The few days after the Fraport Skyliners had won the 2016 Fiba Europe Cup title in Chalon France over Italian team Varese last weekend, the club had numerous appointments and honors to accept while savoring the moment. The biggest honor was being able to step out on the slim balcony at city hall in Frankfurt and see the sea of fans down below cheering on the team. Following official business where each player was able to sign the golden book, the team then went into the basement and celebrated with the fans with the beautiful silver Fiba Europe cup sitting on a small table for each person that wanted to to get a photo. Even if head coach Gordon Herbert seemed relaxed during the party with the fans, you knew that as much as he allowed his players to indulge in this big moment of being only the fourth team in the history of German basketball to have won an international club tournament, he was also thinking ahead to the weekend where the Beko BBl playoffs were to start. How often Herbert questioned in his mind during the two days of celebrating if his team could get back down in time of the playoffs was unknown, but knowing the immense competitive and perfectionist mindset, he must have been playing mind games with every type of scenario that could face him in game one. One guy who was as happy as a kid that just cleaned out a candy store after icing the title in Chalon was Englewood, New Jersey native Jordan Theodore who definitely showed after the final win that he has had his share of party experiences back home. However two days after the win, one could sense that he was getting itchy to get back on the court and take care of the next order of business the playoffs. With Frankfurt having had extra days to party, it was Alba Berlin that took part in a special training camp and still had that loss in Berlin on their minds a few weeks ago. The intense playoff rivalry that Berlin and Frankfurt took center stage as Alba Berlin won the last playoff battle in 2011 winning in 5 games in Frankfurt, but this season´s series had an extra appetizer with the duel of the two Jordan´s. Both Jordan Theodore and Jordan Taylor who belong to the top point guards in the Beko BBL as the latter had a 2-1 record head to head this season, but the Taylor still had semi bragging rights over Theodore as he had won the last minute shooting battle in the cup semi-final in Munich propelling Alba Berlin to the final while Frankfurt had to wait for that next opportunity while Theodore got him back a few weeks ago in Berlin with a 80-63 win to even the head to head battle at 2-1. In their fourth head to head meeting, it was Theodore that got the best of Taylor as he led the Fraport Skyliners with 19 points past Alba Berlin 83-64 as Alba Berlin and Taylor had massive difficulty all night long coming to terms with the Frankfurt aggressive defense. Important for the Fraport Skyliners was that the club was able to get down from their Fiba Europe Cup title and get back to business with the Mission Beko BBL title 2016. “We got revenge on Alba Berlin a few weeks ago, but Taylor has the cup trophy. Coach preached this week that we have to stay professional. The last thing that we wanted to do was serve up an egg in game one. We had fun for two days and on Wednesday we were focused at the task at hand. We knew that it would be a tough game. Alba Berlin is a gritty team that plays physical, gets rebounds and loose balls. We were ready for them and left it all on the court. I was focused 100% and since it´s my first playoffs, I want to show the people that I can play. Every guy contributed and when we play as a collective unit then we are hard to beat”, stressed Fraport Skyliners guard Jordan Theodore. Alba Berlin will have to go back to the drawing board, because if they don´t find a way to score more consistently then their summer could already start next weekend. “Frankfurt hit a lot of shots and there wasn´t a lot that we could do. We didn´t get consistent stops on defense. They wanted it more than we did”, stressed Alba Berlin guard Rob Lowery.
On the first real warm spring day or 2016, it didn´t hinder 4,860 people to interrupt their early Saturday night with two hours of exciting basketball. The Fraport Skyliners didn´t waste any time getting on the board first taking a quick 5-2 lead as German national player Danilo Barthel got aggressive early penetrating inside and scoring in traffic and ex Auburn guard Quantez Robertson got his shooting touch early hitting a three pointer as he had some luck as a loose ball rolled right to him in the corner. Alba Berlin was aggressive in the paint as was Frankfurt as they got production from Bosnian Elmedin Kikanovic and Croatian Kresimir Loncar scored on the offensive glass while Canadian national player Aaron Doornekamp nailed a three pointer as Frankfurt had the slim 10-8 advantage. Fans were both seeing a great playoff atmosphere with both teams trying to reign the paint and glass area more than the other. However the Fraport Skyliners is one of those teams that when the game is close that they can just pull away and go on a massive run as their offense sets the tone and the opponent have no resistance to stop it. Frankfurt closed out the first quarter with a powerful 13-3run to lead 23-11 after 10 minutes. In the run, the Fraport Skyliners were fortified on offense by four different players. Theodore started the run going coast to coast and at the end barreling over Lowery as if he was a full back getting in from the one yard line. Quantez Robertson then scored on an off balance shot, a trey and free throws and ended the first quarter with nine points. Little added to the offensive explosion with free throws and German national player Konstantin Klein banked home a buzzer beater three at the end. “We moved the ball well and got open shots. We have to credit our unselfishness for the success of our offense in the first quarter. Usually when we start well, we get confidence that carries us through the game. Klein had a nice shot at the end even if it was a bank shot, we´ll take it”, stressed Canadian national player Phillip Scrubb. The Fraport Skyliners were shooting 44% from the field and 37% from outside while Alba Berlin was shooting 29% from the field and 14% from outside. Alba Berlin had the 11-9 rebound edge, but five turnovers while Frankfurt had only two turnovers.
