The holiday season is always a memorable one off the court for the players, but in the last week, it was anything but noteworthy as the Fraport Skyliners had to face ratiopharm Ulm twice in the easyCredit BBL and Eurocup and lost both games. The first game cost the club rookie Trae Bell_Haynes and Akeem Vargas who will be out for a long period of time. The 2016 Fiba Europe Cup winner had had enough of the ratiopharm Ulm team and now had no other choice but to come home and have to take care of business with cellar team Hakro Merlins Crailsheim who came into a game with a 1-12 record while the Fraport Skyliners were doing their own type of balancing act in 12th place with a 5-7 record and three wins away from the last playoff place. The game also remarked the return of an old Skyliner friend Konrad Wysocki. The last time the German who played at Ivy League school Princeton wore a Skyliner jersey, Barack Obama was just beginning his first term as president, Derrick Allen was his teammate and still in his twenties and Dennis Schroeder was a huge basketball talent on the Braunschweig playgrounds. The 36 year old Wysocki played for the then Deutsche Bank Skyliners Frankfurt (Germany-1.Bundesliga) playing 36 BBL games averaging 6.0ppg, 4.3rpg, 1.4apg, FGP: 59.6%, 3PT: 29.3%, FT: 43.8%. He returned back to the Fraport arena having a BBL record of 3-2 against his old time since his departure in 2009. He was perfect with the EWE Baskets Oldenburg posting a 3-0 record and winning two nail bitters by two points, but had lost both contests with the Hakro Merlins Crailsheim. It was pretty much a game that both sides had to win badly with Crailsheim a tad more and did as the Fraport Skyliners despite having injury problems and fatigue gave an unsatisfactory performance losing to the Hakro Merlins Crailsheim 91-77. After the big win a relaxed Konrad Wysocki exited the locker room with a big smile and was right away greeted by his ex team attendant Wulle Buhr and after rapping about the good old days, he greeted me and commented on his return back once again after a few years in the Pro A. “Obviously the faces change over the years, but then you see some of the familiar faces from then and the memories return. This was a big win for us. It has been a tough season losing some close games. We really needed this win very much. Maybe this is the start of seeing more wins”, stated ex Fraport Skyliner Konrad Wysocki.
The Fraport Skyliners continue to struggle through the season and it showed most against the lowly Hakro Merlins Crailsheim as they had good moments on offense, but their defense continues to be their achilles heel as they can´t rely on this part of their game. Of course the many injuries as well as the many games they have had in recent weeks have had their toll on the club, but still showing effort is something that doesn´t take the most talent and is something any team can always display, but that is something the club has had problems sticking to. After the loss ex Georgetown guard Jason Clark had a long face as he tried to digest another loss after losing back to back games in Ulm and explained what went wrong this time. “We can´t give fatigue as a reason why we lost this game. Every team goes through stretches like this where they have injuries, but this is what we play for. We have to find a way to win these games. Yes were tired, but we can´t have a performance like this. We have to do the little things right and show effort. I have a lot of respect for Crailsheim and they played a hell of a game, but at the end of the day we are a way better team than what we showed. We have to win these kind of games. This game was winnable”, warned Jason Clark. After the huge victory, the diminutive 180cm point guard Dewayne Russell who seems like a few centimeters smaller felt a lot larger than he was after the game even if he didn´t show it as his hot shooting third quarter where he scored 15 points carried the team to the win. The ex Grand Canyon(NCAA) stand out was as humble as could be about the performance of his team. “We played well. This was one of the few complete games we have played this season. Coach did a great job preparing us and our veterans Wysocki and Turner kept our heads up. We did a good job staying together when they had runs. We executed very well what we wanted to against their different coverages”, stressed Dwayne Russell.
