For some Skyliner fans it may seem like an eternity since the last time the Fraport Skyliners defeated the mighty 8 time Beko BBL champion Alba Berlin in a five game series, but really it has only been six years ago where they produced the masterpiece that would zoom them into the Beko BBL finals. In that series, the club was led by guys like Mr ballerina Derrick Allen who had a stellar unstoppable game of 26 points to lead the way, but the club also was fortified with players like Dragon Labovic, Jimmy Mckinney and a certain shy city boy from Cincinnati, Ohio Quantez Robertson who had already made waves that season as a BBL slam dunk finalist and top notch defender that he would carry on to this very day. Six years later the Fraport Skyliners were back in their living room having Alba Berlin at the brink of elimination as everyone in the Fraport arena was broom ready and prepared to sweep head coach Sasa Obradovic and his twisted and dangerous looking body movements right out of the arena. In the first two contests, the 2000 Beko BBL cup champion Fraport Skyliners had played near to top notch basketball turning the Alba Berlin at times explosive offensive arsenal into a harmless attack that couldn´t even have scared the 2016 Fiba Europe Cup winner if they had dug out a Wendell Alexis, Marko Pesic and Mithat Demirel in their primes to help find a way to cut apart the annoying Frankfurt defense. Frankfurt held Alba Berlin to 65 points on average in the first two games and have had a sharp control on the dangerous guard duo of Jordan Taylor and Will Cherry in the playoffs like any woman would have to have on Charlie Sheen if she was seeing him. In the 71-65 game two victory in Berlin, the two American guards were held to 10 points combined 2/16 shooting. Frankfurt definitely learned from the first two encounters of the season where both Americans buried Frankfurt for 41 points combined and in the bitter semi-final cup loss in Munich let Jordan Taylor get the last laugh as he hit the game winning bucket. The week started off so excellent for the Fraport Skyliners and just got better and better as Quantez Robertson won the leagues best defensive player, a day later head coach Gordon Herbert was named best coach and nine hours later, Frankfurt was leading the best of five series 2-0 and Jordan Theodore could dream a little about the future where he may follow in the footsteps of his buddy Malcom Delaney who played in the Euroleague Final four on the weekend in Berlin. The perfect ending to the week would have been sending Alba Berlin back home winless in the playoffs and making a sweep party in the Fraport arena on Saturday night. Alba Berlin came back to Frankfurt needing to win as badly as the Fraport Skyliners needs everyone to remain healthy in order to have a legitimate chance of winning the Beko BBL title, but were blown out of the Fraport arena again as the Fraport Skyliners won easily with a shade of Theodore pink 87-66. After the glorious win and countless signed autographs that made the little hearts of kids content and whose eyes were beaming after the brief encounter with Theodore, the American had time to reflect on the win, series and his special shade of pink. “We played a lot more relaxed tonight whereas in game two we were too tight. We clicked on all cylinders moving the ball well and defending the way we know how and just got everything that we wanted. The key in this series was our good defense. We have been playing at a high level on defense all season long. Even when we struggle on offense as we did in game two, we can always rely on our defense. Our defense helps us stay in games when our offense isn´t on. Sweeping Alba Berlin means a lot because they had beat us twice this season. We knew that Alba Berlin would win the cup, because they had beat the best team us. We are on a mission right now. If we play defense and stay together, we will be fine. This was the first time I wore these pink shoes. I like to test a new pair each game. I know that some of the guys were looking strangely at me, but I may wear my strawberry pair in the next game. The pink looked nice on the court, fit well and the girls liked them”, smiled Englewood, New Jersey native Jordan Theodore. The season peak for Alba Berlin was three months ago when they won the cup in Munich, but just didn´t have that fire or self-confidence anymore and were an easy catch for the Fraport Skyliners to devour with ease. “Congrats to the Fraport Skyliers. They played very good basketball. They hit their shots very well in the first half and we didn´t do a good job using the mismatches. We never got into any kind of real game rhythm and did too much one on one play. We didn´t have the self-confidence or kick today”, stressed two time NCAA champion with Uconn Nils Giffey. “I don´t mind the pink shoes of Jordan, but it isn´t my style. But he has earned the right to wear whatever he wants to”, smiled Mr Canada Phillip Scrubb.