In the second quarter, the Fraport Skyliners kept their comfortable lead early, but relinquished a run by Alba Berlin midway through only to go into halftime extending their lead a bit more. Loncar started off the second quarter with a bucket, but Frankfurt continued to keep the Alba Berlin offense at bay forcing turnovers while going on a 5-0 run as Doornekamp hit a trey and Phillip Scrubb nailed an off balance 15 footer that couldn´t have looked any smoother. Alba Berlin was thinking too much on offense and just with the more misfortune they experienced the more unsure they became. However basketball is a game of runs and sometimes a team has to make adjustments and Alba Berlin then had their best spurt of the game going on a 12-2 run to cut the Frankfurt advantage to 30-25. Alba Berlin got valuable production from American Brandon Ashley that learned his basketball trade at Arizona(NCAA) hitting a 20 footer over Doornekamp and making a dunk. Lowery also gave the team energy from the bench as he hit a three pointer and made free throws. Ex NBA player Will Cherry was also instrumental in the run getting a steal, hitting over German national player Johannes Voigtmann and making free throws. Alba Berlin heightened their aggressiveness on defense and it also helped that Frankfurt had back to back traveling calls against Americans John Little and Robertson. Alba Berlin also had some good individual plays by Cherry and the team energy brought Frankfurt out of his rhythm. However Frankfurt just wiped that big run against them off their face and hit Alba Berlin back with a 8-0 run as Florida native Mike Morrison made both free throws and Jordan Theodore nailed back to back trey´s against the Alba Berlin guard duo of Cherry and Taylor. “Those two guys can play, but I always want to play my best against them. I just wanted to be aggressive in this moment and not necessarily take over the game, but just let them know I´m here. , warned ex Seton Hall guard Jordan Theodore. Alba Berlin closed out the second quarter strong with a 6-2 run cutting the Frankfurt advantage to 40-31. In the run, Alba Berlin got support from Serbian Dragan Milosavlevic with a put back and Taylor found some daylight reading a Scrubb pass and getting in the passing lane at center court and going coast to coast for the lay in and then connected on a pull up jumper. “In the run by Alba Berlin, they played more aggressive on defense and on offense got more offensive rebounds and loose balls. They did a good job getting hands in our faces and you have to be careful, because if you take a step back then they will take advantage of it”, stressed ex Carleton guard Phillip Scrubb. The Fraport Skyliners were shooting 48% from the field and 54%from the three point line while Alba Berlin was shooting 48% from the field and 25% from the three point line. Alba Berlin had the 16-12 rebound edge, but 13 turnovers while Frankfurt had eight turnovers.
In the third quarter, the Fraport Skyliners started to run away with the game as their consistent play started and the Alba Berlin comeback was made more difficult as they still had no proper rhythm on offense as Frankfurt didn´t allow them to find it. The Fraoport Sklyiners started off the third quarter on a rapid 8-0 run to extend their lead to 48-31. In the run, Frankfurt was aided by a Morrison lay in, Doornekamp three pointer, Theodore lay in and free throws, Milosavlevic stopped the run with a bomb from downtown, but Frankfurt could keep their big lead by extra production from Barthel and Doornekamp. Ex Dayton (NCAA) guard Rob Lowery continued to be aggressive on the offensive end scoring twice once beating his man Scrubb cutting the Frankfurt lead to 56-40. Kikanovic then hit a 20 footer as Alba Berlin only trailed 56-42. However Alba Berlin was hit early with their fifth team foul which helped Frankfurt close out the third quarter going on a 11-5 run to extend their lead to 67-47 after 30 minutes. In the run, the Fraport Skyliners got free throws from the German big three of Barthel, Klein and Voigtmann as well as Theodore who hit four and a three pointer. Alba Berlin got some offense from Cherry making a lay in and three pointer. “We kept moving the ball well and getting good shots. On defense we got stops and pushed the ball in transition and got them into foul trouble”, said Phillip Scrubb. “Frankfurt hit big shots and we still couldn´t get stops. Their offensive rebounds killed us leading to extra points”, stated Rob Lowery.
In the fourth quarter, Alba Berlin made one last push right off the bat going on a run, but Frankfurt didn´t allow that to go on as they got back on track and just wore down the opponent with their offense and their defense that seemingly never gets exhausted. Alba Berlin stormed out in the fourth quarter with a 7-0 run as they stopped Frankfurt in their first five possessions and cut the Frankfurt lead to 67-54. In the run, Alba Berlin got points from two time NCAA champion with Uconn Nils Giffey who nailed free throws, Kikanovic made a tough shot over Doornekamp and Cherry dropped a trey. Once again what Alba Berlin couldn´t contain over the course of the game, they got in spurts as their defense stifled Frankfurt to tough shots while on Offense, Alba Berlin were more patient and got better shots than earlier in the game. However there is only so much that a team that Frankfurt can take and they then slammed the door on Alba Berlin deciding the game with a 11-2 run to extend their lead to 76-56. In the run, the Fraport Skyliners got solid support from Scrubb with a lay in catching the Alba Berlin defense napping as Theodore fed him on the inbounds pass as well as Doornekmap who had his inside out game on a stellar course all night long making a trey and tap in while Theodore and Barthel made free throws and Robertson scored on the fast break. Alba Berlin closed out the game with a 8-5 run making the score look not as bad as Lowery hit a step back, Ashley made a dunk and free throws and Loncar free throws. “We weren´t concerned with their run at the start. We just stayed focused and concentrated on making our shots after that”, expressed Phillip Scrubb. “We responded with a run late in the game, but it wasn´t enough. We did fight until the end”, stressed Rob Lowery. The Fraport Skyliners were led by Aaron Doornekamp with 21 points. Jordan Theodore added 19 points and Quantez Robertson 11 points. Alba Berlin was led by Brandon Ashley with 15 points and Rob Lowery and Will Cherry contributed 13 points a piece. The Fraport Skyliners shot 46% from the field and 46% from the parking lot while Alba Berlin shot 43% from the field and 29% from the parking lot. Alba Berlin won the rebound duel 34-25, but had 22 turnovers while Frankfurt had 16 turnovers.