Ekene Ibekwe Leads The Fraport Skyliners Shutting Down Ex Team CEZ Nymburk 74-61 In Champions League

It  was seven months ago that American Eugene Lawrence suffered one of his worst BBL defeats of last season in Frankfurt, but at least the American from Brooklyn, New York who only has to travel 21 miles in the summer to get from his home to Englewood, New Jersey to pick the basketball brain of Champions League opponent Jordan Theodore or to trade secrets about best groomed bald heads and could still boast that his 37 point demolition against Bamberg was worse than the 78-48 loss at the hands of Theodore and the Fraport Skyliners last season. In that game, the Fraport Skyliners shared the ball around nicely while the Telekom Baskets Bonn had a cold shooting day and were totally outplayed and worn down by their stellar defense of last season. Lawrence matched the point total of Theodore with nine points, but dished out only one assist as his playmaking was severely flawed by the aggressive Frankfurt defense. Last season, losing was a habit for Lawrence with the Telekom Baskets Bonn, but this season he returned back to an old stomping ground with CEZ Basketball Nymburk (Czech Republic-NBL) where he won his only two titles in 2012. In the Czech Republic NBL league, he has helped the team register a perfect 10-0 record and their only loss was in Champions league play against Banvit and Theodore last week 75-69. In that loss, Theodore was his usual self-supplying 15 points, six boards and seven assists while Lawrence countered with 11 points. If Lawrence had the audacity to inquire Theodore after the loss some questions about how to beat Frankfurt is unknown, but one thing is for sure, Lawrence returned back to Germany with a massive chip on his shoulder after being swept by the Fraport Skyliners last season and getting creamed in the Fraport arena by 30 big ones. However once again, Lawrence had no fortune in the ex living room of Theodore as a huge second half and comeback by the Fraport Skyliners where they outscored CEZ Nymburk 44-21 helped win their second Champions League game 74-61 moving to 2-2 in group play.

After the loss, Lawrence departed from the locker room sniffling a bit as his cold wasn´t unnoticeable and his mood wasn´t either as he was more than disappointed by how his team collapsed in the second half. “I think that the third quarter killed us. We had too many turnovers and missed layups all game long. On the road, you must always be cautious of everything. We gave Frankfurt the momentum in the third quarter and it carried over until the end. We had a good second quarter, but Frankfurt punched first in the second half and kept coming”, stressed CEZ Nymburk point guard Eugene Lawrence. The Fraport Skyliners totally lost control of the game in the second quarter, but came back in the third quarter turning the game around and finishing strong to earn the win. “Coach Perwas told us at halftime to stay with it. We have worked too hard the last weeks to keep handing games away. Too often we are a good team for 20 minutes, but the other 20 minutes of not being a good team. We were more consistent and wanted it more and it paid off. It was all about better communication on offense and defense and it was the best game of the season where we did that”, explained Fraport Skyliner guard Kwame Vaughn.

The big match winner of the game was ex Artland Dragon Ekene Ibekwe who came back to haunt his ex team leading the Fraport Skyliners with 17 points, seven rebounds, two steals and one block. After the game, his demeanor suggested that he may just have competed in a marathon as he was pooped, but very proud of his team and content that he was able to step up the way he did sparking them to the win. “This win feels good. It is very satisfying to come out and play hard and fight and get the win. I am gelling better and better day by day and tonight I was aggressive, talked on defense and hit my shots”, explained ex Maryland(NCAA) forward Ekene Ibekwe. Many Fraport Skyliners stepped up including point guard Kwame Vaughn, but too get extra support from the bench from Ibewke was crucial against the current Czech Republic champion. “He really stepped up tonight and that was big for us. I am happy he stepped up and he had a very good game. Without him, it would have been very difficult to have won”, stressed Fraport Skyliner Max Merz. After Skyliner captain Quantez Robertson returned from the official press conference, he had nothing but the highest praise for his new teammate. “He really sparked us on the offensive end hitting big shots. He also played good defense and got to the free throw line”, added ex Auburn guard Quantez Robertson. “He had his break out game tonight. He came out with fire, led us and it paid off”, stressed Kwame Vaughn.

