The last few days were very exciting on and off the court for the Fraport Skyliners as they found back to the winning streak on the court while off the court they found some valuable family moments during the Christmas period. Only four days ago the Fraport Skyliners were challenged by the scrappy Basketball Lowen Braunschweig in a cup quarterfinal clash and held their nerves pulling away in the second half led by the overall potent guard duo of Jason Clark and Trae-Bell-Haynes who combined for 36 valuable points and the Canadian rookie also handed out 10 dimes that silenced any critics about the Fraport Skyliners having any kind of point guard problem. The club didn´t have the normal pre game preparation for the Bremerhaven game as head coach Gordon Herbert gave his club a day and a half to celebrate the Christmas time and too get their minds off basketball only for a short time which was dearly needed in the club´s up and down season. The club is still not in the playoff hunt, but with a good stretch in the next weeks can quickly get there as the easyCredit BBL standings are as tight as it is the path for Santa Claus getting down a chimney. The Fraport Skyliners wanted a good start after the Christmas food digestion, but had to get by the Eisbaeren Bremerhaven who have had a poor season as the organization continues to struggle since they reached their last playoffs in 2011 and currently are in 16th place and reeling for some kind of positive experience. The club entered the Fraport arena without their JUCO rookie Jordan Brangers who had been released last weekend and needed other scoring forces to come out with a victory in Frankfurt. But other than getting a combined 37 points from Americans Chris Warren and Darnell Jackson, they couldn´t muster enough offense and as usual had problems keeping a team under 80 points as the Fraport Skyliners overcame the Eisbaeren Bremerhaven 84-77. After the bitter loss, ex Mississippi(NCAA) guard Chris Warren who 18 points and dished out 6 assists and kept the team a float the whole game had problems coming up with reasons for the loss. “This was one of our better defensive efforts of the season. We have a new coach and this game was a step in the right direction. I feel that we are getting better. All we need is a win which could start a domino effect. I thought we played better pick and roll defense and scrambled better”, stressed Chris Warren. The Fraport Skyliners needed a good showing to help bolster their self confidence as they next face ratiopharm Ulm twice in a row on the road, but instead struggled at both ends of the court and were lucky that they came out with the win. “They didn´t make it easy for us. We kind of went blind into the game. We weren´t sure what they would run. We had a rough day on defense with some mess ups. But I felt that we fought through it and got the win. Any win for us is good to keep our confidence going. We struggled a bit on offense, but also had some good moments. We have to find a way to keep our turnovers down”, warned ex Georgetown(NCAA) guard Jason Clark.
3,380 fans made their way into the Fraport arena on the second Christmas day in Germany. It didn´t take long for both teams to find an offensive rhythm, but the Fraport Skyliners had their nose slightly ahead, but Bremerhaven stayed on their heels. Frankfurt got their outside shooting going early as Jason Clark, ex Auburn(NCAA) guard Quantez Robertson and ex St John´s(NCAA) forward Richard Freudenberg fired away and executed. Bremerhaven got a trey from ex Texas A&M (NCAA) standout Elston Turner and buckets in the paint from Warren and ex NBA player Darnel Jackson who won the 2008 NCAA title with Kansas(NCAA). Bremerhaven had a lot of intensity mainly due to Chris Warren who was always pushing the ball forward and they were also active in the paint area as ex Phoenix Hagen forward Fabian Bleck made a tap in and Jackson who played with the Cavs, Kings and Bucks in the NBA made a dunk to cut the Frankfurt lead to 13-12. Bremerhaven already got going on defense playing good pick and roll defense while Frankfurt was coughing up the ball too much. For the last five minutes fans would see back and forth basketball as there were 7 lead changes and both teams were exchanging baskets as rapidly as Quantez Robertson can still get up and down the floor at age 34. Bremerhaven got vital buckets from Jackson who nailed a tough turn around shot from the wing over Erik Murphy as it was a battle of ex NBA players and also got support from Warren and Elston Turner while the Fraport Skyliners offense was fortified by a Brady Heslip lay in as his quickness fooled Bremerhaven and 5 points from ex Chicago Bull Erik Murphy who drained free throws and a trey. “It went back and forth. We have to be playing better defense. It is dangerous to trade baskets with a team like that. We gave them the self confidence to stay in the game”, warned Fraport Skyliner Jason Clark. The Fraport Skyliners shot 62% from the field and 67% from outside and got 6 rebounds and had 4 turnovers while the Eisaberen Bremerhaven shotb56% from the field and 25% from outside and had 6 rebounds and 2 turnovers.
In the second quarter the Fraport Skyliners heightened their play and were able to carry their lead into double digits. The Fraport Skyliners got some stops and executed on offense going on a 7-0 run to extend their lead to 29-20. Frankfurt got key input from Finish national player Shawn Huff who scored inside getting the perfect dish from ex Bremerhaven guard Garai Zeeb and Heslip was very effective dropping a trey and scoring on a lay in as Bremerhaven´s one on one defense was nonexistent. Bremerhaven finally got on the board from American Keith Benson who was briefly with the Golden State Warriors in 2012 connected on a 20 footer and German Fabian Bleck hit a trey as Bremerhaven unleashed their best ball movement of the game cutting Frankfurt´s lead to 34-25. Bremerhaven couldn´t get over the hump and get stops as Frankfurt was always able to get big shots when the opponent appeared to be coming back. Heslip and huff scored upping Frankfurt´s lead to 40-28. Bleck scored another three pointer, but Frankfurt got some instant damage from Jason Clark who scored 7 points in a few minutes. He made a heads up play following his free throw miss and made the put back and scored on two other possessions. “That was a good run by us. They closed out on me and I got to the rim well. I was being competitive and playing on instinct and just taking what the defense gave me”, warned Jason Clark. Frankfurt led 47-35, but the Eisbaeren Bremerhaven cut the Frankfurt lead under 10 points going into the break. Chris Warren remained aggressive and drew two fouls getting 4 points as Frankfurt led 47-39. “We defended better. We were able to get out on transition and we had better ball movement and weren´t trading baskets”, added Jason Clark. The Fraport Skyliners shot 64% from the field and 50% from the three point line and grabbed 15 rebounds and had 8 turnovers while the Eisaberen Bremerhaven shot 48% from the field and 27% from the three point line and grabbed 9 rebounds and had 6 turnovers.
