The NBBL regular season is slowly winding down as Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners with a record of 8-4 are going down a straight path to the playoffs while the RheinStars Cologne were caught in quick sand early on losing three of their first four games and couldn´t react properly and are going down a different path without the playoffs. In their first meeting in Cologne in November, Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners gave a solid performance over 40 minutes winning 84-65 despite coughing up the ball an unacceptable 22 times. Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners relied on their consistent defense, depth as German Denis Machlab who isn´t known as a scorer contributed 16 points and six boards in 24 minutes and on their rebounding as they outrebounded the RheinStars 42-30. Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners was unable to keep Colognes top prospect Tillmann Woerner who showed his versatile and unselfish play netting 20 points and dishing out seven assists. Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners relied on their deep roster in the first win in Cologne as they had four guys scoring in double figures with Machlab, Maxi Begue, Niklas Pons and Leon Puellen. Both teams met in Frankfurt in the pretty BCM gym in the return game which has welcomed NBA players like Dirk Nowitzki, Carlos Arroyo and Alan Anderson over the years for an early 1.00pm Sunday matinee. Fans witnessed an exciting ending as Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners squeaked out a nail bitter 68-64 as they cruise into the playoffs. Even if the game seemed decided at half time, the RheinStars never gave up and stepped up their game in the second half and could even have won the game on their last possession, but in the end Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners had the better nerves. The Fraport Skyliners have been known for years to not only developing young talent, but also finding those young 13-14 year old kids and reeling them in. The next big talent Len Schoormann has been tearing up the JBBL(U-16 league) where he once scored 42 points in a game, but he also has adjusted to the NBBL(U-19 league) and had his real breakout game netting the RheinStars for 26 points showing everyone his world on the court and doing absolute everything on the court and filling the stat sheet like a Russell Westbrook. After the win, the 15 year German reflected on the win and his break out game and was very eloquent and seemed very at ease talking basketball. “We lost our rhythm a bit in the third quarter. We had the needed energy and we knew we had to win to get the home court advantage in the playoffs. Overall we moved the ball well and our good offense gave us more energy to play good defense. I have gotten better into the team the last weeks. There is a difference to the JBBL as here the guys are bigger, understand the game better, have more experience and the skill level is higher. It was important for me that I started off well hitting my first shots which brought me self confidence”, stressed Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners guard Len Schoormann. The RheinStars Cologne played their hearts out and gave everything despite not having their two top scorers on board. After the loss, one could see the disappointment on the faces of the young players and 16 year old 200cm German Thomas Fankhauser was sad, but also proud of his teammates who never gave up. “We slept at the start, but heightened our game in the second half. We gave a great team effort. We fought hard and it was too bad we couldn´t pull it out at the end. We did a good job compensating the loses of two top players. I felt we moved the ball well and did what the game gave us well”, added RheinStars forward Thomas Fankhauser.
The RheinStars traveled to Frankfurt without their two top scorers Tillmann Woerner and Timo Hardt who combined make 30 points for their team while Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners were without German Niklas Pons. Both teams had a nervous start and the RheinStars even led 2-1 as 16 year old Greek guard Nikolaos Andreadis scored from the base line with a nifty lay in. Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners finally achieved their first field goal on their fifth possession as 18 year old 196cm forward German Dennis Machlab hit a hook shot and might have witnessed role models Germans Niklas Kiel and Armin Trtovac of the Fraport Skyliners working on their post moves on the side baskets and become inspired. From that moment Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners dominated and controlled the game as the RheinStars had no remedy on how to handle their disruptive play on offense as they established a healthy rhythm. Schoorman demonstarted how to score in bunches as he made 7 points in a row with a trey, massive two handed dunk and lay in as Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners led 11-4. Schoorman had provided that early spark that heightened the team energy and carried them. Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners also did a great job controlling the boards and never lost intensity crashing the boards. Not only Schoormann gave the team a huge lift, but also 18 year old 180cm guard Cem-Turkay Akbayir who started his career at EOSC Offenbach as he let his fine defense spark his offense. He started with a steal and coast to coast sprint for the lay-in and also tested his 18,5% three point shooting accuracy nailing a trey and also snuck inside for another easy basket supplying Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners with 7 points. After one quarter, Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners led comfortably 19-4. “We had a good start. Coach Gleim really pushed us and we worked hard and played well. We had good ball movement and a lot of steals”, stressed Len Schoormann. Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners was shooting 35% from the field and 33% from outside and had 15 rebounds and three turnovers while the RheinStars were shooting 15% from the field and 0% from outside and had 11 rebounds and coughed up the ball nine times.
