Now is a very special month in the States concerning college basketball as it is the time of the year where March Madness takes over and fans are transformed into a special world where players are made into hero´s, some unknown teams create their own special Cinderella stories and upsets are always present as Duke recently was kicked out with the winner being crowned at the start of April in Phoenix. But also in Germany is March a very special time for youth basketball as the NBBL playoffs begin and teams battle for the ticket to the Final 4 at the end of May in Frankfurt and where upsets are also not uncommon as defending champion Breitengussbach lost their first game getting hammered by ratiopharm Ulm 82-58. In Frankfurt Eintracht Frankfurrt/Fraport Skyliners started their mission to reach the NBBL top 4 on their home base in the 5,004 seat Fraport arena as they came into the playoffs with a 11-3 record in third place while the Igeko Nurnberg Falcons finished with a record of 12-4. There are no real easy opponents in the NBBL playoffs and Eintracht Frankfurt knew that they would be facing a sound defensive team with Nurnberg as they had relinquished 70 points or less in 10 games while Frankfurt did 9 times. After an offensive first quarter, both teams settled down on the defensive end and the game was even for three quarters, but in the fourth quarter the Igeko Nurnberg Falcons BC ran out of gas as the depth and fire power of Comso Gruehn and Isaac Bonga was too much for the Bavarian team as Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners won 80-70.
“We knew that it wouldn´t be an easy task. We played very well and got the needed support from the bench. We know that whenever the clock is down and we need a basket, we can rely on Isaac Bonga to making the shot. He has improved his three pointer the last weeks. He has been practicing his shot extra hard the last weeks and is a motivation for all of us to want to get our chances and produce like he does”, stressed ex USC Freiburg forward Cosmo Gruehn.
Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners didn´t waste any time jumping on the Igeko Nurnberg Falcons BC racing out on a crushing 11-0 run as the Bavarian assistant coach and former Ehingen coaching legend Ralph Junge was still staying calm, but must have been fuming inside. In the run, Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners were led by three three pointers from Cosmo Gruehn, Isaac Bonga and Oliver Babitsch. Not only did Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners find their groove and make their mark early from outside, but the Igeko Nurnberg Falcons BC also started to heat up as point guard Nils Hassfurther and forward Pal Ghotra connected from downtown cutting the Frankfurt lead to 14-6. Moritz Sanders who also is active in the Pro A averaging 7,2ppg and scorched Dresden for 17 points also helped the Bavarian team in their 10-3 run with a lay in as Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners suddenly led only 14-10. However the Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners three point bombs continued as 16 year old quick guard Alvin Onyia nailed a trey. The Nurnberg side had their offense rolling and responded with a timely 5-0 run as Hassfuerter scored inside and Manuel Feuerpfeil dropped a trey cutting the Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners lead to 17-14. However the Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners slick duo of Bonga/Gruehn were a three point wrecking crew hitting from outside extending the Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners lead to 23-16. Gruehn ended the first quarter with a lay in and free throw as Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners led 26-20. “I think that they were nervous, but so were we in a way. Whenever we see a new team, we want to set a good first impression and we did that with our 11-0 start. We caught them flat footed and we shot well”, stressed Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners forward Cosmo Gruehn. Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners was shooting 57% from the field and 70% from outside while the Igeko Nurnberg Falcons BC were shooting 50% from the field and 50% from outside. Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners had the 7/6 rebound advantage and two turnovers while the guests had one turnover.
The second quarter was a battle as Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners had the lead, but the Igeko Nurnberg Falcons BC were closer on their doorstep than the hungriest kid on Halloween. It is always a thrill to see the young kids making amazing plays or passes something that Isaac Bonga has been doing all season long, but Nurnberg Matthew Meredith also has learned how to feed spectacular passes as he made a pretty no look pass to 17 year od 200cm forward Ben Gahlert for the first bucket of the second quarter. That first bucket inspired the Igeko Nurnberg Falcons BC for two more baskets to dead lock the contest at 26-26 as Hassfuerter scored on a jumper and Meredith snuck inside for a quick reverse lay up. Gruehn and Sanders then traded trey´s and the Bavarian team then caught Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners a bit flat footed as they upped their defense and suddenly made life for the home team better and rode out on a 8-2 run to get their biggest lead of the game at 37-31. In the run, Nurnberg spread the ball around well as Ghotra, Hassenfuerter, and Feuerpfeil scored. It also didn´t help Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners that German Oliver Babitsch was disqualified from the game. However Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners were cautious and didn´t allow the guests to get away any more as they closed out the second quarter with a 10-5 run to trail 42-41 at the break. Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners got vital production from Bonga and Niklas Pons who dropped three´s and a lay in by Gruehn. “We had problems under the basket. Nurnberg is a good team and it was clear that they would come back. Basketball is a game of runs and we had ours late”, added Cosmo Gruehn. Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners shot 38% from the field and 53% from the three point line while the Igeko Nurnberg Falcons BC shot 58% from the field and 57% from the three point line. Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners had the 17-15 rebound edge and five turnovers while Nurnberg had seven turnovers.
