It was June 17th, 2010 and the tension and excitement couldn´t have been any more extreme in Bamberg as it was game 5 of the finals between Brose Bamberg and the Deutsche Bank Skyliners from Frankfurt and with a few seconds to go captain Pascal Roller who for years was one of the better free throw shooters in the BBL was unable to sink free throws to keep the game going and Bamberg won their third BBL title and first in the Chris Fleming era 72-70. There were two players on the court with one screaming pure joy out with Brian Roberts and the other experiencing his first big tough loss in his rookie season with Quantez Robertson. Nine seasons later both guys are still grinding away and have had great careers as Brian Roberts made it to the big show playing five seasons in the NBA and registering 320 games for three teams with New Orleans, Charlotte and Portland while the other Quantez Robertson now 33 is in his tenth season with the Fraport Skyliners and has given the name lifer a new meaning and now belongs to the top identity figures with Rickey Paukding having played with only one team in their careers in Germany. Last season Roberts returned back overseas and played with Olympiacos S.F.P. Pireus (Greece-A1) and this season is balling with Unicaja Malaga(ACB Spain) and still going strong at age 32. The two exceptional players that had many battles in the BBL returned and faced each other for the first time in more than six and a half years as their last meeting was on April 3rd 2012 in Frankfurt as the Fraport Skyliners whipped Bamberg 76-68 as Robertson finished with 12 points and Roberts with 13 points. Quantez Robertson may have won their last meeting, but Roberts has the 7-4 lead in overall meetings and more importantly won that BBL title that Robertson is still chasing. Both met again in Frankfurt on a mild autumn night and fans saw a game of runs and a massive Fraport Skyliners comeback that wasn´t rewarded as they fell to Spanish side Unicaja Malaga 84-78. Unicaja Malaga moved to 6-1 and Frankfurt to 4-3 in Eurocup play. “We talked a bit. It is crazy that he has been in Frankfurt so long. I joked with him asking why he doesn´t have a German passport yet. He has put in good work here. He still plays the same and hasn´t lost a step”, stressed ex NBA player Brian Roberts. “Tez did a good job on Roberts. He didn´t score until late in the game”, added Jason Clark. Frankfurt played out their hearts and saw the real break through of some of the young kids Garai Zeeb, Elijath Clarance and Trae Bell Haynes in the third and fourth quarter as the club was carried by them. “We showed growth tonight. Some of our main players struggled, so we put in our young guys and they showed that they can play. They showed a lot of heart and that was the reason why they were in the game. The young guys did what they were supposed to. A big congrats to them”, stressed Fraport Skyliner guard Jason Clark. Unicaja Malage came into the game remembering their big 90-64 rout at home, but this time it wasn´t as easy on the road. “We had our ups and downs and it wasn´t easy playing against them. Playing small ball was an advantage for them. They played good transition and we made too many turnovers which helped them come back. We moved the ball well in the second and third quarters, but they played more aggressive in the fourth quarter and were able to come back”, stressed Polish national player Adam Waczynski.
Unicaja Malaga got off to a quick start taking a quick 5-0 lead as 2017 Philadelphia 76ers second round draft pick Matthias Lessort snuck inside for the easy bucket and free throw and ex NBA player Kyle Wiltjer added a dunk. Unicaja used their inside game quickly to their advantage hitting German Marco Voeller for two quick fouls. However the Fraport Skyliners didn´t let this lightening start hurt their confidence as Jason Clark wasted no time getting aggressive and scored consecutive baskets with his biggest strength his penetration. “I let the game come to me. I ran the offense. They didn´t play the cuts well so we exposed their defense”, stressed Jason Clark. Ex Auburn(NCAA) star Quantez Robertson added to the 6-0 run with free throws as Frankfurt led 6-5. The runs continued as Unicaja Malaga got going on offense going on a 8-2 run to secure the 14-8 lead as Waczyinski showed his scoring explosiveness something he has demonstrated in the ACB for years with a trey and two lay ins inside. Frankfurt came back at the Spanish side getting the lead back and scoring quickly as ex Baylor(NCAA) stand out Brady Heslip scored inside and Robertson hit a trey and free throws for the 15-14 advantage, The Fraport Skyliners continued to be on a roll and displayed fine ball movement not forcing anything and closing out the first quarter with a stellar 11-1 run to lead 25-16. In the run they got a lay in from ex Chicago Bull Erik Murphy and rookie Trae Bell-Haynes showed a preview of his scoring abilities that would continue in the second half as scored a non contested lay in and dropped a trey while Robertson hit a three. “We ran our offense well and exposed their defense. We did a good job getting the lead and getting stops”, warned Jason Clark. The two early fouls to big man Kyle Wiltjer hurt the Spanish team as he had to sit. Another interesting side note was the play of Brian Roberts. The ex NBA player played three years for Bamberg where he was a scoring point guard who lived off the floater and was vital for the success of the team, but in Frankfurt with the Spanish side, he looked more like the ultimate pass first guard as you couldn´t even tickle a shot off him. He would become more aggressive in crunch-time, but in the early going he gave the word unselfish a total new meaning. “I just try to be aggressive when I need to be. We have a very good team. I just try to pick my spots and try not to force anything. I try to put guys into a good position to score and just play an open game”, warned Brian Roberts. “He played like a playmaker picking his spots. He is a great player that knows the game. He can score, but sometimes isn´t as aggressive”, warned Jason Clark.