The RheinStars had a great start in the second quarter, but that didn´t faze Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners as they found their rhythm on offense and near the end of the quarter stepped up their defense putting the game out of reach at that point with lightening steals and buckets. The RheinStars came out hot going on a 8-4 run to cut Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners lead to 23-12. In the run, the club was sparked by Thomas Fankhauser who netted eight points on two trey´s and free throws. The RheinStars did a good job steeping up their defense by disrupting Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners ball handlers early and they also rebounded better to get back into the game somewhat. Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners then cruised out on a 7-2 run to extend their lead to 30-14. Schoorman showed again as he would do so often in the game that he could supply important points when the opponent was threatening a bit as he dropped a three and also broke the RhenStars press finding Machlab for the easy lay in. 18 year old Fabian Bender who came into the game averaging 0,00 had his best game this season scoring seven points and finished off the run with a bucket. Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners demonstrated that despite the good start by the RheinStars, they kept their composure and played well together displaying the extra pass. After a three point play by 17 year old German 200cm center Roni Sijarina, Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners came back with an unbelievable lightening run. Within a time of about 40 seconds, Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners crushed the RheinStars with an annoying 8-0 run to extend their league to 38-17. 18 year old 180cm energy bunny Alvin Oniya made two steals and instant buckets and Len Schoormann made two crashing two handed dunks. “The whole team is pretty aggressive, but Oniya and Schoormann are very athletic, move their feet well and get steals. I see them sometimes in practice and it´s always good to see them get transition baskets. This good defense comes from the coaching staff who always preach full court pressure”, stressed Fraport Skyliner Jules Akodo. “Our concept is every time we score we are back there pressing them and they didn´t come to terms with it”, warned German U-16 national player Len Schoormann. The RheinStars didn´t go totally crushed into halftime, but somehow got on track and closed out the second quarter with a 5-0 run to trail only 38-22. In the run, the RheinStars were fortified with free throws from Andreadis and 17 year old Julius Weseman. “We communicated on defense well and continued to move the ball well and made the extra pass”, stressed Len Schoormann. Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners were shooting 45% from the field and 25% from the three point line and had 21 rebounds and eight turnovers while the RhienStars were shooting 28% from the field and 22% from the three point line and secured 22 rebounds, but had 17 turnovers.
In the third quarter the RheinStars were able to improve their play and slowly claw back into the game and be in striking range trailing only by 10 points after 30 minutes. Just like in the second quarter, the RheinStars had the better start going on a quick 6-0 run to cut Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners lead to only 38-28. In the run, the club was led by the German duo of Weseman and Fankhauser who found their range from the parking lot and hit pretty three´s. The RheinStars came out motivated while Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners might have been relaxing too much on their gigantic lead and had some careless turnovers. But Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners then finally got on the board slipping out on a 5-0 run and 18 year old 207cm 108 kilo center Beat Weichsler was fed nicely by Schoormann with the dime as it seemed like he had eyes in the back of his head, and the 15 year old German then was off to the races and made a hard dunk that wasn´t clean, but then did roll in as Frankfurt led 42-28. Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners held the 10 plus lead, but also became careless as Maxi Begue missed an easy dunk, but they did an excellent job on the offensive boards as Bender and Akbayir got easy put backs as Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners led 48-34. Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners couldn´t hold that big lead as the RheinStars closed out the third quarter strong going on a 6-2 run to trail only 50-40 after three quarters. In the run, the guests were sparked by three players as Weseman scored on a back door cut, 16 year old 194cm guard Jerry Fondja-Tcheuko scored as did Fankhauser. Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners closed out the third quarter with an Akbayir basket. “They played with more energy and helped them come back”, stated Len Schoormann. “It took us a whole half to get used to Frankfurt´s aggressiveness. We defended and rotated well, but when we missed one thing like a cut, they were able to take advantage of it”, stressed Rhein Stars German Thomas Fankhauser. Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners was shooting 40% from the field and 20% from the parking lot and hauled down 30 rebounds and had 14 turnovers while the RheinStars were shooting 36% from the field and 36% from the parking lot and grabbed 29 rebounds, but had coughed up the ball 22 times.
