It was once again time for a new basketball Champions League encounter between the Fraport Skyliners and Slovenian club Helios Domzale as in the first game the German squad escaped a tough Slovenian side sneaking back to Germany with a 61-56 grind out victory as American point guard Kwame Vaughn led the charge with 27 points and came up big in crunch-time. In the return game, it pitted a Frankfurt team that has been more than disappointing in the BBL and clinging for their lives in the international competition while Helios Domzale need a miracle to advance in this competition and need to go on a big winning streak now. The game was the tale of two guards as it had two guys coming into the contest with something prove with two Americans AJ English and Brandyn Curry. English is a 24 year old 192 cm shooting guard that is a rookie and started the season with Enel Basket Brindisi (Italy-Serie A) playing 8 games and averaging 7.9ppg, 2.0rpg, 2.6apg, 1.1spg, 2FGP: 38.7%, 3FGP: 25.0%, FT: 75.0%. His first station in Europe didn´t work out the way he planned and he hopes to bring his killer scoring instinct and scoring in bunches ways to his new home with Frankfurt which he displayed in college at Iona in New York and played two seasons with ex Skyliner Sean Armand. Armand had the better three point accuracy than English, but the new Skyliner scored more than Armand did. If one once called Sean “you want buckets here you go Armand then you could name English AJ “you want more buckets here you go” English. The other guard that wanted to finally get that annoying Skyliner monkey off his back was Brandyn Curry who had an 0-5 record against the Fraport Skyliners with two loses with Dutch club Den Bosch, two loses with German club Eisbaeren Bremerhaven and one with Helios Domzale. He was 0-2 in the Fraport arena and still has uneasy memories of the loss in Frankfurt nearly two years ago in an Eurochallenge game where he stroked home 27 points on seven three´s, but had a long bus ride home to Den Bosch chewing on a loss. Both guys entered the game with chips on their shoulders and after 40 minutes, ex Iona standout AJ English came out as the winner as he helped the Fraport Skyliners to a 72-62 victory producing 12 points while Brandyn Curry hit some big shots in the fourth, but once again left the building as the loser for the third time and is 0-6 in his career against the Fraport Skyliners.
“This arena isn´t a good place for me. I still haven´t figured out how to win here. However It is always great to play here and I hope that I can get a dub the next time. We lost the game in the third quarter. Frankfurt got going and we didn´t. Usually it´s the fourth quarter that does us in, but tonight it was the third quarter. We need to learn to play a complete game”, warned ex Harvard(NCAA) guard Brandyn Curry. After the game, AJ English had a hard task of reaching out to every journalist, but he took it in stride and is excited about playing in Frankfurt. “I didn´t feel pressure tonight. Italy was a good opportunity, but Frankfurt is a better one. I just try to play good defense and knock down shots and be ready every night. Sean Armand told me to be myself and let the game come to me. It is a long season and there are always ups and downs. That´s the beauty of basketball”, warned Fraport Skyliner guard AJ English. With the win, the Fraport Skyliners climbed into fifth place and have a playoff place for now, but with 4 games remaining, nothing is secure yet. “This was a much needed win. We controlled our own destiny. We missed easy shots in the first half. We came out strong in the third, but lost a little intensity in the fourth quarter, but our defense kept us in the game and gained intensity and got us the win”, added Fraport Skyliner point guard Kwame Vaughn.
Fraport Skyliner American Antonio Graves had to watch the game in street clothes as he was the seventh import as new Skyliner AJ English took the sixth spot and came off the bench. There was also a group of Giessen 46ers in the Fraport arena as forward Dwayne Evans brought teammates Skyler Bowlin and Cameron Wells to watch his ex teammate at St Louis(NCAA) Cory Remekun battle in the paint area against the Fraport Skyliners. Quantez Robertson who recently celebrated his 32nd birthday was wearing his special birthday sneakers with the skyline and his name and it right away brought him fortune as he posted up and scored with a pretty left handed lay in. The Helios Suns couldn´t muster any offense in their first three possessions while they also defended physically forcing Frankfurt to a turnover and Mike Morrison miss. They finally got on the board when highly talented 23 year old Czech national player Tomas Kyzlink scored on a floater to tie the game at 2-2. Frankfurt did a good job establishing themselves inside as Florida native Mike Morrison secured an offensive rebounded and finished with a massive two handed dunk. Robertson gave Frankfurt the 6-4 advantage with free throws, but basketball isn´t basketball if a run doesn´t pop up and the Slovenian team took advantage of that first opportunity racing out on a 9-0 run to lead 13-6. In the run, the club was benefited by Kyzlink who connected on a 25 footer, but also displayed playmaking abilities serving up dimes to ex Rhondorf Dragon Cory Remekun who finished with a hard dunk and a trey from 25 year old Luka Voncina who played 8 NCAA games with Charlotte (NCAA). 26 year old 206cm forwad Simo Atanackovic also scored inside. However the Fraport Skyliners recovered from this early shock and retaliated with a 8-0 run to snap back the lead at 14-13. In the run, Frankfurt was fortified by a tough Robertson trey off a broken play, a 25 footer by Ekene Ibekwe and English drilled home his first three benefited by an offensive rebound by German Max Merz. But the Helios Suns came back getting a trey by 24 year old 213cm forward Urban Gorjanc and Remekun made a thunderous dunk at the buzzer as he perfected the pick and roll with Voncina as the Helios Suns led 18-16. “We hadn´t played in a week and were a bit rusty. They had control of Shields, but we have enough good players on the team and he did a good job finding them”, stressed Kwame Vaughn. The Helios Suns were shooting 63% from the field and 50% from outside while the Fraport Skyliners were shooting 37% from the field and 50% from outside. Both teams had seven rebounds apiece while Frankfurt had three turnovers and the Helios Suns five turnovers.