With the German football Bundesliga on vacation, fans looked for another outlet and found the Fraport arena for the Saturday night game as 5.000 fans showed up. The walking wounded list of the Fraport Skyliners that had Jonas Wolfarth-Bottermann, Brady Heslip, Trae Bell-Haynes, Leon Kratzer and Akeem Vargas looked like a jam-packed movie theater at the end of the Skyliner bench as all were crammed in the corner. The Hakro Merlins Crailsheim were without Joe Lawson and wasted no time taking advantage of the injury woes hurrying out on a quick 12-3 lead. In the run the Club got vital production from 33 year old 193cm guard Australian Ben Magden who loves to take the three and has averaged over 40% from the parking lot in countries like USA, Belgium, Lithuania and Australia and got hot netting two. The ex Pro A team also got vital support from ex MBC guard Michael Cufee who hit a 20 footer, ex Canisius (NCAA) guard Frank Turner scored in the lane and ex Bamberg big man Philipp Neumann scored on the lob pass. Frankfurt couldn´t muster much offense getting only a trey from ex St Johns forward Richard Freudenberg. The Fraport Skyliners gave up too many open shots and offensive rebounds. Frankfurt took a time out at the 6,16 minute mark of the first quarter and struck back going on a 7-0 run cutting the Crailsheim lead to 12-10. In the run, Frankfurt got big support from Quantez Robertson who helped up the Frankfurt intensity with his pushing of the ball on transition leading to a lay in. Swedish shooting star Elijah Clarance and Freudenberg also scored. Both teams continued to score as both offenses were in good rhythm, but the guests got a few more stops. The Hakro Merlins Crailsheim got five extra points from Magden that was a threat from all over the floor while Dwayne Russel also scored as did ex Trier player Sebastian Herrera. The Fraport Skyliners remained in the game getting solid support from Finish national player Shawn Huff who scored twice and ex NBA player Erik Murphy as always hit a big three, but at that point it wasn´t enough as Crailsheim led 29-21. “Injuries mess up a team´s rhythm. It isn´t easy for the Pro B players coming in and having to play a bigger role and play at a bigger pace. You can see that their tired with so many short shots falling. Crailsheim with a 1.12 record had to be hungry and needed to be more aggressive and played their hearts out. Crailsheim made the open shots and better plays”, stressed ex Lich guard Jermale Jones. The Hakro Merlins Crailsheim shot 71% from the field and 43% from outside and had 8 rebounds and 1 turnover while the Fraport Skyliners shot 50% from the field and 38% from outside and had 5 rebounds and 1 turnover.
In the second quarter The Fraport Skyliners found their rhythm quickly going on a 11-1 run taking their second lead of the game 32-30 but couldn´t keep their rhythm as their defense let up again in the last minutes allowing the guests to go into the break with a comfortable lead. In the Frankfurt run, they were led by guard Jason Clark who supplied 5 points and so often this season displayed that his scoring in bunches is no fluke. Freudenberg made free throws and Murphy scored inside. Crailsheim´s lull on offense lost flow as they didn´t get as good shots as in the first quarter. With Murphy on the floor, Frankfurt had that weapon to spread the floor which led to easy baskets inside The next three to four minutes were back and forth as no team could take the big lead. Frankfurt got solid playmaking from ex Bremerhaven guard Garai Zeeb who made a few assists and dropped a huge trey while Crailsheim was carried by Magden making key shots and free throws. However after the big Zeeb trey, the Fraport Skyliners fell into a rut relinquishing a bitter 11-3 run to trail 48-40 at halftime. A technical foul on head coach Gordon Herbert didn´t help Frankfurt´s cause either. In the Crailsheim run, they were fortified by four different bodies as Magden made a fade away jumper, Cufee hit a runner in traffic, Turner slapped Frankfurt with a three and 36 year old 201cm forward Sherman Gay who balled 11 years in France made a lay in as the lob pass from Cufee once again beat Frankfurt for an easy basket. “Frankfurt did a good job rebounding the ball and pushing the ball on transition in their run. But you could see that Frankfurt were battling fatigue”, stressed Jermale Jones. The Hakro Merlins Crailsheim shot 60% from the field and 31% from the three point line and grabbed 16 rebounds and had 3 turnovers while the Fraport Skyliners shot 44% form the field and 38% from the three point line and grabbed16 rebounds and had 4 turnovers.
