One thing never changes and that is the injury bug that always tends to rear its unwanted presence into team´s seasons, but so far this season, this unneeded problem has slowly become a plague at least if you are Niklas Kiel. Kiel is playing his fourth season with the Fraport Skyliners and has developed steadily over time and was going in a great direction this season, but an early season concussion limited his season and another elbow to the head that presented him with a hospital visit last weekend has sidelined him again. If that isn´t enough, the majority of the Frankfurt front court is sidelined with tough longer lasting injuries with Germans Jonas Wolfarth-Bottermann and Richard Freudenberg. However the Fraport Skyliners did react bringing in experienced hustle and character guy Marco Voeller who already left his mark in his debut against Bremerhaven with 8 points, five rebounds and three assists in 14 minutes and a familiar face with sniper AJ English who will lift some of the consistent scoring pressure off Mr Canada Philip Scrubb. Going into the game this weekend, the club was looking to make a dent into their season trend by beating a big team with Alba Berlin. So far this season the club had beaten the teams they had to beat, but lost to all the big teams like Bamberg, Munich, Ludwigsburg and ratiopharm Ulm. After two tough loses to FC Bayern Munich and medi Bayreuth, the eight time BBL champion has found their way back to the winners circle having disposed of the EWE Baskets Oldenburg and the Giessen 46ers in the last two weeks. They arrived back in Frankfurt seeking revenge after being swept last season and having lost five of their last six games against Frankfurt in the last two seasons, but the waiting for another win will have to continue to wait as the Fraport Skyliners continue to have their number rolling past Alba Berlin 90-84. After the big top game scorer Tai Webster was all smiles and described best in his native New Zealand tongue why Frankfurt was able to dispose of Alba Berlin. “We played an overall good game playing aggressive defense and rebounding well. It did become a little tight at the end, but overall we played a very good game”, stressed Fraport Skyliner point guard Tai Webster. Ex Portland(NCAA) forward Luke Sikma was the second last to emerge from the dressing room and despite his massive game of 20 points, 10 boards and three assists, he was an unhappy camper, but stayed so much more the professional taking a second to tell why his team lost and also getting a quick congratulatory from Frankfurt head coach Gordon Herbert who couldn´t shy away from uttering the words “I loved watching your father play” referring to NBA champion Jack Sikma of the Seattle Supersonics. “We underestimated them a bit. We didn´t come out with the energy that we needed to have. We made too many mistakes in the first half that put us in the hole and we couldn´t recover from”, stressed Luke Sikma. Skyliner guard Philip Scrubb who was sidelined with a knee injury saw the game from a different perspective and also gave his two cents to the victory. “Alba Berlin got many loose balls and dominated on the offensive glass in the first quarter, but we battled back in the second quarter and put them on their heels. We continued to play very well in the third quarter, but did let them come back at the end. We played well despite all our injuries”, warned Philip Scrubb.
The Fraport Skyliners came into the game with a walking wounded list that was long, but not longer than any kid´s Christmas wish list, but for the club long enough as Jonas Wolfarth-Bottermann. Philip Scrubb, Shawn Huff, Niklas Kiel and Richard Freudenberg were all missing in action. The first quarter displayed an intense battle between both clubs as nobody was able to run away with a big lead as there were 10 lead changes. Quantez Robertson started the game with three free throws, but the story in the first five minutes was Garai Zeeb who rarely plays that early, but Frankfurt played small from the position 1-3 and the ex Bremerhaven player used his chance netting seven points and getting his self confidence going quickly. “We knew how Alba Berlin defend and it opened up the court a bit. I was lucky to get shots and was able to help my team”, stressed Garai Zeeb. Alba Berlin was relying on their length advantage and tried to push the ball inside as much as possible and were aided by the stellar play of Sikma and of Lithuanian Marius Grigonis keeping up the pressure and keeping Alba Berlin at pace with what Frankfurt was doing. Rookie Tai Webster was also a spark as he was aggressive early and always trying to attack the paint while having his kick out ready at all times. In the last minute new Skyliner Marco Voeller gave Frankfurt the ninth lead change of the quarter with a soft layin, but Alba Berlin had the last laugh as their sniper Spencer Butterfield who played at Utah St. (NCAA) nailed a trey as Alba Berlin had the narrow 22-21 lead after one quarter. “It was a tough game and both teams fought hard. I was just happy to be back on the court and was playing against the team that I last played against last season”, smiled AJ English. Alba Berlin was shooting 41% from the field and 13% from outside while the Fraport Skyliners were shooting 50% from the field and 20% from outside. Alba Berlin was dominating the boards 12-5, but had five turnovers while Frankfurt had two.
