Even if Fraport Skyliners fans had relived that typical breathtaking playoff atmosphere already two weeks earlier in an untypical fascinating September title game bash against Venezuelen team Guarus De Lara in the Intercontinental Cup, which denied them a fourth club title, technically speaking was the battle against the Eisbaeren Bremerhaven the home opener. Nothing will ever equal the buildup and majestic feeling to a MLB home opener, but in basketball just knowing that the new season has started with the first home game brings special feelings, anticipation and hope for the future. The game day schedule and process has always been very special in the Fraport arena as the organization does a good job bringing everything possible to the fan in a two hour experience. As always there are things to look forward to in the 5,004 arena when filled to capacity that might have gone a bit forgotten over the long summer. Especially this season which is seen as one of change as so many players departed and a new youth era continues. Many are wondering can the Agva´s, Kiel´s and Mayr´s become the Voigtmann´s and Barthel´s of tomorrow and would 16 year NBA prospect Isaac Bonga make his home debut right in the first game against the Eisbaeren. Others were wondering can the imports make the grade this season while in the arena everyone was awaiting in great anticipation to the new pre game video that is displayed before the player introductions. Others were looking if there had been any new food items added to the concession area´s while others were looking forward to exchanging summer tales with their seat neighbors. Others were making friendly bets as to where head coach Gordon Herbert would be watching the game from. Certainly not from the catacombs where a dejected Murat Didin had to years ago where he was peering through the round like windows that look like a porthole on a ship. With so much to look forward to, the only thing missing to complete the day in harmony was a great game and hopefully a victory for the home town fans. The Fraport Skyliners controlled the game for 40 minutes despite the Eisbaern Bremerhaven always hanging around were able to close out the game even if they did suffer a scare at the end notching their first win of the season 84-79. The Starks and Shields 40 show carried the Fraport Skyliners as their key and timely scoring helped preserve the victory. Point guard Markel Starks was thrilled with finally playing the home opener and living the experience in his new living room and winning the home opener and was happy about the team getting a monkey off their back with their first win. “There was a lot of excitement with this being the home opener. We struggled the last games so it felt good to get the win. The atmosphere was really amazing, but I missed the team video as we were waiting to be introduced. I feel that we came in mentally prepared and stuck to the game plan bringing intensity from the start and playing very well for long phases of the game. I felt that we were aggressive at both ends of the court which helped us get the win”, stressed ex Goergetown guard Market Starks. The Eisbaeren Bremerhaven didn´t have their best execution game, but nobody could criticize their heart and determination of never giving up until the conclusion. “I feel that we had too many turnovers especially on my part that cost us the game. We have to learn to execute better and adjust to defensive pressure better”, added ex Akron(NCAA) guard Quincy Diggs.
The Fraport Skyliners got on the board first as a common hook up last season of Quantez Robertson to Mike Morrison got the team it´s first points. Frankfurt quickly established a fine line on defense as their aggressive pressure miffed Bremerhaven to non-execution in it´s first four possessions as Robertson was the key factor. Bremerhaven then got their first and only lead of the game as ex Phoenix Hagen guard Fabian Bleck scored on the fast break and made a free throw for the early 3-2 lead. Then it was the American duo of Starks and Shields who hit back to back buckets kind of setting a trend of how their game would evolve giving Frankfurt the 6-3 advantage. Frankfurt kept up their execution rate and got valuable buckets from German wunderkind Niklas Kiel who scored inside and connected on a trey upping the Frankfurt advantage to 12-5. Frankfurt kept baffling Bremerhaven on the defensive end taking everything away inside and forcing them to tough shots. Kiel continued to play as if he had a hidden Superman cape on as he scored two more times running the floor like a guard scoring on the transition and then giving the highlight of the game as American Antonio Graves heaved up the perfect alley-oop pass that the German threw down with authority. A last second Evan Smotrycz three pointer carved the Frankfurt lead down to 19-10 after 10 minutes. “Frankfurt was defending very well as Bremerhaven had problems with their aggressiveness. The offense was good, but could have had more structure. Kiel had a great quarter. He showed great footwork with his baseline to baseline sprint on nice alley-opp”, stressed Fraport Skyliners Junior Lennart Okeke. The Fraport Skyliners were shooting 44% from the field and 14% from outside while the Eisbaeren Bremerhaven were shooting 33% from the field and 50% from outside. Both teams had eight rebounds a piece, but Bremerhaven suffered eight turnovers and Frankfurt only one.
