Last year was a season to forget for the Dragons Rhondorf as they finished dead last in the German Pro A and were regulated back to the Pro B, a place where they had played many seasons against the Fraport Skyliners Juniors. Two seasons ago, both teams split as the Dragons Rhondorf lost an exciting spectacular game in Frankfurt 77-75 as Kyle Fossmann won the game with his bread and butter the deep three from the parking lot and teammate Johannes Richter was in monster mode under the boards netting 22 points and grabbing 17 rebounds. In the return game in Rhondorf, fans witnessed the total opposite as the Dragons Rhondorf destroyed the Fraport Skyliners Juniors 119-65 as they had five players score in double figures led by American Justin Smith with 26 points and Germans Tim Schonborn had 21 points and Fabian Thuelig contributed 20 points. A little more than two years later the two teams met again as the eighth place Dragons Rhondorf with a record of 4-6 faced the Fraport Skyliners Juniors with a record of 3-7 and resting in tenth place. Only a hand-full players from two seasons ago remained with Viktor Frankel-Maus and Sascha Tratnjek while Frankfurt could only offer Lenny Okeke. The Fraport Sklyiners Juniors now had to contend with the beast Aaron Nelson who carried 23 and 13 stats into game and Frankfurt head coach Eric Detlev wished that he could of had a Johannes Richter on board, but then again didn´t need him because he had Mahir Agva who came on the train with teammate Stefan Ilzhoefer from Braunschweig after helping beat the Basket Lowen Braunschweig the night before with the Fraport Skyliners and helped the Pro B team overcome a Rhondorf come back in the second half and beat them 74-69. After the loss, a dejected Dragons Rhondorf point guard Viktor Frankl-Maus reflected on the loss and buzzer beater from two seasons again. “I remember that buzzer beater as I was just coming back from an injury. I warmed up before the game, but didn´t play. That was an up and down game with less points. I thought that we could get back and possibly win this game tonight with a last shot. It is hard to believe that we couldn´t win despite having 22 offensive rebounds. Usually you should score 80-90 points when you get that much. We didn´t shoot well, but our defense was ok except for the second quarter”, explained German Viktor Frankl-Maus. After the win, Agva was stretching and when confronted with the notion that he had been responsible for the team turnaround after his return where he produced 30 points and the game winner against Leverkusen a week ago and 15 points in Rhondorf, he just innocently sighed and took the winning feeling all in stride. “I try to be the team leader and do what the team needs from me with scoring and rebounding. We were lucky to win this game. Usually when you get 22 offensive rebounds you win. We had big plays at the end and made our free throws. But that is how basketball works sometimes. Our defense was key at the end as well. I am glad that we are winning and I think that we are on a good way”, stressed Fraport Skyliner Mahir Agva.
It was another new home coming for Fraport Skyliners head coach eric Detlev who worked 11 years for the Dragons Rhondorf starting as an assistant coach and getting the head coaching job in 2009 and leading the club to the Pro B title in 2010 and then moved to Frankfurt in 2012. Before the game he felt like he shook 15 hands as well as hugs from many well-wishers from back in the day. When the last well-wisher traded his own anecdote with Detlev, the game finally began which saw the guests get out in a big way leading 6-2 quickly as Alaska native Travis Thompson who tested his 64% three point percentage and ex Ludwigsburg guard Stefan Ilzhoefer dropped consecutive three pointers. However Rhondorf got into the game quickly as they set the tone early on the offensive glass demonstrating their aggressiveness and never ending desire to rule on the rim as they got some easy buckets inside from Illinois native Aaron Nelson and German Florian Wendeler made an offensive rebound and put back dunk and then dunked on the pick and roll with Frankl-Maus as the game was tied at 10-10. Both teams then would trade buckets twice as Ilzhoefer and Thompson scored while Rhondorf countered with a Nelson lay in and Thomas Michel off balance shot to tie the game at 14-14. The Canadian sensation Mike Lucier than muscled down an offensive rebound and made the put back for the first Dragons lead of the day. However 17 year old German sensation Isaac Bonga rammed home an extra athletic exclamation mark as he saw daylight and flew down the lane with a thunderous one hand dunk which silenced the Dragon dome ending the first quarter 16-16. “We did a good job getting second chance opportunities and points. We also played with a lot of heart against the physical defense of Frankfurt”, stressed Dragons Rhondorf CEO Boris Kaminski. The Fraport Skyliners Juniors were shooting 50% from the field and from outside while the Dragons Rhondorf were shooting 39% from the field and 0% from outside. Rhonndorf had the 13-5 rebound edge, but five turnovers while Frankfurt had three turnovers.
In the second quarter, Frankfurt gave an early sign that they were in the mood of breaking away, but Rhondorf withstood a few tries, until they wilted halfway through as the guests would break open the game and lead by double digits. The Fraport Skyliners Juniors took control right away going on a 8-3 run to lead 24-19 as ex Bremerhaven guard Garai Zeeb connected on back to back three pointers and young German Armin Trtovac hit a pretty 20 footer. Rhondorf came back getting buckets from New York native Will Trawick and German Bastian Winterhalter who made a running hook shot to cut the Frankfurt lead to 26-24. Then came the turning point of the second quarter as the Fraport Skyliners Juniors exploded for a 14-2 run to go into halftime with the comfortable 40-26 advantage. In the run, Frankfurt dominated the paint area as there was no big body to serve as a wall as Nelson was on the bench. Frankfurt got two tough buckets in traffic from Ilzhoefer and Thompson and then the Alaska native rushed by two Rhondorf defenders for another easy basket. Agva got to the free throw line twice, but connected only twice while Bonga made a runner. Agva really put a dagger through Rhondorf´s heart in the last seconds as he nailed a trey with his usual high rainbow. “Not having Nelson in hurt us in the paint area as Frankfurt got many easy baskets. Our back up point guard Patrick Reusch couldn´t play to add stability when Frankl-Maus was out. It really hurt us when he wasn´t in. We started to lose confidence and had doubt after a few missed shots”, added Dragons Rhondorf CEO Boris Kaminski. The Fraport Skyliners Juniors were shooting 60% from the field and 56% from the three point line while the Dragons Rhondorf were shooting 31% from the field and 0% from the three point line. Frankfurt did a better job on the boards narrowing the Rhondorf rebound advantage to 18-17. Rhondorf had six turnovers and Frankfurt had five turnovers.
