After being on the road for weeks which must have felt like an eternity as something like that is rather untypical in the Pro B basketball world, the Fraport Skyliners Juniors were finally back home again, but even if they didn´t want to admit it were facing a type of double whammy at home even if it was more a mental thing that they had to contend with. The last time the Fraport Skyliners Juniors stepped off the court in their own smug living room they had left with hanging heads as they had suffered every player´s nightmare having been hit and shattered by a last second buzzer beater shot by ScanPlus Baskets guard Hayden Lescault that not only put a piercing dagger into the hearts of Frankfurt, but also had the audacity not to go through the netting in the usual way with a beautiful swish, but had the nerve to bounce around the rim for seemingly minutes and then trickle through somewhat delaying the celebrations by the visitors. That was the first whammy that Frankfurt had to encounter and the second one was having to face the Dragons Rhondorf again as the last time they faced them in October in the Dragon Dome in Rhondorf, they also had to exit the floor as the losers on a last second buzzer beater by Mr “it´s Seton Hill not Seton Hall” Kameron Taylor who had nerves of steel in the last 9 seconds and the slick self confidence of a clutch crunch time player like Michael Jordan back in the day as he took Jules Akodo to the cleaners with a pull up jumper that found nothing but net and put the Dragons Rhondorf into basketball heaven for a night. The good news was that the Fraport Skyliners Juniors were coming off a big win in Schwelm where German Garai Zeeb had supplied the heroics supplying a game winning shot and three seasons ago Frankfurt beat Rhondorf in Frankfurt with a Kyle Fossman buzzer beater. With so many buzzer beaters swirling around in everybody´s minds, one could only have figured that this game would experience another shocking fate at the end, but it didn´t as the Fraport Skyliners Juniors won their fourth game in a row after staging a comeback in the second half winning 84-77.
After the victory a thrilled Konstantin Schubert described how tough it was starting the game and then coming back and winning against a very hungry Rhondorf team that almost didn´t make it on time to the game on account of weather problems. “It is always hard when you have to wait for the opponent to arrive and you think you have the advantage, but then they come out strong. We had problems with their zone for a long period. In the second half, we found ways to get to the hoop and were more aggressive against their zone. We were also tougher on the defensive end and defended better”, stressed German Konstantin Schubert. After the win American Kameron Taylor was a bit in disbelief that his team let Frankfurt come back and didn´t see the late arrival as an excuse had the start gone sour. “We knew that we had a job to do and couldn´t blame it on traffic. We had the right mindset coming into the game and just did what we do. We had a good first half, but let up in the second half. It went back and forth in the third quarter and they went on a run in the fourth quarter and we couldn´t get over the hump anymore. We got a tough call on Valentin Blass at the end. We played good team basketball and moved the ball well. Our defense was pretty good as well as we forced them to tough shots. They are one of the underrated teams in the Pro B. You always have to bring you’re a game against them.”, stressed Maryland native Kameron Taylor.
The Fraport Skyliners had a walking wounded list as long as any child´s Christmas wish list as Richard Freudenberg, Armin Trtovac, Tobias Jahn and Jamin Knothe were all out while the Dragons Rhondorf were without the departed Canadian Kevin Thomas and German Yannick Kneesch who was in the hospital. The first few minutes were back and forth until the Dragons Rhondorf settled down and took command of the game displaying their offensive arsenal. The Fraport Skyliners Juniors got on the board first as Alex Fountain who dropped 30 points in the first game in Rhondorf nailed a trey. However Rhondorf got their first lead of the game as Taylor and German Thomas Michel connected on jumpers getting the 5-3 advantage. German Garai Zeeb who was sprouting with added self confidence after he scored 6 points the night before in a big win against Bremerhaven continued to have his shooting stroke intact nailing a trey as Frankfurt got the lead back 6-5 lead. However Rhondorf countered with a potent 7-0 run taking the 12-6 lead as top Pro B point guard Viktor Frankl- Maus scored 5 points and Taylor made a left handed lay in. Frankfurt got some key buckets from their guards Jules Akodo and Isaac Bonga, but couldn´t keep Taylor in check as he continued to add havoc scoring nine points including a pretty dunk as Rhondorf extended their lead to 21-16. Bonga coming off his best BBL scoring night against Bremerhaven with 16 points dropped a trey while young 19 year old German Anton Geretzki also scored from downtown as Rhondorf had the comfortable 24-16 lead after one quarter. “Frankfurt wasn´t being aggressive enough against the Rhondorf zone. They also had problems containing Taylor. It is hard to defend a guy like that when he has so many weapons”, stressed Fraport Skyliner Philip Scrubb. The Dragons Rhondorf were shooting 53% from the field and 67% from outside while the Fraport Skyliners Juniors were shooting 33% from the field and 33% from outside. Both teams had nine rebounds apiece, but Rhondorf had four turnovers and Frankfurt had three turnovers.
