So far this season whenever the Fraport Skyliners didn´t give their best performances in the BBL, they usually returned with pride and played with a different mentality and won in the Eurocup showing that they can compete with the top teams in Europe. Yesterday they traveled deep into Russia to Kazan with a 3-1 record and were looking for another big win, but instead their furious come back attempt in the fourth quarter wasn´t rewarded as the crucial little mistakes robbed the 2016 Fiba Europe Cup winner as they lost 83-80 on a last second shot. Many experts didn´t give the Fraport Skyliners much of a chance considering they had lost their big man Johannes Wolfarth-Bottermann to injury and will be out 10-12 weeks. But the Fraport Skyliners did a good job staying with the ex Euroleague team in the first half. In the second half, Frankfurt had more problems compensating the loss of their big man as they were lacking experience down low. Frankfurt was down by 12 points with 7.07 to play, but then made a commendable comeback, but just couldn´t get over the hump. One always wants to win these games very badly mainly because a loss will make the next day trip home so much longer as the mistakes from the day before keep popping up during travel. “It was a tough loss for us. We put together a nice run, but just couldn´t get it done at the end”, stressed Fraport Skyliner guard Jason Clark. The Fraport Skyliner shot well at 61% from the two point range and 46% from outside and they dished out 18 assists. They were heavily outrebounded which was expected and they played good defense in spurts. All in all the club goes home with positives and negatives from the game. “I thought that we defended pretty well. We did a better job sharing the ball and sticking to our plays. But we did struggle at times with execution especially when they went to a zone. We had problems finding a solution, but it did get better towards the end”, warned ex Georgetown(NCAA) guard Jason Clark.
The Fraport Skyliners had a good first half down only by six points. A positive light was the inspired play by Erik Murphy who was present on offense and also on defense had the need to have to step up for the missing Wolfarth Bottermann. Jason Clark and Shawn Huff executed well on offense while Brady Heslip was being contained well. Frankfurt had to shift their game plan a little concerning the loss of their big man, but there wasn´t really so much that the Fraport Skyliners had to do, but it really just had to do more with effort and helping each other out more. “The size of Wobo was missing. Erik Murphy did a good job. He knows the five spot. We had to make some minor adjustments in our pick and roll defense knowing that we didn´t have the rim protector with Wobo on the court. It was tough without Wobo, but all on our team can play with anyone at any level. We came into the game knowing that we have to find a way to get through it and felt we did a pretty good job without him”, warned Jason Clark. The Fraport Skyliners most likely will have to react to the Wolfarth-Bottermann injury and find a big man. The question is will it be an import or German. Another import would force another on the sidelines with the 6 man rule. The question is always what good big man are available at this time that play into the Skyliner´s budget. Around this time four years ago head coach Gordon Herbert had some tricks up his sleeve and magically got Justin Cobbs for the guard position replacing injured Richard Williams and the rest is history. Cobbs led the club into the playoffs and Eurochallenge final 4. An interesting player that could be available is ex NBA player Tim Ohlbrecht. Currently he is hanging out in Texas waiting to make his next move. He last played with ratiopharm Ulm, but currently has a nasty dispute with them so his mind might be elsewhere now. The question is would he will be willing to help an ex team and how fit is he? “I honestly haven´t heard of him, but it sounds like he has a lot of experience. He has been around the league and could help us. We will fight it out with or without him. Either way we will be ok whatever happens”, warned Jason Clark.
