrison who had just checked in before the 6-0 run. However after a turnover and hurried shots by Frankfurt, it was Enisey that used it to their advantage ending the first quarter on a 7-0 run to lead 12-10 as ex Unics Kazan guard Pavel Sergeev and ex NBA player DJ Kennedy nailed free throws and Taylor ended the first quarter with a trey. “In these type of playoff games, teams step up their defensive intensity. Both teams noticed early that they weren´t hitting shots, but both wanted to win very badly”, stressed Fraport Skyliners guard Phillip Scrubb. Enisey were shooting 25% from the field and 28% from outside while the Fraport Skyliners were shooting 31% from the field and 0% from outside. Frankfurt had the 12-8 rebound edge and had five turnovers while Enisey had six turnovers.
The second quarter stayed very tight as defense continued to be the main course on the menu as no club could stimulate their offense and break away from one another. German Konstantin Klein got Frankfurt on the board first in the second frame with a pull up jumper and Morrison made one free throw after having missed his first three attempts. But Enisey continued to find ways to get in the lane as the speed of Taylor once again struck Frankfurt for the easy bucket as Enisey led 15-13. However the Fraport Skyliners then had their best offensive rhythm of the game at that points going on a destructive 7-0 run to take the 22-15 lead as they once again showed that basketball is a game of runs. In the offensive explosion, Frankfurt got massive production from Morrison who made two hard two handed dunks, Canadian national player Aaron Doornekamp hit a trey and Scrubb nailed free throws. The run was paced by the arrival of Jordan Theodore back into the game as he brought calmness and that energy to the defense while Enisey was hurrying their offense too much and Frankfurt got into the passing lanes well. However in basketball one run is quickly matched by the opponent as Einsey silenced the Frankfurt run with a 6-0 run with consecutive three pointers from Sergeev and Kennedy cutting the Frankfurt advantage to 22-21. After Voigtmann free throws, it was Sergeev that hit another trey to dead lock the game at 24-24. The runs between both clubs continued to bounce back and forth as Frankfurt cruised out on a 6-0 run as Theodore felt it was time to take charge again as he went coast to coast for an easy lay up and nailed free throws and barthel also connected on free throws as Frankfurt led 30-24. Frankfurt couldn´t hold the momentum into halftime as Enisey closed out the second quarter with a 5-0 run as 27 year old Russian Artem Yakovenko nailed a trey and Taylor hit a 10 footer. “Both teams had their runs and the game stayed close, but it´s hard to pull away when teams aren´t executing”, stressed ex Carleton guard Phillip Scrubb. The Fraport Skyliners were shooting 31% from the field and 11% from the three point line while Enisey was shooting 34% from the field and 37% from the three point line. Frankfurt had the 20-18 rebound edge and seven turnovers while Enisey had 14 turnovers.
The third quarter remained an ugly battle where offense continued to be set aside while the defense was the main priority as Enisey was able to hold the lead after 30 minutes. The Fraport Skyliners got on the board first as a Danilo Barthel offensive rebound gave Doornekamp a second try and nailed a three pointer for the 33-29 Frankfurt lead. Enisey missed on their first three possessions until ex Avtodor guard Alexy Vtdykhalkin nailed a three pointer. Frankfurt got some needed punch from Voigtmann with a trey to extend the Frankfurt lead to 36-31, but Enisey had their outside shooting on tap as Kennedy and Vzdykhalkin nailed back to back three pointers to take the 37-36. Enisey was taking advantage of too many easy misses by Frankfurt that they should of made and they got valuable input from Vzdykhalkin. Whenever the game was very close or seemed like it could turn in the other direction, it was Theodore that took control getting an easy layup via the coast to coast sprint and made free throws to give Frankfurt the 39-37 lead. Then it was Jordan Theodore friend and work horse Delroy James who scored back to back buckets inside to give Enisey the 41-39 lead. James stayed cold the whole night going 3/13, but was respectful in defeat. “It is always a pleasure to play against Jordan Theodore. He played very well. He is an MVP candidate in Germany and I am very happy for him”, added Delroy James. Enisey held on to the momentum that James had started and ended the third quarter with a 4-0 run to lead 45-39 as Yakovenko made a thrusting dunk over Doornekamp and Sergeev hit free throws. “We missed many easy shots in the third quarter and it was frustrating, but we tried not to dwell on it and focus on the next play”, added Phillip Scrubb. Enisey was shooting 37% from the field and 38% from the parking lot while the Fraport Skyliners were shooting 27% from the field and 17% from the parking lot. Frankfurt had the 31-27 rebound edge and 12 turnovers while Enisey had 19 turnovers.
The Fraport Skyliners finally broke out of their offensive lull in the fourth quarter going on a run early taking the momentum and never looking back. Frankfurt didn´t let the six point Enisey lead distract them as they quickly rushed out on a 9-0 run to retake the lead48-45. Frankfurt looked to Voigtmann early as he scored five consecutive points, three via the free throw line and once on the two handed stuff. Theodore also scored inside showing again that when all seems dark and gloomy, all he has to do is switch on the light and there is instant production in the lane. “I missed many easy shots in the game. I don´t know if what it was, but coach stressed that we should go inside and did. Once we had that run, we knew that we could keep it if we played patiently on defense”, stressed Johannes Voigtmann. After Enisey surprised Frankfurt with a Taylor to Ohlbrecht alley-oop offering to cut the Frankfurt lead to 48-47, Frankfurt supplied the closing blow with a 9-1 run to extend their lead to 57-48. In the run, Frankfurt got two huge three pointers from Scrubb and a massive dunk from Voigtmann who got Ohlbrecht in the air on the base line, tip toed around him to the hoop for the easy bucket as James was too late on the rotation. Enisey did close out the game with 8-2 run that was supplied by Sergeev and Kennedy three pointers, but Frankfurt had the too big lead and made the slim reading 59-56 result a lot closer than it really was. “Voigtmann didn´t make some easy baskets and I didn´t think he was frustrated. We just felt at the start of the fourth quarter, the point of empathise was to get him the ball and have me get guys the ball and open looks. Scrubb made two big buckets and we played good inside out basketball. They have three good Americans that play good 1-1. We contained Taylor in the second half and tried to crowd Kennedy and James and did. Instead of them playing 1-1, they played 5-5”, added Jordan Theodore. The Fraport Skyliners were led by Johannes Voigtmann with 16 points and seven rebounds while Jordan Theodore had 12 points, seven assists, four rebounds and five steals. Enisey was led by Pavel Sergeev with 13 points while Tony Taylor and DJ Kennedy added 12 points a piece. The Fraport Skyliners shot 31% from the field and 23% from outside while Enisey shot 35% from the field and 38% from outside. Frankfurt won the rebound duel 42-34 and had 15 turnovers while Enisey coughed up the ball 24 times. The Fraport Skyliners next play Italian club Enisey and know that it will be another battle to get that third club title. “They are an impressive team. They have some very good guards with Wayns and Wright who know how to attack. IT will be a tough game, but we will play team defense. We want a tough game, not an easy game”, warned Jordan Theodore.