5,002 fans came into the Fraport arena on a cool May afternoon and had one neutral observer with current Pro A champion Derrick Allen of SC Rasta Vechta who played a combined 5 seasons with the Frankfurt Skyliners and Alba Berlin. As usual in the first couple of minutes, both teams were feeling each other out as Alba Berlin took the lead twice with buckets in the paint by Bosnian national player Elmeden Kikanovic and ex Telekom Baskets Bonn forward Alex King. Frankfurt was able to tie the score twice as ex Auburn guard Quantez Robertson nailed a 15 footer as his zeal for the game was more than apparent as he had just received the Beko BBL best defensive player of the season award and Heidelberg native Danilo Barthel hauled in the Johannes Voigtmann lob pass for the easy put back. Frankfurt then went on a 6-0 run as they heightened their defense and got Barthel more involved as he scored inside again and made free throws as Frankfurt led 10-4. Alba Berlin was careful and didn´t allow Frankfurt to get a quick lead early by storming back going on a 4-0 run as ex Arizona(NCAA) forward Brandon Ashley scored inside and ex BC Partizan NiS Beograd (KLS) guard Dragan Milosavljevic connected on a catch and pop shot to cut the Frankfurt lead to 10-8. However Frankfurt then really caught fire and went on a 11-4 run to extend their advantage to 21-12. In the run, the club got strong production from Barthel who continued to get fed in his comfort zone drawing two fouls and hitting four free throws. Frankfurt also got some outside shooting from Robertson who made a nice fake on Ashley and cut to his right and scored and 2010 Eurochallenge winner John Little hit a jumper. Florida native Mike Morrison capped off the run with a monster two handed dunk as the play really looked like he was a man lost on a playground full of little helpless kids. Alba Berlin then found some day light going on a 5-0 run to cut the Frankfurt lead to 21-17 as ex NBA player Will Cherry dropped a trey and Croatian national player Kresmir Loncar connected on free throws. Frankfurt executed on the last play of the first quarter as Theodore ran a play for Morison finishing up in the sky on the alley-oop tip in as Frankfurt led 23-17 after one quarter. “We got some easy baskets at the start. We wanted to go to Voigtmann and Barthel early and establish the post game. They got some extra possession due to offensive rebounds”, said ex Carleton guard Phillip Scrubb. The Fraport Skyliners were shooting 80% from the field and 100% from outside while Alba Berlin was hooting 42% from the field and 100% from outside. Alba Berlin had the 5-4 rebound edge, but four turnovers while Frankfurt had three turnovers.
In the second quarter, the Fraport Sklyiners were able to build their lead into double digits which would carry on until the end of the game. Canadian national player Aaron Doornekamp and Alex King traded buckets in the first minute as Frankfurt still led 26-19. Theodore then got his first field goal as he danced into the lane and to the hole as if he were all alone on a stage without any obstacles and also made free throws. Ashley held Alba Berlin in the game with seven points as he made two field goals and three free throws to cut the Frankfurt lead to 30-26. Then came the turning point of the game as Frankfurt escaped out on a 14-4 run to bolster their lead to 44-30. Theodore led the charge as he not only scored on a lay in where he demonstrated a knack of knowing how to change speeds and hitting a trey, but he just was the classic basketball conductor getting everyone involved as Little and Scrubb nailed three pointers. Frankfurt annoyed Alba Berlin as they hit some in your face shots which irritated the guests even more in their defensive motivation as anything contested was flying through the net. Frankfurt was a bit sloppy in the last minutes as they coughed up the ball in their own end twice allowing Alba Berlin to cut the lead back down. Kikanovic hit a bucket and free throws as did Alex King being perfect from the free throw line and Milosavljevic also scored cutting the Frankfurt lead ton45-38. However as usual, Frankfurt as always didn´t allow the guests to go into halftime with the momentum as Scrubb dropped a trey bringing Frankfurt into the break with the 48-38 lead. “We always knew that they could come back, but felt more comfortable with the lead. Theodore was big in the quarter as he scored and found his teammates”, added Phillip Scrubb. The Fraport Skyliners were shooting 75% from the field and 67% from the three point line while Alba Berlin was shooting 42% from the field and 16% from the three point line. Frankfurt had the 12-10 rebound edge, but had 10 turnovers while Alba Berlin had six turnovers.
