It seems like it was only yesterday when Donald Trump was putting on the last final touches of his 2016 Presidential campaign and the NBBL season was just getting into swing, but after a few months the regular season is winding down and the playoffs are looming quickly. For one team, the playoffs were already booked while the other team was fighting for that last spot. Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners had a 10-3 record and sitting in position two despite having lost two of the last three games, but won their last game in Langen 92-68 where Cosmo Gruehn poured in 28 points. In their two previous games, they had lost to ratiopharm Ulm and Urspirng where they were missing their four top players and were led by players like Leon Pullen and Oliver Babitsch who usually get lesser minutes. On the other side of the court the Young Tigers Tuebingne arrived into the game with a 6-7 record and in fifth place battling Urspring for that last playoff spot who also had a record of 6-7, the Young Tigers Tuebingen had to win their last game in Frankfurt to reach the playoffs since they had won both regular season games against Urspring. However Eintracht Frankfurt had their allstar ensemble on board and wanted to cruise into the NBBL playoffs with full force and easily took apart the Young Tigers Tuebingen 75-52 on a wet Sunday afternoon. Only 16 hours earlier 17 year old German wunderkind Isaac Bonga had experienced his first big milestone as a professional registering his first triple double of the season with 10 points, 15 rebounds, and 10 assists in a win against Nordlingen propelling the Pro B team Fraport Skyliners Juniors into the playoffs. Bonga wasn´t as good against Tuebingen as he only had six points and six turnovers, but was solid on the boards with seven rebounds and had seven assists, but it didn´t really matter since his team had strong support from their three starters Konstantin Schubert, Cosmo Gruehn and Niklas Pons who combined for 44 points and young 16 year old German Alvin Onyia gave good energy from the bench netting 13 points. After the game Konstantin Schubert who is the clean cut guy who never looks like he broke a sweat, but looks more like a young banker in training understood that the club wasn´t totally consistent, but important that everyone was on board. “We had our ups and downs, but was a good preparation for the playoffs. We wanted to go into the playoffs with force and it was important that everyone could play together. We did a good job rebounding and had the height advantage and really took advantage of it”, stressed Konstantin Schubert.
The Young Tigers Tuebingen big highlight of the season was sweeping top German youth team Urspring, but lost both games to TV Langen probably costing them the playoffs, but head coach Manuel Pasios was still content with the performance of his team against a very strong Frankfurt squad. “It was a very scrappy game. Our three point shooting kept us in the game. We were at a big disadvantage under the boards as we couldn´t compensate their height. Frankfurt gave their all and wanted to go into the playoffs strong. We were able to annoy them only a little with our press, but that was it”, stressed Young Tigers head coach Manuel Pasios.
Both teams came out smoking nailing four trey´s as 19 year old German Cosmo Gruehn tested his 42% three point percentage scoring twice and Tuebingen got buckets from17 year old Said Bristina and 18 year old Mattis Mann. Both teams then traded buckets as 18 year Germam Timo Liebelt who averages 9 rebounds per game in the NBBL hit a jumper and Bonga a step back. Eintracht Frankfurt then went on their first big run of 11-2 and would never look back. The Eintracht Frankfurt offense was fluid and everyone was getting involved and the execution rate was high. In the run Eintracht Frankfurt got valuable support from Schubert who made two field goals, Onyia snuck inside for an offensive rebound and put back, 17 year old Oliver Babitsch hit a trey and 17 year old Beat Weichsler got active in the paint for a lay in as Eintracht Frankfurt led 19-10. Their offensive onslaught continued as they closed out the first quarter with a 8-3 run to lead 27-13 after 10 minutes. They did relinquish a three from Mann, but compensated for that mishap on defense by staying consistent getting a trey by Onyia, a 15 footer from the wing form Schubert and a step back from Bonga. “We were defending well, hit our three´s well and had more rhythm and playing better together than Tuebingen. Bonga surely could of sat out this game after playing last night and was sick, but the best way to keep that rhythm and improving is playing as much as possible”, stressed Fraport Skyliner Garai Zeeb. Eintracht Frankfurt was shooting 59% from the field and 75% from outside while the Young Tigers Tuebingen were shooting 31% from the field and 18% form outside. Eintracht Frankfurt had the 11-7 rebound edge and three turnovers while Tuebingen had five turnovers.