In the third quarter, the Dragons Rhondorf staged a fierce comeback carving down the Frankfurt lead to 52-50 after 30 minutes. The Fraport Skyliners started off the third quarter with a beautiful play as Ilzhoefer found Bonga back door, but instead of making the lay up chose to distribute the no look pass to the better positioned Agva who made the bucket for the 42-26 advantage. Bonga once again demsonstarted his unselfish play something which can be credited to his early beginings in Koblenz. Rhondorf got some production from Frankl-Maus making free throws and from Nelson getting another easy basket inside to cut the Frankfurt lead to 44-32. Zeeb and Ilzhoefer then made free throws extending the Frankfurt lead to 46-32. Then came the Dragons run of 18-6 which shocked Frankfurt and got the home team back into the life and brought life back into the quieter Dragon Dome. American Will Trawick started the big run with a trey ending the Rhondorf three point drought. Rhondorf just kept chipping way looking for Nelson inside for easy buckets and Frankl-Maus also scored inside showing how well he can help lead a team under pressure. Michel also made a big bucket converting on a trey to cut the Frankfurt advantage to 48-42. Frankfurt got an important basket from 17 year old ex TV Langen guard German Niklas Pons who helped them get some production in this Rhondorf dominated time, but Nelson simply continued to be too much scoring from anywhere as he dropped a 20 footer and then converted an offensive rebound into a put back and Wendeler secured free throws as Frankfurt led by only 52-50 after 30 minutes. “We didn´t play good offense. We all made mistakes including myself. Rhondorf got the momentum and the gym got loud which helped them”, stressed Mahir Agva. “We played a lot better and that showed with our bod language and intensity on the court. We worked from stop to stop and did all the small things better like rebounding and getting loose balls. We also did a good job keeping the Frankfurt defense under pressure”, added Viktor Frankl-Maus. The Fraport Skyliners Juniors were shooting 50% from the field and 36% from the parking lot while the Dragons Rhondorf were shooting 35% from the field and 14% from the parking lot. Rhondorf rebounded a lot better again having the 34-24 edge and both teams had eight turnovers a piece.
In the fourth quarter, the Fraport Skyliners executed on another huge run, but the Dragons Rhondorf exhibited heart again not letting their heads hang and fought back a last time. Nelson got Rhondorf on the board first with a lay in over the Frankfurt double team to dead lock the game at 52-52. Frankfurt then burst out on a 12-0 run to claim the comfortable 64-52 lead. In the run, they got continued solid production from Agva who connected on another mid distance shot and rocked home an off balance shot. Bonga also scored on an off balance shot, Ilzhoefer and Thompson connected on free throws and Zeeb poured home a deep three on transition rounding out the run. Frankfurt had the momentum again displaying how quickly their offense can get going and played more rigid defense not letting Rhondorf get good shots. Rhondorf still had some energy in their tank and kept their composure and rode out on a 13-4 run to cut the Frankfurt lead to 68-65. In the run, Rhondorf got some much needed support from downtown as Nelson and Trawick connected, but also got vital production in the paint from Wendeler with a lay in and Frankl-Maus showcasing his immense speed once again not getting contested by Bonga. Nelson nailed a baby hook shot over Agva and all of a sudden the Dragon Dome was loud again and Rhondorf down by only 68-65. Bonga and Frankl-Maus then traded free throws as Frankfurt still led 70-67. Despite the youth of Frankfurt as they average only 18 years per player, they stayed very calm in the last minute and a half and gave the reigns to Travis Thompson who drove the Fraport Skyliners Juniors to the win with a very difficult drive form the base line in traffic and connected off the glass for the 72-67 Frankfurt lead. Frankl-Maus then made free throws as did Thompson for the 74-69 lead. Ilzhoefer doused the last attempt by the Dragons Rhondorf with a steal ending the game. “We were a bit tired at the end, but we can´t take that as an excuse. I think that not having Reus today hurt as impulses from him were missing. We played good defense on Thompson and he made a tough shot”, stressed Viktor Frankl-Maus. ”They were tired at the end, but so were we. We were the better team mentally and wanted to win the game more”, expressed Mahir Agva.
The Fraport Skyliners Juniors were led by Travis Thompson with 21 points. Mahir Agva added 15 points and seven rebounds. Stefan Ilzhoefer produced 12 points while Garai Zeeb contributed 11 points and six assists while Isaac Bonga had 10 points, five rebounds and four assists. The Dragons Rhondorf were led by Aaron nelson with 27 points and 10 rebounds. Viktor Frankl-Maus produced 15 points, five rebounds and eight assists. The Fraport Skyliners Juniors shot 52% from the field and 38% from outside while the Dragons Rhondorf shot 37% from the field and 22% from outside. Rhondorf had the 43-31 rebound edge including the massive 22-3 offensive rebound edge and both teams coughed up the ball 10 times a piece.