The third quarter was dominated by the Fraport Skyliners as they continued to have a solid offensive rhythm while on defense they continued to make life very difficult for Alba Berlin as they had to work extra hard for every shot and mostly couldn´t execute to their desire. The Fraport Skyliners continued to take shot after shot and hit over their defenders as if they weren´t there as Robertson connected over Cherry and Theodore finished over the bigger Loncar. However Alba Berlin was desperately trying to keep the lead at ten or below and not let Frankfurt make that last crushing run to end their season. Milosavljevic continued to be one of the lone bright spots as he hit a jumper at the shot clock buzzer and then made free throws cutting the Frankfurt lead to 53-43. Frankfurt then closed out the third quarter with authority going on a 17-7 run as they were able to secure their biggest lead of the evening at 70-50. Frankfurt continued to make unbelievable difficult shots as they weren´t getting open shots like they usually do as Robertson nailed a step back over Ashley from way down town, but also got buckets inside from Voigtmann as no Berlin defender could match the big man´s athleticism. Theodore hooked up with Morrison again, but this time with a crushing alley-oop stuff which had fans still talking about at Sunday morning brunch. Little and Morrison also supplied free throws while German national player Konstantin Klein rattled home a three pointer and Robertson closed out the third quarter with a lay in. “The game turned ugly as both teams were playing more aggressive and were in foul trouble, but we came out of it in control”, stressed Phillip Scrubb. “We couldn´t score and that can´t happen in a game like this. They went on a big run and we couldn´t stop it”, added Alba Berlin guard Will Cherry. The Fraport Skyliners were shooting 64% from the field and 50% from the parking lot while Alba Berlin was shooting 34% from the field and 15% from the parking lot. Frankfurt had the 22-17 rebound edge, but had 13 turnovers while Alba Berlin had 11 turnovers.
Alba Berlin made one last push in the fourth quarter, but because they were down 20 points, it just wasn´t enough as the Fraport Skyliners wore down their opponent sliding into the Beko BBL semi-finals. Three time CIS winner with Carleton Aaron Doornekamp started off the fourth quarter with a trey, but Alba Berlin then attacked for the last time of the season going on a 10-0 run to cut the Frankfurt lead down to 73-60. In the run it was ex Skyliner Alex King who nailed back to back three pointers something he has definitely improved on in the last years as he demonstrated back in 2012 that he ahd arrived behind the three point line after his memorable 7/7 shooting in a Eurocup game. Kikanovic hit free throws and Giffey snuck inside making a bucket. Frankfurt then ultimately slammed the door shut on the season of Alba Berlin with a 9-2 run to extend their lead again to 82-62. In the run, Frankfurt got solid production from Theodore and Doornekamp with baskets inside and a big Little three pointer. After another King three pointer, Skyliner head coach Gordon Herbert inserted young Germans Johannes Richter, Max Merz and Stefan Ilzhoefer. Ilzhoefer and Richter drew fouls closing out the game and series. “We kept the momentum in the fourth quarter despite their little push. We kept our good lead with good shots, rebounding and limiting our turnovers. The sweep feels good, because we had three tough games against them. Key in the series was that we were able to match their physicality. We never let them believe that they had a chance to win the series. We executed better on offense and they struggled from outside”, added Phillip Scrubb. “There was hope when we cut the lead down to 13 points, but we dug this hole ourselves. Frankfurt played tough defense and knocked down shots. We showed character and fought until the end”, stressed Will Cherry. The Fraport Skyliners were led by Jordan Theodore with 15 points and eight assists. Quantez Robertson had 13 points and Danilo Barthel chipped in with 11 points. Aaron Doornekamp and John Little chipped in with 10 points a piece. Alba Berlin was led by Alex King with 15 points. Elmedin Kikanovic and Dragan Milosavjlevic supplied 12 points a piece and Brandon Ashley had 10 points. The Fraport Skyliners shot 55% from the field and 42% from outside while Alba Berlin shot 38% from the field and 29% from outside. Frankfurt won the rebound duel 31-21, but had 17 turnovers while Alba Berlin had 14 turnovers. The season of Alba Berlin ended a bit too early for their taste as their peak came at the cup win months ago. It could be a very busy and interesting summer for Alba Berlin as there could be a semi house cleaning made with the roster and a possible new head coach as Sasa Obradovic seems to be on the way out. The season continues for the Fraport Skyliners as they wait for the winner of Oldenburg-Ulm in the semi-finals.