In the second quarter, Eintracht Frankfurt continued to dominate the game and despite a few minutes of losing focus on offense, they continued to defend well to keep their overwhelming lead. Frankfurt stopped Tuebingen´s first two possession and made them pay as on offense they went on a 5-0 run as Bonga found Schubert for two inside on the lob pass and then finally hit his first trey after missing his first four as Eintracht Frankfurt led 31-13. Then came a bad phase of Eintracht Frankfurt as they were unable to figure out the press of Tuebingen coughing up the ball in three of four possessions while Tuebingen got buckets from 17 year Tim Konrad who got the perfect touch pass from Nemanja Nadjfeji who was taught from the master his dad who belonged to the top passing power forwards in the BBL and Liebelt scored cutting the Frankfurt advantage to 33-18. Eintracht Frankfurt had totally lost their rhythm and took a timeout. Eintracht Frankfurt calmed down going on a 9-1 run to extend their lead to 40-19. In the run, Eintracht Frankfurt was led by Gruehn who continued to dominate inside getting an offensive rebound and finishing with a put back and then hit a jumper while ex TV Langen guard Niklas Pons tested his 40,4% three point accuracy nailing a trey and Onyia scored inside as 18 year old German Oliver Rohs made a keen extra shovel pass. Eintracht Frankfurt then had a little lapse again in the last minutes allowing the Young Tigers Tuebingen to go into halftime with a 9-5 run and trailing only 45-28. They relied on their outside shooting as Bristina, Papadopoulos and Nadjfeji hit three´s. Eintracht Frankfurt got another trey from Onyia and a lay in by role player Leon Pullen at the buzzer. “We had some problems with their zone as we didn´t really know what the perfect shot should be. However we figured it out got stops and easy baskets on transition and had our rhythm back. We also did a good job getting the big men involved inside”, added ex Bremerhaven guard Garai Zeeb. Eintracht Frankfurt was shooting 53% from the field and 67% from the three point line while the Young Tigers Tuebingen were shooting 33% from the field and 21% from the three point line. Eintracht Frankfurt dominated the boards 25-14, but had 10 turnovers while the Young Tigers Tuebingen had nine turnovers.
Eintracht Frankfurt kept their big lead,in the third quarter, but the Young Tigers Tuebingen never wanted to really fold completely as they continued to claw their way back even if they were unable to get the Eintracht Frankfurt lead under 10 points. Just like to begin of the second quarter, Eintracht Frankfurt halted the first two Tuebingen offensive possessions and Pons took advantage hitting a trey and Schubert continued to cause havoc inside getting an offensive rebound and making a put back as Eintracht Frankfurt led 50-28. This run didn´t phase the Young Tigers Tuebingen as they continued to rely on their precision outside shooting going on a 8-0 run to cut the Eintracht Frankfurt lead to 50-36 as Nadjfeji hit back to back trey´s and Mann connected on a step back jumper. However Pons put a dent in that run dropping another trey and Schubert scored inside again as Eintracht Frankfurt led 55-38. The Eintracht Frankfurt ball movement continued to be spot on often leaving a player totally open which Babitsch took to his advantage and connected as the Young Tigers Tuebingen trailed 58-40. With the absence of top player Jefferson Hiller, it was expected that German Marco Bjelosevic would step up, but he was having a rotten shooting day and was scoreless until the last minute of the third, but then showed his immense energy as he scored twice within 20 seconds as his tough defense led to easy transition buckets as Eintracht Frankfurt led only 58-44 after 30 minutes. “They took our rhythm away with their aggressive press defense and we took too many quick shots, but after a while we got a handle of it”, stressed Konstantin Schubert. “We tried to press as well as we could. We forced some turnovers and got easy baskets. Bjelosevic gave us good energy at the end”, stressed Manuel Pasios. Eintracht Frankfurt was shooting 46% from the field and 50% from the parking lot while the Young Tigers Tuebingen were shooting 38% from the field and 30% from the parking lot. Eintracht Frankfurt continued to have the big domination under the boards 37-20, but had 18 turnovers while the Young Tigers Tuebingen had 13 turnovers.
In the fourth quarter, Eintracht Frankfurt closed out the game in fine fashion stepping up their defense one notch more allowing only 8 points while supplying 17 points on offense. Eintracht Frankfurt started off strong again going on a 5-0 run to extend their lead to 63-44 as Schubert scored on an easy basket as Bonga had gone up for a fade away jumper, but at the last second in best Larry Bird manner made the quick pass and Pons nailed home a trey. After a Bristina three pointer, Eintracht Frankfurt slammed the door for good on the Young Tigers Tuebingen showing once more what type of dangerous offensive arsenal they have going on a 10-0 run to extend their lead to 73-47. In this run, they displayed everything from fine transition basketball where Bonga made the perfect mini touchdown pass right in the money to Schubert for an easy lay in and also showed their inside dominance once more as Schubert scored and their outside presence as Pons and Onyia connected from downtown. The Young Tiigers Tuebingen did end the game with a 5-2 run as Mann hit another trey and Liebelt scored with two seconds remaining catching Eintracht Frankfurt napping on the inbounds pass. Leon Pullen scored the last Eintracht Frankfurt basket. “We wore them down especially with our inside game”, stressed Konstantin Schubert. “Eintracht Frankfurt totally dominated. When they are complete, they are the hidden favorite to win the NBBL title”, warned Manuel Pasios. Eintracht Frankfurt was led by Konstantin Schubert who had 19 points and 10 rebounds. Niklas Pons added 15 points while Alvin Onyia chipped in with 13 points and Cosmo Gruehn had 10 points, seven rebounds and five assists. The Young Tigers Tuebingen were led by Mattis Mann with 13 points and Nemanja Nadjfeji had 11 points. Eintracht Frankfurt shot 47% from the field and 44% from outside while the Young Tigers Tuebingen shot 33% from the field and 42% from outside. Eintracht Frankfurt totally dominated the baords51-26, but coughed up the ball 25 times while the Young Tigers Tuebingen had 18 turnovers.