In the second quarter the Dragons Rhondorf continued to control the game and were able to extend their lead into double digits. Geretzki continued his hot shooting nailing another trey extending the Rhondorf lead to 27-16. However the Fraport Skyliners Juniors found some momentum getting some big stops and forcing a 7-2 run to cut the Dragons Rhondorf lead to 29-23. Zeeb was aggressive getting to the free throw line and nailing a three while Akodo used every possible moment to attack the rim hitting a runner. But basketball wouldn´t be basketball without it´s healthy dose of runs as the Dragons Rhondorf continued to play spirited basketball and shook off the Frankfurt run hitting them with a 10-2 run extending their lead to 39-25. They were aggressive in the paint getting three buckets from Michel, the Latvian Lion Ronalds Elknis who won the Latvian second division crown last season and played at John Brown(NAIA) and Alexander Moeller and the third trey from Geretzki. Their zone was functioning well and keeping Alex Fountain to limited shots and their German role players were doing the job while Taylor was on the bench. Frankfurt then found some instant offensive going on a 5-0 run to cut the Rhondorf lead to 39-30 as Zeeb hit a floater and free throw and new Skyliner Marco Voeller made a standard offensive rebound and put back. 24 year old Patrick Reusch who always brings the needed energy at both ends of the court snuck inside for two quick points and Taylor scored. German Cosmo Gruehn playing his second season with Frankfurt put an exclamation mark on the second quarter leading his team into the break with a three and cutting the Rhondorf lead to 45-35. “Rhondorf did a good job moving the ball and getting to the paint when they could and kicking it out to the open guys. They just played good team basketball”, stressed Philip Scrubb. The Dragons Rhondorf were shooting 48% from the field and 55% from the three point line while the Fraport Skyliners Juniors were shooting 34% from the field and 29% from the three point line. Frankfurt had the 22-16 rebound edge and four turnovers while Rhondorf had six turnovers.
In the third quarter the Dragons Rhondorf would lead by as much as 18 points only to see it grinded down by a slick three point snowfall that instantly brought the Fraport Skyliners Juniors back into the game. The Dragons Rhondorf came out of halftime as hungry as ever especially on the offensive end going on a 10-4 run to extend their lead to 55-39. Frankfurt did get on the board first as Frankfurt was aggressive against the Rhondorf zone as Zeeb made a perfect kick out pass to Bonga who fired away seeing nothing but net. However Rhondorf then scored 10 unanswered points and really stepped up the defense led by Taylor and Moeller blocks. On offense they got solid production from Frankl-Maus and Michel twice who continued to get inside and score with ease. Taylor also got to the free throw line twice nailing his free throws. Rhondorf did a good job keeping Frankfurt off balance with their timely shooting and productive defense. After a Bonga free throw, it was Michel who dropped a trey for Rhondorf´s biggest lead on the night at 58-40. But then all of a sudden it snowed three´s as the Fraport Skyliners Juniors demonstrated again just how lethal and quickly their offense can come back into a game even when it seems impossible as they stormed on a 12-0 run cutting the Rhondorf lead down to 58-52 as Greuhn connected twice and Fountain and Akodo once from downtown. “We were struggling on offense but Greuhn really carried us in the third. He is young, but knows what he can and can´t do”, stressed Marco Voeller. Frankfurt continued to chip away at the Rhondorf lead and had added self confidence and also got easy buckets inside from Zeeb and Akodo and a Fountain tip in and suddenly were behind only 64-61. Gruehn soon tied the score at 64-64 with his fourth trey. Frankfurt couldn´t quite keep the momentum as Rhondorf held the lead going on a 4-0 run with Taylor free throws and a Reusch pull up jumper. “They got hot from outside. They got three´s from some guys that usually don´t score as much. Akodo and Bonga did a good job attacking our zone, but it was more about our defensive breakdowns”, warned Kameron Taylor. “Cosmo Gruehn had a big day and carried us back into the game. We did a better job not letting Taylor play 1-1, but forcing him to tougher shots and played better help defense”, added Konstantin Schubert. The Dragons Rhondorf were shooting 51% from the field and 58% from the parking lot while the Fraport Skyliners Juniors were shooting 39% from the field and 34% from the parking lot. Frankfurt ad the 29-24 rebound lead and seven turnovers while Rhondorf had nine turnovers.
In the fourth quarter, the Fraport Skyliners Juniors went to work right away slamming the door on the Dragons Rhondorf hitting them with a nasty 14-2 run to up their lead to 78-70 and they would never look back again. Fountain started the fourth quarter with a free throw which was met by a Taylor off balance shot extending the Rhondorf lead to 70-65. The Fraport Skyliners Juniors then rattled off 13 unanswered points led by their guard trio of Akodo, Bonga and Zeeb scoring 8 points. When these guys are playing together, there is no better guard trio in the German Pro B. All three know how to get in the lane and finish with authority. Voeller added some stability making free throws and an easy layin. The Fraport Skyliners Juniors saved their best for last as after averaging giving up 22 points per quarter, they gave up only nine points in the fourth quarter which was the difference. Rhondorf didn´t give up though getting a Taylor coast t coast layin and Frankl-Maus three cutting the Frankfurt lead to 80-76 with a minute to go. But Maus and Taylor couldn´t accurately make their free throws and an untimely flagrant foul by German Valentin Blass sent Fountain to the free throw line making both for the 82-77 lead with 32 seconds remaining. Bonga closed out the game with free throws as Frankfurt won their fourth game in a row. “We went on a big run and just wanted it more than they did. We had the momentum and energy and our guards carried us in the fourth quarter”, added Konstantin Schubert. “We were down some players, but we can´t use that as an excuse. We need to stick together and play the way we know how. They forced us to tough shots and their help defense hurt us”, stressed Kameron Taylor. The Fraport Skyliners Juniors were led by Garai Zeeb with 18 points and six assists. Cosmo Gruehn added 17 points, Isaac Bonga 15 points and Alex Fountain 11 points. The Dragons Rhondorf were led by Kameron Taylor with 28 points and 12 rebounds while Viktor Frankl-Maus and Thomas Michel produced 13 points apiece. The Fraport Skyliners Juniors shot 37% form the field and 35% from outside while the Dragons Rhondorf shot 47% from the field and 44% from outside. Frankfurt won the rebound duel 39-33and had nine turnovers while the Dragons Rhondorf coughed up the ball 15 times.