The Hakro Merlins Crailsheim continued to control the game as the Fraport Skyliners inconsistency kept them from truly getting over the hump even if they did tie the game once. It was also the Russell vs Clark show as both combined for 25 points. The Fraport Skyliners opened up the third quarter with a 5-0 run as Jason Clark scored all points with a swift left handed lay in and three free throws to cut Crailsheim´s lead to 48-45. Even if 3o year old ex Boise State(NCAA) forward Reggie Arnold scored a 15 footer, Frankfurt had the higher intensity and kept at their heels at both ends of the court. A big Freudenberg block on Cufee and a Murphy trey cut Crailsheim´s lead to 50-49. Crailsheim had some misfortune missing some easy shots which could have kept Frankfurt more at bay. Quantez Robertson was hit with his fourth foul early in the third quarter and sat out the rest of the quarter. Frankfurt was able to compensate his absence well at first, but later one could clearly see that the defensive anchor was dearly missed. Freudenberg tied the game at 50-50, but then came the Dwayne Russell show. He would score 10 unanswered points in a row as Frankfurt had no recipe to stop him or at least slow him up a bit. He had a knack of picking his spots well and just finding ways to score with a few pull up jumpers and a pretty floater as Crailsheim led 60-54. With Robertson out, Frankfurt didn´t have that defensive stopper for Russell. “He is an aggressive good scorer. He has a good handle on the ball, is quick and has a good pull up jumper. He is a real competitor and should have a hell of a career”, warned Jason Clark. “I just took what the defense gave me and took advantage of the mis matches against the bigger guys. Finding my spots and making shots gave me added confidence”, stated Dewayne Russell. The Hakro Merlins Crailsheim kept up the pressure in the last minutes getting added big shots from Russell who nailed a trey and jumper while Wysocki nailed a three pointer to lead 68-61 after 30 minutes. “We played good defense and didn´t let their big men get good position and we forced them to tough shots”, added Dewayne Russell. “We couldn´t get over the hump and get stops. We messed up some switches and our communication wasn´t good. Sometimes our offense is very good and sometimes very bad. We have to find consistency”, warned Jason Clark. The Hakro Merlins Crailsheim shot 52% from the field and 30% from the parking lot and hauled down 23 rebounds and had 6 turnovers while the Fraport Skyliners shot 45% from the field and 37% from the parking lot and hauled down 25 rebounds and had 7 turnovers.
In the fourth quarter the Hakro Merlins Crailsheim held their ground and never allowed the Fraport Skyliners to threaten as they played consistent basketball at both ends of the court. The Fraport Skyliners started out solid on offense getting a reverse lay up from Quantez Robertson and a trey from Freudenberg which was matched by a Russell three extending the Crailsheim lead to 71-66. But then came the turning point of the game as Hakro Merlins Crailsheim went on a 13-4 run to extend their lead to 84-70 as Frankfurt could never recover. A big part of this run was the 5 points from Herrera. The Hakro Merlins Crailsheim got better support and versatility all through out the game from their bench. In the run, the guests also got point production from Turner who dropped a floater and Gay scored in the paint twice as Frankfurt´s clogging of the lane was non existent. “Our experience helped us get the win. Magden, Cufee and Turner led us at the end”, stated Dewayne Russell. “We were more tired. They hit many tough shots. Their consistent offense effected our defense”, warned Jason Clark. Huff nailed a trey to cut the Crailsheim lead to 84-73, but the buckets from Magden and Gay ultimately broke the back of Frankfurt. A free throw and Turner lay in ended the game giving Crailsheim their second victory of the season. The Hakro Merlins Crailsheim were led by Dewayne Russell and Bm Magden with 22 points a piece. Sherman Gay added 13 points and Frank Turner added 10 points and 6 dimes. The Fraport Skyliners were led by Erik Murphy with 19 points. Jason Clark contributed 15 points and Richard Freudenberg added 12 points.The Hakro Merlins Crailsheim shot 56% from the field and 33% from outside and had 33 rebounds and coughed up the ball 9 times while the Fraport Skyliners shot 43% from the field and 36& from outside and had 28 rebounds and coughed up the ball 9 times.