In the second quarter, the Fraport Skyliners unleashed their lethal offense as they were able to breakaway from Alba Berlin while upping their defensive pressure and produced many more stops than in the first quarter. Butterfield got Alba Berlin on the board first with a transition bucket as diminutive 19 year old 181 German guard Bennet Hundt made a heads up play with a touch down pass for the easy two points. After a Webster runner, Alba Berlin got a bucket from 20 year old 208cm German forward Tim Schneider who snuck inside for a layup and the slim 26-23 Alba Berlin advantage. The Fraport Skyliners then showed why they are an absolute dangerous team in their own living room embarking on a huge 19-2 run to extend their lead to 42-28 and totally putting the Fraport arena into an electrifying frenzy. It was Frankfurt´s lost child AJ English who energized his team nailing a trey and then making a layin on the fast break. English´s hot play continued as on the next play he set up Tai Webster zipping a kick out pass over to him who was all alone on the left wing for an easy trey as Frankfurt led 31-26. Webster had so much time he could of walked off the court grabbed a hog dog and coke and finished it before any Alba Berlin player had tried to contest his shot. Frankfurt now had the momentum and the Fraport arena was cooking and on fire as now it was time for Mike Morrison to put the place into an even bigger frenzy as he was first tame making a layin and then exploded with a vicious tomahawk dunk as Webster found him as Frankfurt led 35-26. The Frankfurt offensive explosion continued as Webster scored in the lane and then English was back hitting a trey and then unleashing the perfect alley-op pass to Morrison who had another high light reel moment slamming the ball down. Frankfurt was playing aggressive defense and just making everything difficult for Alba Berlin. Sikma made a tough hook shot over two players. Marco Voeller also finished with a hook shot and Webster led his team into halftime with a finger tip roll layin and commanding 46-32 lead. “Coach continued to tell me to be aggressive and he wanted us to run, run, run. Webster did a good job getting everyone involved and we got our first big lead”, added AJ English. The Fraport Skyliners were shooting 55% from the field and 33% from the three point line while Alba Berlin was shooting 33% from the field and 7% from the three point line. Alba Berlin had the 19-16 rebound edge, but a lofty 10 turnovers and Frankfurt had four turnovers.
In the third quarter, the Fraport Skyliners would remain in the lead, but Alba Berlin came back and suddenly were on the heels of Frankfurt. Both teams came out flat not being able to execute except for a Webster and Grigoris free throws. However Alba Berlin then also displayed creativity and explosiveness on the offensive end going on a 14-5 run to cut the Frankfurt lead to 52-48 as all of a sudden they were hanging around again. Spencer Butterfield was a huge factor in the run showing why Alba Berlin had hauled him in using his shooting ability as he produced seven points. Also in the run, Alba Berlin got timely points from Grigoris and a layin from 24 year old 213cm center Bogdan Radosavljevic. Alba Berlin was able to execute better as they displayed sound inside out basketball and found more room for their shooting. The Fraport Skyliners didn´t execute on offense because of bad decisions and getting away from their good ball movement. Frankfurt received a key trey from ex Auburn(NCAA) guard Quantez Robertson, but Alba Berlin closed out the third quarter with a Hundt jumper, Grigoris layin and Joshiko Saibu three pointer that cut the Frankfurt lead to only 60-56 after 30 minutes. “There weren´t many phases where Alba Berlin played well except for the third quarter. They moved the ball well and hit shots. Even if they used the mismatches well at times, we compensated for that with our offense”, stressed Fraport Skyliner guard Garai Zeeb. “It is tough to come back after such a bad second quarter. We became more physical and played with more energy, added ex Boston College center Dennis Clifford. The Fraport Skyliners were shooting 50% from the field and 33% from the parking lot while Alba Berlin was shooting 40% form the field and 19% from the parking lot. Alba Berlin had the massive 30-19 rebound lead, but had 14 turnovers while Frankfurt had eight turnovers.
In the fourth quarter, the Fraport Skyliners had a big run only to see Alba Berlin never give up and make it exciting and close in the last two minutes, but were unable to get over the hump. The Fraport Skyliners came out on fire going on a 10-0 run and leaving Alba Berlin dumbfounded and tralling 70-58. In the run the 2016 Fiba Europe Cup winner was led by two Americans as it was the English and Tez show as they combined for all the points. Tez Robertson made a three pointer and two handed stuff on transition while English scored twice in the paint including one finish with three guys riding on his back. The Fraport Skyliners executed high energy defense and made huge plays as Germans Bonga and Zeeb unleashed vital blocks to help bolster the offense. Frankfurt and Berlin would stay at eye level as neither team could step up their defense as both teams scored at will, but the 8 time BBL champion Alba Berlin couldn´t make any ground on Frankfurt either always being behind by 10 points. Webster really carried his team getting inside scoring, drawing fouls and executing with his trey. It was a big game as he finished with 29 points and five assists. “I was happy with my game, but as always I felt like I could of done a better job taking care of the ball. My turnovers have bothered me the whole season. I feel that I am genuinely getting better and I think you can see the results”, added Tai Webster. Alba Berlin continued to stay in the hunt battling and chipping away as Sikma led his team scoring on a three and turn around shot, but Frankfurt still led 81-71. After a Marco Voeller layin that gave Frankfurt the seemingly commanding 83-71 lead, Alba Berlin made one last comeback attempt going on a spirited 13-3 run to cut the Frankfurt lead to 86-84 with under a minute to go. In the Alba Berlin run, the club got a trey form Butterfield and five points from Clifford. Sikma put the comeback icing on the cake nailing a trey as all of a sudden it was a 86-84 ball game. However Frankfurt kept their heads on their shoulders stayed calm and got Webster and English free throws to seal the victory. “Alba Berlin didn´t shoot well the entire game so they had to get hot sooner or later and did at the end”, added Garai Zeeb. “Some of our shots started to fall. We increased our intensity and created turnovers, but you can´t get in the hole like we did. We have to bring that intensity from the start”, added Luke Sikma. The Fraport Skyliners were led by Tai Webster with 29 points. AJ English added 17 points and Quantez Robertson produced 11 points, seven rebounds, five assists and six steals. Alba Berlin was led by Luke Sikma with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Marius Grigonis had 17 points and Spencer Butterfield contributed 13 points. The Fraport Skyliners shot 49% from the field and 31% from outside while Alba Berlin shot 42% from the field and 29% from outside. Alba Berlin won the rebound battle 40-27, but had 18 turnovers while Frankfurt coughed up the ball 11 times.