If some wise man had predicted at the beginning of the Pro B South season that after seven games you would have the Bayer Giants Leverkusen and Fraport Skyliners Juniors at one and two, people would have not called you a genius, but a fool while fans in Elchlingen would have flipped you the bird as how could the multi talented and 2018 Pro B champion not be anywhere but at the top. Ok so the ScanPlus Baskets are near the top in third place with a record of 6-2, but are at the moment breathing up the backs of Leverkusen and Frankfurt waiting to prance on them like a famished cat waiting for their mistakes. It has been a very refreshing season for the German BBL title record holder Bayer Giants Leverkusen as they have built up an offense led by German Tim Schonb born and Frenchman Ron Mvouika and American Nick Hornsby that average 87 points per game and also have found chemistry on the defensive end allowing only 70 points per game. They also have gotten good support from their German role players and are also the best rebounding team in the league. The Fraport Skyliners Juniors were born in 2009 and have put together their best start in their history going 6-1. They have continued to uphold the Frankfurt basketball tradition of having a strong defense and have sparked their offense along the way as they average 77 points per game. The young German´s know each other since years and have added the needed athleticism with Swedish shooting star Elijah Clarance, sniper power from American JT Roach and German young big men Aaron Kayser to make a deep squad that is hungry for success. The two top teams met in Frankfurt on a mild autumn Saturday night and the Bayer Giants Leverkusen demonstrated why they went into the game undefeated and why they returned home unbeaten. They simply did everything a tad better than the Fraport Skyliners Juniors like shooting and rebounding, moved the ball better, made the smarter plays, took Elijah Clarance out of the game and got the big shots from Tim Schonborn and Nino Celebic who also controlled the game for the guests. “We struggled at the start of the game on defense, but knew that they were a good scoring team and picked up our intensity. We did a good job on Clarance and also on Zeeb, but he still played a great job. Dennis Heinzman did a great job getting the rebounds”, added ex Giessen Rackelos forward Nick Hornsby. After the 17 point loss the players escaped to the dressing room, but returned and were horrified by their poor defense. “We weren´t happy with our defense. We gave up way too many easy baskets. They did a good job taking Clarance out of the game and hit many tough shots”, stressed Fraport Skyliner Junior forward Konstantin Schubert.
The Fraport Skyliners Juniors were without ex St Johns forward Richard Freudenberg who was being saved for the easyCredit BBL game on Sunday against medi Bayreuth. The first quarter was tight as fans experienced five lead changes, but the Bayer Giants Leverkusen were able to take and hold the lead after ten minutes. The Fraport Skyliners Juniors received some early production from Schubert with a floater and a trey by ex Bremerhaven guard Garai Zeeb to lead 8-7. The Bayer Giants Leverkusen then took their first lead of the game as ex Rhondorf forward Valentin Blass got back to back buckets including a lucky bounce for the easy lay in as Leverkusen led 8-7. Both teams then traded baskets for a few minutes as German Armin Trtovac owned the paint getting two buckets. With Frankfurt leading 14-13, the Bayer Giants Leverkusen closed out the first quarter with a timely 10-3 run to lead 23-17. In the run it was Serb Nino Celebic who was instrumental as he was the aggressor on both ends of the court as he controlled the game on offense and was key in not letting Frankfurt get into their sets properly. Celebic made a steal and went coast to coast for the easy basket as well as free throws while German Tim Schonborn made a reverse lay up. German Cosmo Gruehn led some last second heroics for Frankfurt as he dropped a buzzer beater trey as the Bayer Giants Leverkusen led 23-17 after one quarter. “Leverkusen gave Frankfurt a tough time with their athletic forward and big guys that could bring up the ball. Leverkusen did a good job taking Clarance out of the game and crashing the boards with Heinzmann and Schick”, stressed Lich guard Jermale Jones. The Bayer Giants Leverkusen were shooting 44% from the field and 50% from outside and had 15 rebounds and 4 turnovers while the Fraport Skyliners Juniors shot 37% from the field and 33% from outside and had 7 rebounds and 4 turnovers.
In the second quarter the Bayer Giants Leverkusen kept the lead and every time that the Fraport Skyliners Juniors attempted to make a run they squashed their attempt. The Bayer Giants Leverkusen struck first going on a big 7-0 run to extend their lead to 30-17 as 32 year old big man Marian Schick executed on a hook shot, American Nick Hornsby made a lay in and ex Rhondorf guard Tim Scho born nailed a trey. The Fraport Skyliners Juniors couldn´t get much going on offense and had to rely on their German veteran to take the responsibility into hands with Garai Zeeb who dropped two three´s and rookie JT Roach connected on a floater cutting the Leverkusen advantage to 34-29. American Nick Hornsby was doing it at both ends of the court forcing Frankfurt to turnovers and on offense was a real menace with his passing skills something he still called a hidden strength last season, but something he surprised Frankfurt all game with. He made a pretty bounce pass out of the double team finding a cutting Heinzmann to the hoop for the massive dunk as the Bayer Giants Leverkusen led 36-25. Frankfurt then found some momentum going on a 7-0 run to get very much closer trailing only 36-32. In the run the Fraport Skyliners Juniors got a nifty old school hook shot from Armin Trtovac, free throws from ex Kronberg guard Felix Hecker and a runner form Clarance who couldn´´t buy a basket on this day. However basketball stayed true to the meaning that it is a game of runs as Leverkusen got into the break with a 11-2 run to extend their lead to 47-34. This run was one of many examples in the game that the Bayer Giants Leverkusen always found a way to score and derail the Frankfurt comeback with neck breaking shots. In the run, it was Nino Celebic who was instrumental in the club getting back to a double digit lead as he scored a floater, hit a trey and found Heinzmann with the lob pass that he dunked home with one hand. In the run, Valentin Blass also continued to successful as he nailed free throws and for the second time in the first half was aided with a random loose ball that jumped into his hands that he put into the hole. “Celebic was key for the Leverkusen success as he did a good job running the team. Leverkusen made many shots while Frankfurt had no ball movement and didn´t play together”, stressed Jermale Jones. The Bayer Giants Leverkusen shot 53% from the field and 30% form the three point line and grabbed 25 rebounds and had 8 turnovers while the Fraport Skyliners shot 38% from the field and 29% from the three point line and grabbed 14 rebounds and had 7 tunovers.