Both teams sputtered a bit in the first few minutes, but the Fraport Skyliners finally got on the board with a Mike Morrison lay in and Shavon Shields hit a trey after being held scoreless in the first half 48 hours ago against medi Bayreuth giving Frankfurt the 5-0 lead. CEZ Nymburk finally got on the board after missing their first four possessions as Petr Benda who has earned 16 Czech titles got his team on the board with a lay in. The Czech club continued to cough up the ball at an alarming rate, but Frankfurt continued to execute and Ibekwe came from the bench and scored in bunches making a catch and pop jumper and then finished off the fast break with a massive dunk as Robertson picked up the dime and Frankfurt led 9-2. After some easy misses, CEZ Nymburk found some pace and rhythm on offense countering with a 8-2 run to cut the Frankfurt lead to 11-10. In the run, the Czech team was bolstered by four players as ex Boston Celtic Jiri Welch scored inside, ex St.Mary’s, CA (NCAA) forward Diamon Simpson nailed free throws, ex Braunschweig forward Howard Sant-Roos scored in traffic and Lawrence scored inside. However the Fraport Skyliners closed out the first quarter strong going on a 6-1 run to lead 17-11 after one quarter. In the run, Frankfurt was fortified by free throws from Mahir Agva, Shavon Shields and Kwame Vaughn. “Frankfurt came out with good energy. They were executing well and getting the ball inside. They did a good job breaking free of the Nymburk press and were good on close outs”, stressed Fraport Skyliner Junior Travis Thompson. The Fraport Skyliners were shooting 50% from the field and outside while CEZ Nymburk was shooting 28% from the field and 0% from outside. Frankfurt had the slim 9-8 rebound edge, but six turnovers while the guests had five turnovers.

In the second quarter, the Fraport Skyliners started off well and concentrated, but CEZ Nymburk broke open the game with a massive run to have the comfortable lead at the break. Ex AS Apollon Patras (Greece-A1) forward Tony Meier started off the second quarter with a trey to cut the Frankfurt lead to 17-14, but Frankfurt fought back going on a 7-0 run to get away from CEZ Nymburk once again as Ibekwe continued to be aggressive inside scoring, Ohio native Antonio Graves connected on a pull up jumper and ex Asvel guard Vaughn nailed three free throws for the 24-14 advantage. It seemed like the Fraport Skyliners were back on track, but after a CEZ Nymburk timeout, they totally fell apart as the guests went on a devastating 26-6 run to lead at halftime 40-30. In the run, CEZ Nymburk was led by point guard Eugene Lawrence who did a good job bringing structure to the offense and just creating shots for his teammates. After not being able to hit the ocean in the first 14 minutes, in the last six minutes, they were able to score at ease. The run was started by an amazing bullet pass from Lawrence from the top of the key to Benda for two and then another easy lay in by him on the second chance. Ex Movil Estudiantes (Spain-Liga Endesa) forward Pavel Pumprla also gave the club energy scoring twice inside and Benda then scored his third bucket in the run and ex USK Praha (NBL) forward Vojtech Hruban hit a trey to give CEZ Nymburk the 28-27 lead. Frankfurt was totally without rhythm missing shot after shot and not getting into their sets. CEZ Nymburk continued to execute on offense and were able to extend their lead to 36-27 as Hruban scored another three pointer, Sant-Roos scored inside and Lawrence nailed a trey. After Morrison made a bucket and free throw, Sant-Roos closed out the first half with a reverse lay up and then took advantage of a Robertson turnover and scored on transition at the buzzer. “We had too many turnovers and let them get too many easy baskets inside. Lawrence did a good job getting team back in game with setting the tempo and setting up his teammates”, stressed Alaska native Travis Thompson. CEZ Nymburk was shooting 47% from the field and 50% from the three point line while the Fraport Skyliners were shooting45% from the field and 40% from outside. CEZ Nymburk had the 17-14 rebound edge and nine turnovers while Frankfurt had 15 turnovers.