In the fourth quarter, The RheinStars kept grinding away and were rewarded with their effort getting into a position to win the game on their last game possession. Just like in the second and third quartesr, the RheinStars came out with more energy and intensity then Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners and went on a 7-2 run to cut Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners lead to 52-47. In the run, the RheinStars were led by 18 year old 198cm power forward Nikola Perkovic with free throws, Fankhauser nailed another trey and 18 year old 190cm German Sebastian Pritz made a lay in. However Len Schoormann continued to play his game and slowed down the RheinStars in their comeback making two key buckets hitting another trey. He finished the game filling up the stat sheet like a Quantez Robertson or Isaac Bonga netting 26 points, grabbing six rebounds, dishing out three assists, making four steals and getting a block. After a performance like that he surely found some new eyes following his game. “He is one of the best from the year 2002. He is a strong player and very far for his age and plays older than his age”, added Thomas Fankhauser. The RheinStars started to believe that they had a chance and the frequent free throw misses by Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners heightened the guests self confidence that they had a real chance. Fankhauser continued to be the RheinStars go to guy and he didn´t disappoint getting free throws and scoring in the paint cutting the Frankfurt lead to 56-51. After a Schoormann offensive rebound and put back to give Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners the 58-51 advantage, the RheinStars started their last push going on a 5-0 run to cut Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners lead to 58-56. The RheinStars got a big bucket from 18 year old 205cm center Gbesimi Eyimofe who executed the pick and roll perfectly and Weseman also scored. However Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners didn´t lay over, but got a huge trey from Bender showing that the Frankfurt bench was alive all game long extending the Frankfurt lead to 62-56. The RheinStars continued to supply the pressure and it was Eyimofe again scoring in the paint cutting Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners lead to 62-58 with 37 seconds remaining. After a Schoormann miss, it was Fankhauser who nailed a clutch three with 18 seconds remaining to cut Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners lead to 62-61. Machlab then made a lay in giving Frankfurt the 64-61 lead. The Rheinstars hot shooting continued as Weseman nailed a step back three deadlocking the contest at 64-64 with 2,6 seconds to go. Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners had the chance to win the game and had possession in the guests end. Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners executed the perfect inbound ally-op pass from Akbayir to Schoormann for the tap in and 66-64 lead. “The alley-op was our number one option. Coach Gleim saw a weakness in their defense and made the call and we took advantage of it”, added Len Schoorman. “We figured they would set a block and take the shot right away, but the alley-op surprised us. We closed down the short pass and that seemed like their last option”, added Thomas Fankhauser. The RheinStars had one more chance, but threw the ball away and Cem-Turkay Akbayir closed out the game with free throws for the 68-64 victory. “They made a good comeback and hit their shots better, but we stuck it out”, stressed Len Schoormann. “We fought until the end and shot a lot better than the first half. We played with more energy and our whole bench stepped up”, added Thomas Fankhauser. Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners was led by Len Schoorman with 26 points and Cem Turkay added 13 points, five rebounds, four assists and five steals. The RheinStars were led by Thomas Fankhauser with 23 points and Julius Weseman added 17 points. Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners shot 41% from the field and 22% from outside and they finished with 40 rebounds and 20 turnovers while the RheinStars shot 38% from the field and 42% from outside and they finished with 41 rebounds and 27 turnovers.