In the second quarter Unicaja Malaga really turned up the heat and pressure and went from being down 28-18 to having the 44-30 lead as they amazingly went on a massive 21-2 run where the Fraport Skyliners couldn´t score in seven minutes and were denied on 14 possessions in a row. Ex Alba Berlin swing man Dragan Milosavljevic began with a lay in before German Garai Zeeb countered with a trey giving the Fraport Skyliners the very comfortable 28-18 advantage. The 2016 FIBA Europe Cup winner was rolling and it didn´t seem like anything could rattle them. But Unicaja Malaga just plugged away and with every added bucket got extra confidence sparking the 21-2 run. It didn´t help the Fraport Skyliners that they suffered their fifth team foul at the 7.34 minute mark either. They played ok defense, but it wasn´t spectacular. It was just one of those days where Frankfurt couldn´t hit the side of a barn or the ocean as wide open shots just didn´t want to fall. Unicaja Malaga in the run was sparked by Milosavljevic as he got the team going and they followed his flow. He was aggressive and got to the free throw line, but also got a trey. He was the game changer at that moment and was like a Quantez Robertson in that he was all over the court causing damage The Spanish side didn´t need any impressive scoring from Brian Roberts who continued to keep a low profile in that department, but got valuable support from other players like 217cm Georgian beast Giorgi Shermadini who made a hard two handed stuff, got free throws from 32 year old ex Real Madrid Spaniard Carlos Suarez and got three´s from 25 year old Spaniard Daniel Diez and 27 year old Finnish shooting guard Sasu Salin who played with Gran Canaria last season. Lessort closed out the ferocious run with a lay in. Brady Heslip finally stopped the run with a trey, but the severe damage had been done and the German side was looking at a big deficit at the break. “We didn´t score for seven minutes. They are a great club. We were tangled in long close outs. When they move the ball then they are very dangerous”, stressed Jason Clark. Unicaja Malaga shot 76% from the two point area and 30% from outside and had 20 rebounds and 9 turnovers while the Fraport Skyliners shot 50% form the two point area and 26% from outside and had 10 rebounds and 6 turnovers.
In the third quarter Unicaja Malaga were able to control the game and have a big lead, but down the stretch, they let up a bit and watched as the farm team boys of Garai Zeeb, Richard Freudenberg and Elijah Clarance took matters into their own hands and made a big comeback cutting the lead down to 63-58. After being out most of the second quarter with two team fouls, ex Gonzaga(NCAA) big man Kyle Wiltjer returned and made two buckets showing that the baseline is his domain as he scored two fancy baskets. Frankfurt was unable to keep him in check as his game was simply at another level. However German Marco Voeller had his time in the lime light getting three baskets as twice he was in the right position getting feeds from Heslip and Clark and the other time he made a pretty baby hook, but the Spanish side still led 48-39. Unicaja Malaga did a fine job in this phase when Frankfurt missed to right away take advantage of it and score on offense as Salin nailed a trey and Lessort scored over Voeller giving the Spanish side the 53-39 lead. After Shermadini made a lay in for the 56-41 Malaga lead, Swedish shooting star Elijah Clarance was inserted at the 5.04 minute mark. He didn´t let the big names or level of competition overwhelm him, but he came in and right away gave Frankfurt big energy as he ran transition well and made a beautiful tip in dunk as the trailer. Unicaja Malaga wasn´t rattled by this yet, as they responded with a swift 7-2 run as Milosavljevic connected on a another trey, Waczyinski followed with a reverse lay up and Wiltjer out danced Freudenberg on the base line for the easy basket as Frankfurt looked down and out,trailing 63-45, but weren´t. Fraport Skyliner head coach Gordon Herbert had seen enough and now gave the young bucks a chance and they responded totally silencing the Spanish team with a huge 15-0 run to end the third quarter trailing only by 5 points after 30 minutes. In the run they got continued production from Clarance who made a beautiful left handed lay in and then a massive left handed dunk flying in from the right side as no one came to challenge him giving the Frankfurt crowd his welcome. “We had guys in foul trouble and I had a feeling I would get minutes. I just played my game being aggressive and bringing intensity. On my left handed dunk, I wasn´t that warm yet. It was an ok dunk. If it would have been at the end of the game, I would have jumped higher”, smiled Elijah Clarance. “Clarance played very well. He brought energy and aggressiveness. He played with a lot of passion and that sparked us”, stressed Jason Clark. Zeeb also contributed to the run with another Trey and Bell Haynes made a tough lay in which was an added introduction to what would come in the fourth quarter. “Frankfurt was very hungry and played with energy. Their coach believed in the young kids. They did a good job on transition”, stressed Adam Waczyinski. “Coach threw in the Pro B players and they were huge for us”, warned Jason Clark. Unicaja Malaga shot 80% from the two point area and 23% from the three point line and grabbed 26 rebounds and had 14 turnovers while the Fraport Skyliners shot 56% form the two point range and 26% from the three point line and grabbed 16 rebounds and had 9 turnovers.