In the third quarter Unics Kazan came out with more intensity and were able to control the 10 minutes and led in double digits for most of the time and seemed like they weren´t going to let the Fraport Skyliners come back. One could see that Frankfurt was losing some energy in the paint area as Wolfrath-Botterman´s presence was really needed then. The two bigs Maurice Ndour and Raymar Morgan started to be able to do more and get easy baskets. The Fraport Skyliners did a superb job keeping the once top BBL center Raymar Morgan to only two points in the first half, but sooner or later a guy of that skill level is going to break out. “Morgan is a very good player. He is the type of player that will find his points sooner or later no matter who he is playing against. Our goal wasn´t to shut him down, but to try to contain him as best we could and make him work for his points. He is a work horse, but I felt we did a pretty good job on him overall. Wobo´s length could of really helped us. But Erik Murphy had some huge blocks in the game and played well”, stressed Jason Clark. It wasn´t only Erik Murphy who returned with a solid performance with 15 points and 4 blocks, but Finish national player Shawn Huff who so often leaves the floor after 40 minutes as the unsung hero. He played the most minutes on the team with 37 and added 14 points, 3 rebounds and 3 steals. In a way he is like a mini Tez, because he does so much on the floor like his teammate, but it doesn´´t always get noticed as much. “He made so many big plays. I remember his offensive rebound off a missed free throw which led to a three by me. That was a big turning point in the game. He does so many things that doesn´t show up in the stat sheet, but also so many that do. He does so much like a Tez”, warned Jason Clark.
In the fourth quarter, the game looked like it would be a lost cause for the Fraport Skyliners as they were down by double digits. But one has to know that under a Gordon Herbert you might still get crushed from time to time like last weekend in Oldenburg, but it is unlikely it will happen two times in a row and the fighting qualities and heart of the team are there most times. The team play and never give up attitude carried the team again as in a matter of minutes crunch-time had arrived and Frankfurt had fought back with undeniable passion tying the game at 77. “Key in the come back was getting stops. Brady Heslip hit huge shots. When you are down and need points then he is the guy that can get you back in the game. He hit something like three three´s in a row, then scored in the paint and scored back door. When he has the time and sees the basket well than there is always a good chance that it will go in”, warned Jason Clark. After Erik Murphy hit three free throws to tie the game, Unics Kazan had the ball and an offensive rebound by Pierria Henry gave them an extra opportunity which they took their advantage. “I thought that we had a good trap on the perimeter, but the point guard made a good play finding Jamar Smith in the corner for the game winner”, said Jason Clark. It was the little mistakes that cost Frankfurt the game again something that the club has to get a much better grip on in crucial moments of the game. “This happens when we lose focus and we have to do a better job with it. I think once everyone gets on the same page for 40 minutes, it will get better. In some games we show it well and in other games we are horrible. We have to get on a consistent basis”, warned Jason Clark.
Clark had another game and he dazzled fans in the first half nailing two deep bank shots. The first was from nine meters and the second a half court buzzer beater at the break. “I don´t remember hitting two deep shots like that in one half ever in my career. Both felt very good when they left my hand”, added Jason Clark. Clark finished with 16 points on 6/11 shooting grabbed 4 rebounds and dished out six assists. The only sore spot were his 3 turnovers. Taking care of the ball and defense are two area´s of his game that he is most adamant of tweaking. Many in Frankfurt still feel like that there is a point guard problem in Frankfurt, but Jason Clark is more than focused at showing everyone that he can be a good point guard for the Fraport Skyliners. “I have to get my turnovers down. I have really been struggling with this and I know it. There have been games where I had 4 or even 6 and that´s not good. I really want to get them down. I don´t think that I am overdoing it, but moreover I´m not making the right reads. It is a learning experience and I know it will get better. The other area is my defense. I know there were some plays tonight that I could have done better. The coaching staff is on me about this as am I. All I can do is to keep working hard on getting better”, warned Jason Clark. On the weekend the Telekom Baskets Bonn visit the Fraport Skyliners who have been up and down this season currently 3-2 in the BBL and 2-2 in the BCL. Last weekend they lost 82-70 In Jena and escaped Fribourg, Switzerland yesterday with a hard fought 83-79 BCL win. The Fraport Skyliners have already seen the Telekom Baskets Bonn once in pre season and probably haven´t forgoten their big man Charles Jackson who once hauled down 24 rebounds in a game in Turkey who will make life even more difficult without Wolfarth-Bottermann. “Bonn is a very good team. We have to come out with a lot of energy and the right intensity on defense and then our offense will come along. We have to get a good start and not let them run. We will give all we got with what we got. We have to take way what Jackson likes to do. We have to be physical on him and take him out of the game. We will do it together. Not with one man, but with five”, stressed Jason Clark. It will be interesting if there will be that Wolfarth-Botterman replacement on Sunday in the Fraport arena.