In the third quarter the Eisbaeren Bremerhaven continued to chip away at the Fraport Skyliners lead as it got smaller and smaller. Both teams were back to trading buckets in the first few minutes as Quantez Robertson made a steal and got Trae Bell-Haynes the ball on transition only to get it back on the alley-Op dunk. Huff also made a fade away jumper while the Eisbaeren Bremerhaven countered with a transition lay in from Warren who spun and weaved around the Skyliner defense and not only reminded one of a James Harden with his facial hair, but also with his quick energetic play. Jackson hit a fade away jumper over Voeller as his play didn´t surprise anyone of his NBA experience. Warren continued to supply the Eisaberen with intensity that carried them, but they had to work a lot harder for buckets on offense than did Frankfurt. After a Murphy runner, the Eisbaeren Bremerhaven found some daylight going on a crucial 6-0 run to cut the Frankfurt advantage to 53-51. In the run, the Eisbaeren Bremerhaven got first class support from ex NBA player Darnell Jackson who scored a bucket, but also made two pretty assists finding Germans Bleck and ex EWE Baskets Oldenburg forward Jan Wimberg. “Jackson gave us problems. He was a real beast in the paint. He had a couple nice turn around shots. He has such a wide boy. When he gets the ball where he wants it, he is tough to stop”, warned Jason Clark. “Coach continues to stress that the bigs have to be more prepared to pass the ball on the cuts. I continue to focus on trying to hit guys when there open”, warned Darnell Jackson. Frankfurt stopped the Bremerhaven run with a huge trey from Garai Zeeb who had his family at the game and got free throws from ex Alba Berlin guard Akeem Vargas. The Eisbaeren Bremerhaven didn´t lose their momentum or staying with Frankfurt as German Adrian Breitlauch connected as did Keith Bensen in the paint and the made free throws as the Fraport Skyliners led only 60-57. “We were very inconsistent on defense. That offense that they run is good when you don´t take way their first three passes. They had a lot of back cuts that hurt us”, stressed Jason Clark. “We got more stops and scored more. We went on a run and traded less baskets”, added Chris Warren. The Fraport Skyliners shot 50% from the field and 30% from the parking lot and hauled down 23 rebounds and had 12 turnovers while the Eisbaeren Bremerhaven shot 48% from the field and 19% from the parking lot and hauled down 19 rebounds and had 10 turnovers.
In the fourth quarter the Fraport Skyliners broke away from the Eisbaeren Bremerhaven as their offense executed very well and they also got more consistent stops on defense. Murphy got Frankfurt going with a lay in as he got served up the precious dime from Zeeb who broke the double team and made the perfect pass. Bremerhaven then broke out on a 6-2 run as they caught Frankfurt napping as Wimburg made a dunk, Breitlauch scored on the coast to coast lay in and Turner made a jumper cutting Frankfurt´s lead down to 64-63. But the Fraport Skyliners as they have displayed so often in this season when times got tough relied on their offensive weapons and hot shooting breaking away from Bremerhaven going on a 10-3 run to extend their lead to 77-68. In the run, they got big help from Murphy who contributed 5 points including a trey and the club also got hot shooting from the parking lot from Vargas and Heslip. Interesting to note was that neither Jason Clark or Trae Bell-Haynes the two main point guards were on the floor during the run and in crunch-time. “That group was playing well. When a rotation is playing well, you should stick with it. We both struggled today and we have to be better and we know that. Coach Herbert is getting more confident with the young guys. When I first came here I thought that Garai Zeeb was one of the more experienced guys. He forced Warren to tough shots and did a good job on him. We have the luxury that we have many guys that can step up”, warned Jason Clark. In the run, the Fraport Skyliners upped the defensive intensity level and didn´t allow Warren to do damage in the lane, but forced him to take wild three´s that didn´t fall. Bremerhaven´s defense had some good moments especially slowing up Frankfurt´s pick and roll, but overall their one on one defense was horrible. After the game ex NBA player Darnell Jackson reflected on his team´s defensive woes. “We have to have the whole team buy in to defending well and not only 1-2 guys”, stressed Darnell Jackson. The Eisbaeren Bremerhaven continued to fight getting some buckets from Turner and Jackson cutting Frankfurt´s lead down to 79-72. But Frankfurt got to the free throw line twice with Robertson and Huff draining free throws upping Frankfurt´s lead to 82-74 with 1.05 to play. Heslip and Warren traded baskets ending the game. “We made the big plays and shots when we had to. We kept fighting and stayed composed. We have a lot of talent and when we can share the ball like we did crunch-time then we are always dangerous”, stressed Jason Clark. “We gave up too many second chances and open shots”, added Darnell Jackson. The Fraport Skyliners were led by Erik Murphy and Brady Heslip with 16 points a piece. Quantez Robertson added 14 points and Jason Clark 10 points. The Eisbaeren Bremerhaven were led by Darnell Jackson with 19 points and Chris Warren added 18 points. The Fraport Skyliners shot 50% from the field and 34% from outside and had 33 rebounds and 16 coughed up balls while the Eisbaeren Bremerhaven shot 50% form the field and 14% from outside and had 22 rebounds and 12 coughed up balls.