The last time the Fraport Skyliners won a game, it was 2018 and some holiday lovers were still digesting their Christmas food while others were already in the gym working on shaving some pounds off their frames. Now a few weeks into 2019 the 2000 BBL cup winner Fraport Skyliners are still waiting for their first win in the new year as they were riding a hideous 5 game losing streak having lost twice to ratiopharm Ulm, to BBL cellar team Crailsheim Merlins, Eurocuo team Lok Kuban and top BBL team FC Bayern Munich. A big problem in their game is that they can´t play consistent as they demonstrated in Munich getting down by 20 points, coming back to cut the deficit to three points and then trailing in double digits again only to lose 80-71. Injuries continue to be a big worry and concern and the departure of Canadian Brady Heslip left a void in the offense, but not on defense. Their French opponent LDLC Asvell Villerbanne have had a great season up to now leading the France Pro A in the standings and came into the Frankfurt clash having a 2-0 record in Eurocup action and definitely not the type of opponent where the Fraport Skyliners would have good cards of winning. The Fraport Skyliners wanted to have some kind of success experience going into the big cup semi-final game on the weekend against 8 time BBL champion Alba Berlin, but were unable to handle LDLC Asvell Villerbanne as they fell 70-58 moving to 0-3 in Eurocup action. After the loss, American Jason Clark did have a smile on his face as it was his birthday, but when the topic came to the loss, the 29 year´s demeanor shifted to disappointment. “We came out well and had defensive intensity in the first half. It was a low scoring game, but they broke away in the second half. They started to do things on offense that they couldn´t do in the first half. We stayed with them, but they ran away with it at the end. We are still fighting which is good. Nobody is giving in. We have that fighting spirit”, warned ex Georgetown guard Jason Clark. Despite winning the game and moving to 3-0 LDLC Asvell Villerbanne guard Demarcus Nelson who played at Duke(NCAA) form 2004-2008 wasn´t happy with the play of his team, but glad for the win. “Our fight got us this win. We made a lot of mistakes in the first half, but cut them down in the second half. We were able to run some things on offense better in the second half. This wasn´t one of our better performances, but it was an important win. Our experience was key as was that we have many guys that can do multiple things on the court”, added Demarcus Nelson.
600 fans came out on a Wednesday night as well as possible new Skyliner guard Tyler Larsen took in the game who last played for VTB team Parma as he was waiting for the medical check on the next day. A unpleasant experience was having to witness the chants of a bunch of 15-20 Giessen fans who had made their way into the arena and taunted the Skyliners as it was easy to hear as the arena wasn´t crowded. The first quarter was an even affair as the Fraport Skyliners were looking for big man Jonas Wolfarth-Bottermann in the early going and he was active getting the first two buckets. LDLC Asvell Villerbanne did a fine job moving the ball around and getting many guys involved. 29 year old Croatian big man Mialn Bilan scored the team´s first two baskets and ex Ohio State(NCAA) stand out David Lighty and Polish national player AJ Slaughter also scored giving the French side the 10-6 advantage. The Fraport Skyliners continued to be plagued with injuries as they had to play many of their double license players so they had less experienced scorers on the court. So Jason Clark had to play more of a role and showed responsibility showing his first class one on one play netting two buckets to tie the game at 10-10. 18 year old French shooting star Theo Maledon who is a 2019 projected first round NBA draft pick hit free throws and a runner to keep LDLC Aavell Villerbanne up. Swedish shooting star Elijah Clarance gave Frankfurt the lead with an open trey, but LDLC ASvell Villerbanne led 18-15 after 10 minutes. “The game went back and forth. We were defending well. It was good to have Wohlfarth-Bottermann back, because we were really missing him. He takes up a lot of space on offense and defense. Having that back to the basket threat back was important”, stressed Jason Clark. LDLC Asvell Villerbanne was shooting 75% from the two point range and 0% from outside and had 8 rebounds and 2 turnovers while the Fraport Skyliners shot 42% from the two point range and 33% from outside and had 8 rebounds and 2 turnovers.
The second quarter remained tight and at times looked like a shooting brick contest and a contest to see which team could turnover the ball the worst. At the break LDLC Asvell Villerbanne still had the slight 33-29 lead. Maledon got LDLC Asvell Villerbanne on the board first with a nice looking off balance shot the kind you have to know how to make in the NBA, but the Fraport Skyliners fought back going on a quick 6-0 run to take the 21-20 lead. In the run, they got a Clarance three from the corner. It was a great play by Quantez Robertson where it looked like he would do the pick and roll play with Wolfarth-Bottermann as he was rolling to the hoop, but then lobbed the pass to the open Clarance who saw nothing but net. He also hit a free throw and Wolfarth-Bottermann made a left handed hook shot. The 21-20 lead would remain for some minutes as teams were heaving bricks as nobody could find the ocean and coughing up the ball at an alarming rate as nobody had an offensive rhythm. The Fraport Skyliners also suffered a few technical fouls and a flagrant as they gave up free points. After Maledon tied the score at 21-21 with a free throw, it was big man Marco Voeller who came in from nowhere and made a thunderous tip in dunk giving Frankfurt the 23-21 advantage. LDLC Asvell Villerbanne then retrieved the lead back as French shooting star Theo Maledon showed his shooting touch draining two three´s and a free throws. “He will be a top 5 NBA Draft pick. The kid can do it all. He will get stronger and as he continues to develop he will only get better”, warned ex Golden State Warrior Demarcus Nelson. “He really has game. His decision making will come. He is athletic, plays defense, plays the ball screens, attacks and can shoot. “, added Jason Clark. Frankfurt got buckets from ex St Johns(NCAA) forward Richard Freudenberg and Elijah Clarance, but LDLC Asvell Villerbanne held on to the lead with a Lighty tip in and a dunk from 22 year old France center Alpha Kaba. “A couple of technical fouls hurt us. It always hurts giving up extra points. We played through it and were still in the game”, stressed Jason Clark. LDLC Asvell Villerbanne shot 50% from the two point area and 22% from the three point line and had 18 rebounds and 5 assists while the Fraport Skyliners shot 47% from the two point area and had shot 22% from the three point line and had 18 rebounds and 7 turnovers.
