One of the most difficult things for a professional team that carries double license players is when the two teams have conflicting schedules that hit each other at the same time. When that does happen, it is never an easy task for the head coach to juggle changing rosters. For Fraport Skyliners Juniors head coach Eric Detlev having to confront these problems has been something of getting used to, but since his arrival in 2012, he has had enough practice trying to master it. Recently the club had that problem and were chewed up and spit out in Weissenhorn 107-38 where one may have thought from the score that it was men playing among elderly men. However sometimes even in a brief time, you can learn from your mistakes and come back the next time under similar circumstances and play with a lot more spirt, heart and possibly hitting a few more shots and witness eye popping results. Last weekend, Beko BBL team Fraport Skyliners were on the road in Chalon, France looking to win their third club title, while the Pro B team Frankfurt Juniors were looking to move into the final with a win in Dresden. With the danger of getting an injury, it was no secret that Gordon Herbert would take every available player and did with Johannes Richter, Max Merz and Tomas Dimsa who weren´t available to the pro B team. Having these players in France left Eric Detlev a depleted team in Dresden that have one of the best crowds in the league. Guys like Niklas Kiel and Stefan Ilzhoefer who contributed to the Fiba Europe Cup success playing 4 games surely had Chalon in their thoughts at one time or another, but blocked that out in Dresden and stepped up with the team winning 96-94. What made the win even more spectacular was that despite having a 22 point lead in the second half and then letting Dresden come back and cut the lead down to two points with under a minute to go, they buckled down and won the game. Ilzhoefer, Kiel and co were the hero´s of Dresden while 24 hours later, the organization was celebrating the hero´s of Chalon as they took the cup back to Germany. In the Pro B final which is a two game series, the hero´s of Chalon were in the stands cheering on the hero´s of Dresden, but they had to play against the powerful Ehingen team that had swept the Giants Nordlingen in the semi-finals. The Fraport Skyliners Juniors knew that they had to lay the foundation in game one, if they were to have any chance in game two and were able to muster a 77-72 victory. “It was a tough game. We went on a run in the first quarter and they did in the second quarter. It came down to the last five minutes where some balls went our way and we came out with the five point win. Johannes Richter carried us and played great. They gave him 3-4 dribbles and all he had to do was flip the ball in the basket. They let him play like that and we gladly took it”, stressed Fraport Skyliners Juniors guard Travis Thompson. Even if Ehingen lost by five points, all they have to do in game two to win the 2016 Pro B title is win by more than five points and probably will not have to face Richter who will be on the bench in Frankfurt against Alba Berlin in game one of the Beko BBL playoffs. “It was a great game and Frankfurt was very physical. We knew that they have a very good big man with Richter and good guard play. We tried to limit the touches of Richter, but he played smart and strong”, added Ehingen guard Devon Moore.
The BCM gym was filled nicely with quite a few Ehingen fans on hand, but they received a rude greeting as the Fraport Skyliners Juniors didn´t waste any time jumping all over the team of head coach Domenik Reinboth leading quickly 9-2. American rookie Daniel Berger got Ehingen on the board first with a lay in as German Maxi Eisele fed him the perfect pass. Frankfurt then scored four consecutive buckets as German Max Merz made a lay in, Euroleague veteran Tomas Dimsa nailed a three pointer and Richter got going fast executing on two baby hook shots. Frankfurt did a fine job getting Richter involved early and they defended aggressive early not letting Ehingen into their comfort zone on offense. Ehingen then did get some buckets from ex TV Langen forward Tobias Jahn and Devon Moore, but on offense Frankfurt was still continuing to execute at ease as Richter made a 15 footer from the wing and Dimsa hit a trey as Frankfurt led 14-8. Frankfurt continued to dominate the paint area as they got three more field goals as Richter scored two more times finishing the first quarter with 10 points and four rebounds and Paderborn native Marius Nolte made an offensive rebound and put back as Frankfurt led 20-11 after one quarter. “Richter really played very well and dominated inside, but Frankfurt still gave up too many offensive rebounds”, stressed Dresden Titans head coach Steven Clauss. The Fraport Skyliners Juniors were shooting 56% from the field and 29% from outside while Ehingen was shooting 21% from the field and 0% from outside. Frankfurt had the 13-10 rebound edge, but three turnovers while Ehingen had 0 turnovers.
In the second quarter, Ehingen finally found their rhythm on offense and also got out on transition more getting easy buckets and making the game close and exciting. Ehingen had a superb start to the second quarter going on a 8-2 run to cut the Frankfurt advantage to 22-19. In the run, Ehingen was fortified by Daniel Berger with a lay in and quick guard Zaire Thompson who played at Fordham(NCAA) last season scored twice on the fast break as he caught Frankfurt napping. Ehingen continued to have a solid offensive rhythm and despite Frankfurt getting production from Richter and a trey by Stefan Ilzhoefer, they were able to tie the game at 27-27 as Zaire Thompson hurt Frankfurt again on transition with an easy bucket, Daniel Berger scored in the paint and big man Timo Volk made a lay in. On the play, Daniel Berger made an amazing pass with his back to the basket and fired it over his shoulder in Larry Bird manner as if he had eyes in the back of his head which landed perfect in the German big man´s hands. Ehingen then got the lead back for the first time since 2-0 when Berger hit free throws and Moore made a lay in as Frankfurt trailed 31-27. One should never underestimate the brutal scoring capability of Frankfurt as Travis Thompson scored his first trey of the game followed by an Ilzhoefer bomb as Frankfurt captured the lead back at 33-31. Ehingen then tied the game with a Moore turn around shot over Merz and trey by 37 year old ex Tuebingen guard Radivoj Tomasevic to take the 36-33 lead, but Dimsa nailed a three to tie the score at 36-36 at halftime. “Ehingen did a good job getting on transition and getting easy baskets. Daniel Berger also got his game going and Devon Moore took advantage of his one on one qualities”, expressed Dresden Titans head coach Steven Clauss. The Fraport Skyliners Juniors were shooting 48% from the field and 35% from the three point line while Ehingen was shooting 41% from the field and 10% from the three point line. Ehingen had the 20-19 rebound edge and 0 turnovers while Frankfurt had four turnovers.