Basketball remains a game of runs and in the third quarter, it was all the Fraport Skyliners as they buckled down and helped CEZ Nymburk cough up the ball 10 times as traveling seemed like a normal occurrence for some and winning the quarter 21-5. The Fraport Skyliners got going and got into an offensive groove and just never let up. Frankfurt quickly raced out on a 4-0 run as Vaughn scored inside and then made a steal feeding Robertson who lofted up a lob pass to Morrison for the tip in as Frankfurt trailed 40-34. Frankfurt continued to chip away and started hitting shots that they missed earlier. Shields hit a 15 footer and turn around shot while Ibekwe contributed a trey as Frankfurt suddenly trailed only 43-41. Frankfurt found a good offensive rhythm as Vaughn was finding his teammates and Shields got involved more. Frankfurt also had more fortune with loose balls that they took advantage of. Frankfurt then regained the lead with Ibekwe and Robertson free throws. They continued to execute on offense and take advantage of foolish CEZ Nymburk turnovers as Graves scored inside getting the back door pass from Merz, Ibekwe scored on a tip in and Graves made a pull up jumper. Hruban closed out the scoring for CEZ Nymburk, but Frankfurt led 51-45. “We played aggressive defense and rebounded very good. Ibekwe brought us intensity on defense”, stated Quantez Robertson. “Frankfurt didn´t really switch anything up. We were very careless with the ball and Frankfurt was in rhythm and we couldn´t hit anything”, stressed Eugene Lawrence. The Fraport Skyliners were shooting 47% from the field and 33% from the parking lot while CEZ Nymburk was shooting 41% from the field and 33% form the parking lot. CEZ Nymburk had the 25-21 rebound edge, but had 19 turnovers while the guests had 18 turnovers.

In the fourth quarter, CEZ Nymburk got to work on their comeback trail going on a 5-2 run to cut the Frankfurt lead to 53-50. In the run, CEZ Nymburk was sparked by Benda with a 20 footer and a Meier offensive rebound and put back and Sant-Roos free throw. However the Fraport Skyliners then put the nail on the coffin going on a 10-2 run to extend their lead to 63-52. An unexpected offensive spark plug shone bright with Max Merz who drilled home back to back three pointers and Vaughn continued to be consistent on offense making a lay in and free throws. “I practice open shots every day and made them in the game. I am glad I hit them and have to praise my teammates for finding me”, added Max Merz. The Fraport Skyliners held their nerves and closed out the game strong never losing the momentum. Frankfurt continued to score at ease and went on a 10-3 run to extend their lead to 73-55. In the run, Frankfurt got valuable support from Graves with a pull up jumper, a Shields lay in and Morrison dunk. CEZ Nymburk closed out the game with garbage buckets from ex George Mason (NCAA) guard Byron Allen and a Simpkins buzzer beater shot. “The two Merz three pointers broke their back. He came to practice early this morning to work on his shot and it paid off”, added Kwame Vaughn. “The two Merz three pointers were a bonus for Frankfurt. We tried to do some different things on defense, but it didn´t work. They found him and it paid off”, added Eugene Lawrence. The Fraport Skyliners were led by Ekene Ibekwe with 17 points. Kwame Vaughn added 16 points and nine assists. Shavon Shields produced 11 points. CEZ Nymburk were led by Howard Sant-Roos with 11 points. Petr Benda and Vojtech Hruban added 10 points a piece. The Fraport Skyliners shot 48% from the field and 35% from outside while CEZ Nymburk shot 41% from the field and 26% from outside. CEZ Nymburk won the rebound duel 34-29, but had 24 turnovers while Frankfurt coughed up the ball 20 times.

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