In the fourth quarter the Fraport Skyliners naver gave up and took Unicaja Malaga to the wire, but just couldn´t get over the hump at the end. Unicaja Malaga tried to decide the game in the first minute going on a quick 6-0 run to extend their lead to 69-58. In the run they took advantage of the Frankfurt small rotation getting a trio of baskets inside. Suarez got a tip in and then it was Shermadini who scored two baskets in a row with a floater and running hook shot with one second on the shot clock. If you would have asked Skyliner fans who one would have wanted most now for a comeback the majority would have said Dashaun Wood and Jordan Theodore, but what about Trae Bell Haynes? He came in and just took over as if he was a veteran and had been in at least 100 big games in a row. He took the team on a 7-0 run cutting the Malaga lead to 69-65 scoring three baskets on the penetration as each time the opponent was burned and tried to figure out what had just happened. Despite the swift comeback, Quantez Robertson was hit with his fifth foul at the 6,33 minute mark and left the game. Waczyinski nailed a catch and pop and Frankfurt was down 72-65. Frankfurt really buckled down and played with heart and just fought back. Murphy who had been quiet all night long dropped a huge trey and Bell- Haynes tip toed into the paint scoring easily as Frankfurt trailed only 72-70 with 4,44 to play. Unicaja Malaga now played efficient managing their lead well as Roberts finally pulled out his floater game from his Bamberg days giving his team the 74-70 lead. Frankfurt didin´t lay down and die, but tied the game at 74-74 with a Murphy lay in and Bell-Haynes free throws. The game now was at the cutting edge, but no team could give as it went back and forth. Wiltjer scored and Bell Haynes answered dead locking the game at 76-76. Milosavljevic hit a floater and Murphy answered with a tip in tying the game at 78-78. Milosavljevic who had nailed big shots all night long saved his best for last dropping a difficult three from the corner to give Unicaja Malaga the 81-78 lead and they would never look back. With 37 seconds left Clarance missed and Bell_Haynes who had been hitting shots left and right couldn´t make that last big shot. Miolsavljevic iced free throws for the win. Bell Haynes had a huge night scoring 22 points on 8/12 shooting and dished out 5 assists and grabbed 4 rebounds. He showed that he wanted to remain in Frankfurt as his short term contract is expiring soon. “I had the contract in the back of my mind. The team needed a boost and the young guys wanted to prove something. I found the ball in my hands and just wanted to make the right plays and get to the rim”, added Trae Bell-Haynes. “We had cold blood at the end. I feel we had the better experience at this level at the end. A couple of plays, stops and shots decided the game for us”, said Adam Waczyinski. “A couple of possessions decided the game. They hit some tough shots. We had two great looks, but they just didn´t want to fall”, added Jason Clark. Unicaja Malaga was led by Dragan Milsavljevic with 16 points. Adam Waczyinski added 14 points and Kyle Wiltjer had 11 points. The Fraport Skyliners were led by Trae Bell-Haynes with 22 points. Erik Murphy had 11 points and Quantez Robertson and Jason Clark added 10 points a piece. Unicaja Malaga shot 76% form the two point area and 26% from outside and had 34 rebounds and 16 turnovers while the Fraport Skyliners shot 60% form the two point area and 25% from outside and had 23 rebounds and 11 turnovers.