In the last weeks do or die games as well as fascinating and breathtaking finishes like the unbelievable 75-73 win by North Carolina over Kentucky where Malik Monk´s last second shot was overturned by Luke Maye´s last triple with 0,3 seconds remaining to propel the Tar Heels into the 2017 NCAA Final 4 were as usual as it has been for ratiopharm Ulm winning and winning in the BBL this season, but also in the NBBL playoffs do or die games have been growing as last weekend the Igeko Falcons BC Nurnberg had to win at home against Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners to keep their season alive and did with a super performance as they won 63-51 stepping up their defense allowing 29 less points than in game one and carved the total points by German wonder boy Isaac Bonga and Cosmo Gruehn in half from 57 points to only 29 points and forced them to coughing up the ball 20 times with their aggressive defense. It hadn´t helped the cause of Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners that they were without their other strong performer Konstantin Schubert as he had been nursing an ankle injury. Both teams arrived into the game with their two star players Isaac Bonga who registered his first triple double in the Pro B a few weeks ago and is a projected 2018 NBA Draft Pick and Moritz Sanders who currently is averaging 7,2ppg in the Pro A and quietly developing further as a basketball player and were hoping to move on and face the International Basketball Academy Munich with their star player Oscar De La Silva. Despite being without second top scorer German Konstantin Schubert again for the third time in the series, Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners had enough other weapons and depth and took advantage of their home court despite some loud Nurnberg fans who had made the trip to cheer on the kids and escaped a last furious comeback by their opponent to slip into the quarterfinals with a satisfying 70-60 victory.
It was a game that Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners led from early on, but allowed Igeko Nurnberg Falcons BC very close in crunch time, but it was the overall sound team play and superb leadership by 17 year old Isaac Bonga that allowed the home team to preserve the win. After the quick win, Bonga had exactly one hour and five minutes before his next game in the BBL against the Telekom Baskets Bonn and was dripping with sweat outside the locker room and showed absolutely no panic about having to get to the Fraport arena in time and reflected about the victory and keeping a cool head at the end. “I knew from the start that I had to take responsibility today. That is my job as point guard. We were always awake in the game and stayed calm even in tough times”, stressed Isaac Bonga.
When Bonga was long gone and on his way to the Fraport arena for the 10 minute drive from the BCM gym, Cosmo Gruehn was still on the court stretching and found the right words for the win. “Rebounds was key today as we were the better rebounding team in the first half and also defense as we held them to 60 points. We also did a good job keeping Sanders and Hassfuerter in check. We didn´t have to rely as much on our outside shooting like in game two, but were able to penetrate more with success”, added ex USC Freiburg big man Cosmo Gruehn.
The first quarter looked more like a game on the playgrounds except that defense was being played as missed shots and wild turnovers belonged to the norm. Both teams had massive problems getting into a sound rhythm as the game was rather low scoring in the first 10 minutes. Bonga got Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners on the board first with a lay in, but Moritz Sanders gave the Igeko Nurnberg Falsons BC their first lead 3-2 with a lay in and free throw. Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners then unleashed one of their many weapons ex TV Langen guard Niklas Pons who hit the guests with back to back trey´s as Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners led 8-3. The Igeko Nurnberg Falscons BC couldn´t muster much offense and when they did it came only from Sanders and Hassfuerter who supplied the points as they inched their way back cutting the Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners lead to 10-9. Bonga had problems shooting only 1/9 from the field in the first qauretr as he chose to use his speed and athleticism over his outside shooting and at least got to the free throw line twice converting three free throws as Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners led 13-9 after one quarter. “Both teams were very nervous as is normal with youth players. Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners did a good job using their physicality and athleticism that we had problems getting accustomed to”, stressed Igeko Nurnberg Falcons BC coach Ralph Junge.
The first few minutes of the second quarter were tight, but halfway through Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners were able to get away and set the tone for the game until crunch time. Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners had a horrible start being stopped on their first five possessions, but could only get five points out of their masterful defense and took only their second and last lead of the game at 14-13. In the run the Igeko Nurnberg Falcons BC got vital energy from 16 year old German Matthew Meredith who played his first German Pro A game with 14 years of age in 2015 against Chemnitz who showed brilliance on both ends of the floor and on offense snuck inside for the nifty lay in as big man 207 cm 18 year old German Tim Handt supplied the dime. 17 year old 188cm sharp shooter Manuel Feuerpfeil connected on a catch and pop shot. It was only a matter of time until Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners would crawl out of their untimely offensive funk and get rolling on offense as they cruised on a 13-0 run to totally break open the game leading 26-14. In this phase, the club totally demonstrated to what their offense and depth is capable of when everyone on the floor gets involved. Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners got big three point shooting from 16 year old energy machine Alvin Oniya who had been inserted into the starting rotation and Bonga. In the run the team also got support from 17 year old German big man Beat Weichsler who came from the bench giving instant support making a tip in and lay in and Cosmo Gruehn nailed a trey releasing a cry of joy. The Igeko Nurnberg Falcons BC stopped the furious run of Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners and went on a mini 4-0 run as 218cm giant Tanor Ngoom from Senegal scored on the pick and roll as Feuerpfeil supplied the pass and 17 year old 200cm forward German Ben Gahlert also scored inside cutting the Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners lead to 26-18. Down the stretch, Pons, Gruehn and Bonga scored for Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners while the Igeko Nurnberg Falcons BC got a spectacular bucket from Moritz Sanders who has played 25 Pro A games for Nurnberg this season scoring over Bonga with a lay in and Meredith made free throws as Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners led 32-22 at halftime. “We had way too many turnovers which gave Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners more possessions and more shots”, added Ralph Junge. Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners were shooting 30% from the field and 45% from outside while the Igeko Nurnberg Falcons BC were shooting 33% from the field and 0% from outside at 0/9 while they led the rebound duel 22-21, but had 13 turnovers while Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners had only five turnovers.