The second quarter remained tight as the Helios Suns had the lead for the first four minutes, but the Fraport Skyliners fought back going into the break with the one point lead. A big mystery in the first quarter was why top club import Brandyn Curry wasn´t on the floor, but on the bench watching his teammates duel. Curry didn´t really have an answer why he didn´t play the entire first quarter. “Ever since I had my groin injury, I have been on the bench frist instead of starting. That is the decision of coach and I just have to come in and do my job”, added Brandyn Curry. Curry came in in the second quarter and didn´t waste anytime letting his presence be felt as he nailed a trey extending the Helios Suns lead to 21-16. Frankfurt got some important buckets from Ibekwe and Shields, but it was Kyzlink who continued to lead the Helios Suns on offense being aggressive and nailing a catch and pop jumper and then sneaking inside for an easy lay up as Frankfurt trailed 27-20. However Frankfurt stepped up their defense while the Helios Suns had a lull on the offensive end allowing the Fraport Skyliners on a 7-0 run to dead lock the game at 27-27. In the run, the 2016 Fiba Europe Cup champion got vital production from Shields taking advantage of his lethal one on one play as well as Vaughn free throws and another three by English. Frankfurt was helped by two Kyzlink air balls in this phase.The Fraport Skyliners held on to the momentum into half-time hammering home two massive dunks by Mike Morrison and Quantez Robertson as they led 33-32. “They made some tough shots while we missed more shots which evened out the 11 turnovers that they had”, said Kwame Vaughn. The Fraport Skyliners were shooting 38% from the field and 42% from the three point line while the Helios Suns were shooting 55% from the field and 40% from the three point line. The Helios Suns had the 15-13 rebound edge, but had 11 turnovers while Frankfurt had five turnovers.
The Fraport Skyliners totally broke open the game in the third quarter going on a 16-3 run and leading by as much as 20. The Fraport Skyliners didn´t waste anytime and got going at once as Shields again took advantage of his overwhelming one on one abilities hitting a runner in traffic. Ex KK Zadar (Croatia-A1) guard Maj Kovacevic did hit a trey, but Frankfurt then really turned on their offensive engine as English and Vaughn combined for ten points. Vaughn did all his damage in the lane scoring twice while English poured it on from downtown nailing two three pointers while on the first one was benefited by another snatched Frankfurt offensive rebound extending their lead to 49-35. The Helios Suns did escape from this Frankfurt a run a bit going on a timely 7-3 run to cut the Frankfurt lead to 54-42. In the run, the Slovenian club was aided by Kovacevic who nailed a tough fade away jumper over English that even had him in disbelief and then hit a trey as Kyzlink found him. However the Fraport Skyliners didn´t let that momentary little slip up unnerve them as they closed out the third quarter in style going on a clutch 8-0 run to lead 60-42 after 30 minutes. In the run, Frankfurt got great support from Morrison who got the perfect pass from Shields and Merz and Robertson dropped trey´s. The Merz field goal was the first of the game for a Skyliner German. “We stepped on the gas. Coach made great reads and we executed. We were patient on offense and consistent”, added Kwame Vaughn. “Turnovers have been our achilles heel all season long. When you have so many it will always be tough to win. Frankfurt got a lot of support from the fans and built off that”, added ex Bremerhaven guard Brandyn Curry. The Fraport Skyliners were shooting 44% from the field and 53% from the parking lot. The Helios Suns were shooting 45% from the field and 35% from the parking lot. Frankfurt had the 24-19 rebound edge and nine turnovers while the Helios Suns had 16 turnovers.
In the fourth quarter, the Fraport Skyliners got a little scare as the Helios Suns fought back going on a 18-6 run as the home team let ip, but Frankfurt buckled down at the end to get the win. The Helios Suns didn´t waste anytime getting started in their comeback as Curry connected on two three pointers to cut the Frankfurt lead to 64-48. Curry then made a steal, but was rudely blocked on his fast break attempt by new Skyliner AJ English as everyone got a first taste of his athleticism. “That was a great play by English. He is a good shooter and will help Frankfurt in their offense”, warned Brandyn Curry. The Slovenian team then went on a 12-2 run to cut the Frankfurt lead to 66-60. In the run, the Slovenian team got further support from Kyzlink who hit a trey, Atanackovic scored inside, Curry made a tough off balance shot and 31 year old Slovenian and ex DASH Peristeri GS Athens (Greece-A1) guardJure Mocnik hit a trey. Then in crunch time, the Fraport Skyliners closed down the lane and shut down Curry well forcing him to a turnover and two misses while they took advantage of their missed possessions on offense with Shields and Robertson buckets to extend their lead to 70-62. Shields and Robertson made two more steals in the last minute and Vaughn put an exclamation mark on the win with a lay up. “It was tough at the end. We haven´t played with such a slim rotation this season as it was the first time that we played with four guards. Our other American four man isn´t allowed to play in this competition and our other five man is out”, added Brandyn Curry. The Fraport Skyliners were led by Quantez Robertson and Shavon Shields with 14 points apiece. Kwame Vaughn added 13 points and AJ English produced 12 points. The Helios Suns were led by Tomas Kyzlink with 15 points. Brandyn Curry and Maj Kovacevic added 11 points apiece. The Fraport Skyliners shot 45% from the field and 44% from outside while the Helios Suns shot 44% from the field and 43% from outside. Frankfurt won the rebound duel 32-28 and had 16 turnovers while the Helios Suns coughed up the ball 22 times.