After an offensive lightning strike in the second quarter that produced 41 points, the third quarter had somewhat of a power outage as both teams mustered only 23 points combined. The game stayed very tight as no team ever had more than a three point lead, but the Fraport Skyliners Juniors never relinquished the lead in the thrid quarter. After being limited from the paint area 2014 NBBL rookie of the year Niklas Kiel broke free down low scoring twice giving Frankfurt the 42-39 advantage. Ehingen did a super job whenever Frankfurt scored to match them with points. After a Jahn bucket, it was Ilzhoefer breaking free inside scoring giving Frankfurt the 44-41 advantage. Daniel Berger then tied the score with a three pointer testing his 35% shooting from downtown. Richter scored again with his beloved weapon the baby hook shot, but Moore closed out the defensive orientated third quarter with a floater as the Fraport Skyliners Juniors led 48-47. “Both teams locked down on defense. We got a lot of good shots, but they just didn´t want to fall. When we are in a situation like that we rely on our defense to keep us in the game”, added Alaska native Travis Thompson. “It was an ugly game where both teams stepped up on defense. At this point of the season we have to shoot better. We shot only 17% from outside which was the worst this season”, added Devon Moore. The Fraport Skyliners Juniors were shooting 49% from the field and 32% from the parking lot while Ehingen was shooting 38% from the field and 15% from the parking lot. Both teams had 26 rebounds a piece, but Frankfurt had nine rebounds and Ehingen two.
Both teams saved their best for last as in the fourth quarter they exchanged 11 lead changes, but in the last two minutes, the Fraport Skyliners Juniors were able to keep their calm and nerves to pull out the victory. German Timo Volk did a good job in the first few minutes getting Ehingen the lead twice with buckets inside, but Richter and Merz free throws gave Frankfurt the lead back 54-51. Then Frankfurt got a shock as Niklas Kiel fouled out. This led to a Volk lay in and the sixth lead change of the fourth quarter. Zaire Thompson had displayed exceptional court vision on the play finding the German in traffic. Richter then hauled down an offensive rebound and made the put back with the seventh lead change and 56-55 Frankfurt lead. The leads kept going back and forth as brutally as the punches between Tyson and Holyfield back in the day. Moore and Richter traded buckets as Frankfurt led 58-57. Moore then scored again inside giving Ehingen the lead back 59-58 which was the 10th lead change of the quarter. Then Dimsa fouled out and it seemed the tide had shifted in the hands of Ehighen as Daniel Berger made another lay in as Ehingen led 62-58. However then came the real turning point as Frankfurt exerted one last energy punch going on a 8-0 run to retake the lead 66-62 for the last time and they would never let it go again. In the run, Frankfurt stayed calm on offense and just executed the way they know how. Frankfurt got valuable production from Merz, Richter and Thompson who did severe damage inside as Frankfurt led 66-62. However Ehingen wasn´t down and out yet as ex Kirchkeim Knights guard Tomasevic nailed a big three cutting the Frankfurt advantage to 66-65. However Frankfurt then escaped on a 7-3 run to lead 73-68 with a minute to go as Merz made a seemingly impossible underhand submarine lay in and Ilzhoefer dropped a three pointer. Thompson and Merz nailed free throws to ice the win. “The fourth quarter was a real playoff atmosphere. It was great for the fans, but not so great for the players when you are trying to get the best point difference. We knew it would be a battle. We made our shots at the end and got stops. We also made free throws which was very important”, stressed Travis Thompson. “It was a real playoff atmosphere with two of the best teams going for the championship. We knew it would either be physical or fast paced and they decided to slow it down. Key at the end wasn´t getting more stops. Their big man got 3-4 extra dribbles and we didn´t help. We missed shots and we missed too many free throws. We didn´t do the little things to win”, added Devon Moore.
The Fraport Skyliners Juniors were led by Johannes Richter with 23 points, nine rebounds and six assists. Stefan Ilzhoefer added 13 points. Niklas Kiel added 12 points and Max Merz 10 points. Ehingen was led by Daniel Berger with 18 points while Devon Moore chipped in with 17 points. The Fraport Skyliners Juniors shot 49% from the field and 30% form outside while Ehingen shot 42% from the field and 17% from outside. Both teams had 36 rebounds a piece. Frankfurt had 12 turnovers while Ehingen had six turnovers. On Saturday, both teams will fight for the title in Ehingen as they have to win only by six points to get it. “We need to rebound better, keep them from getting out on transition and when our ball movement is working, we tend to find shots”, expressed Travis Thompson. “The Frankfurt youngsters are as talented as their older players. We have to execute and control what we can. We have to hit shots, make free throws and help on defense. It is the last game for the title and we have to let it all out on the court”, warned Devon Moore.