In the second quarter, The Fraport Skyliners continued to play solid basketball keeping a comfortable lead, but in the last two minutes relinquished a 7-0 run to allow the guests back into the game. Bleck started off the second quarter with a runner to cut the Frankfurt lead to 19-13. However Frankfurt then took off on a masterful 11-2 run to extend their lead to 30-15. In the run, Frankfurt got vital production from ex Nebraska(NCAA) forward Shields who nailed an off balance jumper and coast to coast lay in after making a steal while also getting buckets from Morrison, Starks and Mahir Agva. After a Diggs floater, it was Agva that used the mismatch making a lay in on the Max Merz lob pass. Frankfurt got valuable baskets from Shields in the paint, but had some defensive breakdowns as they slept on transition defense allowing ex Phoenix Hagen forward Ivan Elliot to slip behind them getting the easy basket and allowing ex Indiana(NCAA) point guard Jordan Hulls to drop three free throws as Frankfurt had the comfortable 36-22 lead. Frankfurt had some costly turnovers in the last two minutes which led to the Bremerhaven 7-0 run to go into halftime trailing only 36-29. In the run, they got a runner from ex BG Goettingen center Harper Kamp and 5 points from ex Maryland(NCAA) forward Mr efficient Smotrycz who drained free throws and trey. “Frankfurt did a good job keeping the lead playing good defense always pressuring the man with the ball and allowing no easy passes inside, but the energy went down at the end”, said Lennart Okeke. The Fraport Skyliners were shooting 44% from the field and 8% from the three point line while the Eisbaeren Bremerhaven were shooting 38% from the field and 29% from the three point line. Frankfurt had the 18-15 rebound edge and five turnovers while Bremerhaven had 11 turnovers.
In the third quarter, the Fraport Skyliners allowed Bremerhaven to tie the game, but then regain the lead again and have a better lead going into the fourth quarter. Bremerhaven got Frankfurt into foul problems early and continued to chip away at the lead. Elliot cut the Frankfurt lead down to 36-33 with a trey, but Frankfurt was able to keep them at bay with a thunderous Morrison two handed stuff and two Starks buckets as Frankfurt led 43-35. Bremerhaven might have had their best few offensive minutes of the game as shots finally began to fall at a consistent rate as Hulls and Elliot nailed back to back three´s to cut the Frankfurt lead to 43-42. Shields continued to be a pest in the paint showing why his athleticism will give many opponents nightmares this season as he scored twice including a pretty spin move. That didn´t impress Bremerhaven as their offense was in the flow now as Kamp scored inside again and the ever so dangerous Hulls who has shot 40% or better since 2009 when he was a freshman at Indiana nailed another trey evening the game at 47-47. However Frankfurt closed out the third quarter going on a 9-3 run to lead 56-50 after three quarters upping their defensive intensity again and getting to the free line and getting a Graves off balance shot. Frankfurt could have had more had Morrison not missed three free throws. “We didn´t come out as aggressive letting them back into the game. It was important that we got to the free throw line at the end to get the lead back”, stressed Markel Starks. “Key was drawing fouls and attacking them helped us get back in the game”, added Quincy Diggs. The Fraport Skyliners were shooting 45% from the field and 13% from the parking lot while Bremerhaven was shooting 41% from the field and 40% from the parking lot. Frankfurt had the 24-21 rebound advantage and seven turnovers while Bremerhaven had 14 turnovers.
In the fourth quarter, the Fraport Skyliners seemed like the easy winner up by 11 points, but Bremerhaven cut the lead down to three points with 16 seconds, but escaped with the win. Frankfurt got a baby hook shot from Shields to start off the scoring, but it was Diggs that kept Bremerhaven a float as he stayed aggressive getting two baskets inside cutting the Frankfurt lead to 61-55. However the Starks and Shields show continued to power their way to the 40 as they combined for three buckets to extend the Frankfurt lead to 68-57. Diggs continued to be that nasty thorn in Frankfurts side to continue to keep Bremerhaven alive as he buried another trey to cut the Frankfurt lead to 68-60. Then it was Hulls and Elliot with back to back three pointers to cut the Frankfurt lead to 71-66, but then it was Starks who continued to hit big shots scoring in bunches making two trey´s in a row extending the Frankfurt lead to 77-68. “This was my first time playing against him and you can see he is a knock down shooter. If you take away the outside shot and just let him drive, it would have been a different game”, warned Quincy Diggs. “I just want to be a consistent shooter. I really worked hard last summer on my shot. I am just happy that I have the confidence to make my shots. In order to keep your job, you need to make them and that is what separates you from the rest”, warned Markel Starks. Just when one thought that the game had been decided, Bremerhaven make a miraculous 9-3 run to cut the Frankfurt lead to 80-77 with 16 seconds to play. In the run, Bremerhaven continued to get first class production frpm Diggs who was aggressive on the offensive board making a tip in and put back while Hulls added a trey. Frankfurt missed three free throws which fueled the Bremerhaven come back as well. Frankfurt kept their cool at the end making the free throws when they had to as Robertson and Morrison connected. “We lost some concentration at the end. We can´t let opponents come back like that. Morrison had confidence and made huge free throws. We did a better job rebounding and as a team made a step forward”, said Markel Starks. “We fought hard until the end, but the Morrison free throws at the end hurt us”, added Quincy Diggs. The Fraport Skyliners were led by Shavon Shields with 21 points while Markel Starks added 19 points. Niklas Kiel contributed 12 points and Antonio Graves 10 points. The Eisbaeren Bremerhaven were led by Quincy Diggs with 19 points. Jordan Hulls added 17 points. Ivan Elliot produced 14 points and Evan Smotrycz 13 points. The Fraport Skyliners shot 48% from the field and 26% from outside while the Eisbaeren Bremerhaven shot 42% from the field and 38% from outside. Both teams grabbed 32 rebounds a piece, but Frankfurt had 12 turnovers and Bremerhaven had 18 turnovers.