The third quarter remained close, but LDLC Asvell Villerbanne continued to keep the lead as the Fraport Skyliners couldn´t get the lead back. Jason Clark let his superb one on one play take center stage as he scored twice cutting LDLC Asvell Villerbanne´s lead to 35-33. After a Kalnietis coast to coast sprint and lay in and Robertson three as he had a hand in his face to cut LDLC Asvell Villerbanne lead to 37-36, ex Western Kentucky(NCAA) standout AJ Slaughter scored in bunches nailing a three and blew by Finish national player Shawn Huff for an easy basket and 42-36 LDLC Asvell Villerbanne lead. The Fraport Skyliners got a vital Zeeb lay in, but couldn´t buckle down on defense as they allowed the French side to execute very tough shots from Lighty and Slaughter again giving them the 49-39 lead. Jason Clark closed out the third quarter with a pull up jumper, but the Fraport Skyliners trailed 49-42. “We had mental mistakes and lapses and our turnovers led to easy baskets for them. They are a good team and did a good job getting rebounds. They have a lot of length and athletic guys that made it tough inside”, stressed Jason Clark. “I feel we did a better job controlling the tempo. We got good shots hit or miss and controlled their transition and changed up some defensive tactics”, said Demarcus Nelson. LDLC Asvell Villerbanne shot 56% from the field and 26% from the parking lot and got 28 rebounds and had 14 turnovers while the Fraport Skyliners shot 46% from the two point area and 21% from the parking lot and got 22 rebounds and had 10 turnovers.
In the fourth quarter LDLC Asvell Villerbanne kept their lead, but could never totally break away as the Fraport Skyliners kept that fighting spirit, but just couldn´t get over the hump. The Fraport Skyliners got some key baskets from Wohlfart-Bottermann and a clutch three from Garai Zeeb, but LDLC Asvell Villerbanne were too consistent on offense controlling the paint area as Nelson scored sneaking inside for an easy bucket, Bilan and Lighty also scored as the French squad led 55-47. LDLC Now Asvell Villerbanne had one of their better moments on offense as they continued to score consistently as 32 year old forward Charles Kahudi who won a Gold, Silver and two Bronze medals with France at European championships over the years made a lay in while 32 year old sharp shooter Mantas Kalnietis who played 8 years with BC Zalgiris Kaunas nailed a trey as LDLC Asvell Villerbanne had their biggest lead of the game at 60-47. But no matter who tough the times are for the Fraport Skyliners they never give up. They stayed strong and upbeat and surprised LDLC Asvell Villerbanne with a 11-4 run to cut the French sides lead to 64-58 with 47 seconds to play. In the run Frankfurt was aided by two Wolfarth-Bottermann baskets, one from Voeller, a Robertson lay in and a clutch three from Jason Clark. Despite the long arms dangling in their faces from the LDLC Asvell Villerbanne club, Frankfurt was able to pick their spots in the paint and get baskets. The Fraport Skyliners couldn´t use the momentum from this run and fizzled in the last 47 seconds allowing LDLC Asvell Villerbanne to close out the game with a 6-0 run. In the run they got free throws and a jumper from Kalnietis and a massive dunk from Charles Kahudi. The Fraport Skyliners succumbed to some pressure as Robertson and Zeeb turned over the ball as LDLC Asvell Villerbanne´s aggressiveness and athleticism on the defensive end was too much for the German side. “Some balls didn´t bounce our way at the end. They were able to score when they needed to and broke down our defense”, added Jason Clark. “We took some early three´s, but credit to them for coming back. Robertson got into the paint. Down the stretch we did a good job limiting their open looks and making them take contested shots”, warned Demarcus Nelson. LDLC Asvell Villerbanne was led by Theo Maledon with 15 points. Mantas Kalnietis added 13 points and David Lighty and AJ Slaughter contributed 10 points a piece. The Fraport Skyliners were led by Jonas Wolfarth-Botterman with 17 points and Jason Clark added 13 points. LDLC Asvell Villerbanne shot 56% form the two point line and 22% from outside and grabbed 36 rebounds and had 15 turnovers while the Fraport Skyliners shot 48% form the two point line and 275 form outside and grabbed 31 rebounds and had 17 turnovers.