In the third quarter the game remained tight as one could see that playoff atmosphere and focus as offense took a back seat and both teams started to concentrate again more on defense. Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners regained the lead after their potent offensive duo of Bonga/Gruehn nailed three´s again giving Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners the 47-44 advantage. However Nurnberg´s Hassfuerter continued to produce as Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners had done a good containing Moritz Sanders with a trey to dead lock the game 47-47. Then both teams went on massive runs as Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners started with a 10 -0 run to extend their lead to 56-47 as Bonga scored in buckets with a lay in and floater, Gruehn made a tip in and little used 17 year old Dennis Maclab came up big dropping a trey. However the Igeko Nurnberg Falcons BC weren´t impressed and slapped Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners back going on their very own 12-1 run to steal back the lead at 59-57. In the run, the Bavarian squad got key input from Hassfuerter again as he was their go to guy in game one as he connected on a trey and a 15 footer, Meredith hit a three, Ghotra scored inside and 18 year old 207cm center Tim Handt spun his way to the hoop for two. However Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners had the last laugh as Gruehn nailed another trey as Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners led 60-59 after 30 minutes. “It went back and forth with runs. Hassfuerter took over as we took Sanders better out of the game”, stressed Cosmo Gruehn. Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners shot 41% from the field and 52% from the parking lot while the Igeko Nurnberg Falcons BC shot 51% from the field and 50% from the parking lot. Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners had the 28-24 rebound lead and both teams had 10 turnovers a piece.
Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners kept the lead and never gave it up again as the Igeko Falcons Nurnberg BC fought back, but the depth and fire power from the bench was too much for the Bavarian side. Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners took off in the first few minutes wearing down the Igeko Nurnberg Falcons BC going on a massive 10-2 run to extend their lead to 70-61 lead. It was Bonga leading the charge as he nailed his fifth trey of the game and later in the run scored in the paint. The club also got huge support from their bench as Leon Pullen scored inside after getting the no look pass from Bonga and 16 year old little used German Aris Letsios used his extreme quickness catching Nurnberg off guard with a fast sprint to the hoop. Pons also exploited the paint area with his quickness scoring easily. Hassfuerter who took 16 shots on the day cut the Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners lead to 70-64 with a bomb from outside, but the Bavarian side were unable to get consistent stops in crunch time as Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners continued to lay it on the line getting solid production from their bench as Oniya scored. However Gruehn and Bonga closed the door on the Igeko Nurnberg Falcons BC as they combined for 7 points as the ex Freiburg player hit a trey and the wunderkind Bonga hit a pull up and made a lay in extending the Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners lead to 79-68. Ghotra and Gruehn closed out the game with free throws. “Our bench was big today. Guys like Oniya and Letsios scored when we needed it. It is good that our bench see what we starters do and aren´t scared to step up and contribute also”, warned Cosmo Gruehn. Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners was led by Cosmo Gruehn with 31 points and 12 rebounds while Isaac Bonga had 26 points, eight rebounds and nine assists. The Igeko Nurnberg Falcons BC were led by Nils Hassfuerter with 24 points. Pal Ghotra had 11 points and Moritz sanders added 10 points, seven rebounds and four assists. Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners shot 45% from the field and 52% from outside while the Igeko Nurnberg Falcons BC shot 46% from the field and 45% from outside. Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners won the rebound battle 40-27, but had 15 turnovers while the Igeko Nurnberg Falcons BC had 14 turnovers.