In the third quarter Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners were able to lead in double digits most of the way and fans saw the Isaac Bonga Show as he owned the paint area scoring 14 points. The Igeko Nurnberg Falcons BC jumped all over Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners in the first two minutes going on a 6-2 run to cut the Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners lead to 34-28. Bonga got Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners on the board first with a pretty floater, but the Igeko Nurnberg Falcons BC then scored three unanswered baskets as Ngom made a tip in, Sanders scored inside and Hassfuerter had the seemingly blind audacity to attempt a difficult reverse lay up over Bonga who at 205cm had the 21 centimeters length at his advantage. Despite this little burst of fire from the guests, Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners didn´t let that rattle their game as they finally got their offense going going on a 11-1 run to once again break open the game to lead 45-29. In the run, Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners got 7 points from Bonga all in the paint as nobody could slow down the ex Koblenz Regionalliga player, but also got support from good role player 17 year old Oliver Babitsch who could compete with teammate Konstantin Schubert who has the more blonde hair made a big pass on the back door cut to Pons for the lay up and then came up big on defense with a steal and coast to coast sprint for the lay up. Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners continued to have the big lead, but one could sense that Igeko Nurnberg Falcons BC weren´t about to lay down and die as they still had a lot of energy and firepower getting big support from Feuerpfeil who led a 5-0 run with a trey and jumper, but Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners kept their composure leading well 52-39 after 30 minutes. “We made good pressure on defense which led to good offense”, stated Isaac Bonga. “Our offense was more fluid and we moved the ball and made open shots. Bonga also scored without problems inside”, stressed Cosmo Gruehn. Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners shot 35% from the field and 38% from the three point line while the Igeko Nurnberg Falcons shot 44% from the field and 8% from the three point line. The Igeko Nurnberg Falcons BC had the 30-26 rebound edge, but 21 turnovers while Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners had only 6 turnovers.
In the fourth quarter Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners continued to control the game and lead by as much as 14 points, but then let the contest slip away, but kept their composure to muster out the win. Despite getting a trey from 18 year old German Hristijan Radiceski who had been on the bench for the first half, Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners led 58-44 after getting two free throws from Cosmo Gruehn. However with time running out and the season slipping away, the Igeko Nurnberg Falcons BC made one last attempt to get back into the game and shocked Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners going on an unexpected 11-0 run to cut Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners lead to 58-55. The defining moment which helped the Igeko Nurnberg Falcons BC break away on their 11-0 run was when Hassfierter stole the ball from Oniya in Frankfurt´s own end and nailed a trey. From this point on Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners seemed to be paralyzed as they watched the guests claw their way back as they got to the free throw line as Sanders and Hassfuerter converted shots and Meredith made a lay in. Bonga and Meredith then traded free throws and Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners still led only 60-57. “The steal and three from Hassfuerter energized Nurnberg to come back. They pressured us more and we got more nervous.”, stressed Cosmo Gruehn. With less than two minutes to play, then came another example as to why Isaac Bonga´s middle name should be “Unselfish” as instead of continuing to dominate in the paint, he let his instincts go to work as he let his crisp passing strength work finding Oniya all open in the corner with the kick out pass as the German nailed the trey and Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners led 63-57. “ I always look for my teammates first. I always have trust in all my teammates to make their shots. I could have finished on my own on that play, but I must admit I do love to give the no look pass”, smiled Isaac Bonga. “Bonga always has a good feeling what to do with the ball. He has trust in his teammates, but is a pass first guard that knows when he has to score. Even if he is triple teamed, he always finds at least one guy open”, stressed Cosmo Gruehn. The exciting game didn´t end here with a Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners six point lead as Meredith dropped a trey with 1.40 to play as Nurnberg trailed only 63-60. “I was a bit scared at this moment. I was on the bench and it is always 10 times worse watching from there then being on the court.”, smiled Cosmo Gruehn. However Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners then buckled down causing the Igeko Nurnberg Falcons to cough up the ball and then defended hard as they stopped the next 2 possessions on Sanders and Hassfuerter. Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners closed out the game with a strong 7-0 run as Pons scored and hit free throws and 16 year old German Tim David Schraedt broke behind the Nurnberg press and scored an open lay up. “We contained our cool and just wanted to win the game more on our court”, explained Cosmo Gruehn. Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners were led by Isaac Bonga with 30 points and 12 rebounds. Niklas Pons added 14 points and Cosmo Gruehn added 10 points. The Igeko Nurnberg Falcons BC were led by Moritz Sanders with 17 points. Nils Hassfuerter added 13 points and Matthew Meredith had 11 points and 11 boards. Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners shot 35% from the field and 33% from outside while the Igeko Nurnberg Falcons BC shot 37% from the field and 18% from outside. The Igeko Nurnberg Falcons BC won th rebound battle 43-35, but coughed up the ball23 times while Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners had 11 turnovers.