In the third quarter the Bayer Giants Leverkusen continued to have the comfortable lead and when Frankfurt threatened to come back, they were always shut down from these neck breaking shots. 17 year old German Maxi Begue got Frankfurt on the board first with a transition basket, but Leverkusen struck back quickly as Celebic had the hot hand hitting a shot clock buzzer beater giving Leverkusen the 50-36 advantage. Frankfurt then saw some daylight going on a 7-2 run to cut the Leverkusen lead to 52-43. Zeeb connected on another trey and Konstantin Schubert was fed back to back from young German Maxi Begue for easy lay ins. Frankfurt couldn´t build bigger runs as Leverkusen always found an answer on offense. Celebic was a thorn in Frankfurt´s side all day long and nailed a jumper for the Leverkusen 54-43 lead to keep it in double digits. The Serb who played in Wedel last season finished with 16 points and almost didn´t play. “I´m usually more aggressive, but I almost didn´t play. I have had problems with my groin and missed the last two games. I like to attack and create and have the ball in my hands in important situations. My teammates follow me. We showed how well the team plays when they follow me”, stressed Bayer Giants Leverkusen guard Nino Celebic. “He controlled the game well. We knew that we had to go hard over the screens on pick and roll, but it didn´t happen much. He was always able to attack himself or find his teammates”, added Konstantin Schubert. The Fraport Skyliners Juniors continued to attacking and were never out of the game. They struck Leverkusen with a nasty 9-3 run to get closer again trailing only 57-52. Zeeb led the attack at both ends of the court as he was aggressive scoring inside and making a steal at mid court getting the easy transition basket. 16 year old German Len Schorrmann also added to the scoring attack burying a trey. Frankfurt couldn´t get over the hump as they trailed 64-56, but weren´t totally out of winning. Schonborn nailed a three, free throws and a lay in where Hornsby provided the dime to keep Frankfurt at bay. On the lay in Hornsby made a wicked bounce pass across half of the court similar to what Rajon Rondo once did in his Celtic days. . “I have been doing passes like since I was super young. My teammates see me do it in practice all the time and look for it in games. I´m always looking to find my guys”, warned nick Hornsby “We did a good job staying calm on their runs and not let it affect us. We continued to stick to our plays and execute”, warned Nick Hornsby. “ We let their zone take us out of the game and were too disorganized on defense. We played too wild instead of just playing our game”, stressed Konstantin Schubert. The Bayer Giants Leverkusen shot 48% from the field and 31% from the parking lot and hauled down 34 rebounds and had 14 turnovers while the Fraport Skyliners Juniors shot 43% from the field and 28 % form the parking lot and hauled down 22 rebounds and had 10 turnovers.
In the fourth quarter the Fraport Skyliners Juniors ran out of gas and never got closer than 8 points allowing the Bayer Giants Leverkusen to keep their double digit lead. Fans hadn´t seen much of Elijah Clarance during the first three quarters and wouldn´t see much more in the fourth quarter except for one hard two handed dunk as he finally broke the Leverkusen wall, found daylight and finally took flight to the rim. But the Bayer Giants Leverkusen always had an answer and that added neck breaking big shot as they cruised out on a 5-0 run as Schick barreled his way to the basket once again and Schonborn nailed another trey as Frankfurt trailed 69-58. Zeeb would get the Leverkusen lead under 10 one last time with free throws at 69-60, but the guests then slammed the door shut on Frankfurt with a Heinzmann hook shot and back to back neck breaking three pointers from Mvouika and Michael Kuczmann for the 77-61 with a few minutes left. Schubert and ex Freiburg forward Cosmo Gruehn would get buckets, but Hornsby baskets and another Kuczmann trey finished off Frankfurt for good. 16 year old Len Schorrmann was then involved in two dunks to close out the game. He showed his explosiveness making a sweet one hand dunk and then a few seconds later was posterized by a hard Heinzmann dunk ending the game. “We kept our energy high in the fourth quarter. Frankfurt broke down on offense and defense and we continued to battle”, stressed Nick Hornsby. “Leverkusen has experience and did let our runs scare them. They hit big shots at the end and we couldn´t consistently make shots”, warned Konstantin Schubert. The Fraport Skyliners Juniors fell to 6-2 and have a two game losing streak, and know what the will do in the lab this week. “We lost to two tough teams. We will work on our defense. We will think of how we played in Ulm a few weeks ago where our aggressive defense didn´t allow them to get the ball past center court”, warned Konstantin Schubert. The Bayer Giants Leverkusen were led by Nino Celebic with 16 points. Tim Schonborn added 15 points and Dennis Heinzmann contributed 11 points and 11 rebounds. The Fraport Skyliners Juniors were led by Garai Zeeb with 20 points. Konstantin Schubert added 12 points and Armin Trtovac had 11 points. The Bayer Giants Leverkusen shot 49% from the field and 39% from outside and had 44 rebounds and 16 turnovers whole the Fraport Skyliners Juniors shot 38% from the field and 21% from outside and had 34 rebounds and 14 turnovers.