In the last years a meeting between Frankfurt and Ludwigsburg in the latter half of the regular season could have had top game billing in the easyCredit BBL, but now nearing mid February the two teams came together for a showdown and when looking at all the games this weekend, this particular battle was just be a normal game. There is always great interest in the two men in black coaches Gordon Herbert and John Patrick who like to done black suits. So much can happen in a season when two teams personal changes and suddenly the usual wins that both clubs have been used to suddenly change as loses rain down like afternoon showers in the dog days of summer in Waco, Texas. Both clubs have been playing under expectations as the Fraport Skyliner head coach Gordon Herbert didn´t have his magic wan like in recent seasons as new players didn´t mesh while with the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg, John Patrick once again produced a very deep roster, but the club hasn´t been consistent and was still looking for a very sound team chemistry. That led to a nine and six game losing streaks and an early departure form the Basketball Champions League where they reached the playoffs the last two seasons and even got to the Final 4 last year. The Fraport Skyliners haven´t meshed together either, but the massive injury bug has plagued them as they still haven´t found that team chemistry that can lead a team to success. They did play well in the Eurocup reaching the next round, but then bowed out in ugly fashion with a 0-6 record. The duel on Sunday in Frankfurt was a season changer for both teams as a victory could be that needed push to get both teams going again. Both teams gave a fierce battle as runs were on the menu all day long and at the end it came down to one last possession that the guests made winning 96-94. After the big win, game top scorer Marcos Knight was calm and not overly excited, but when your coming off a big losing streak, one has to take everything slowly including taming one´s own emotions. “We played as a team and fought hard for 40 minutes. We managed to play good defense when times got tough. We did a good job exploiting the mis matches. We have to build off this win as we go into the next games”, stressed forward Marcos Knight. For the Fraport Skyliners it was another game of many this season that they could have won, but in the end just couldn´t make that one vital stop to get into good position to win the game. “We fought hard and matched their intensity in the first quarter. It worked well until the second quarter where it got to us. They took us out of our offense and forced us to take tough shots. I felt we were able to handle their intensity and pressure well as we had many guys taking the ball up. Coach Herbert told us before the game that this game wouldn´t be about x´s and o´s, but more about playing against their 1-1 play. They really got to us when we switched and they were able to attack our big guys. We didn´t do a good job helping each other”, warned ex Georgetown(NCAA) guard Jason Clark. Not to forget the combined 51 points of Crawford and Knight earning them their own show name was key for the win as well as their individual abilities of scoring the ball one on one is something seldom seen as dominantly in the BBL as they displayed yesterday.
5000 fans chose to stay in doors on a miserable day in the Fraport arena and greeted back the injured player Canadian Trae Bell-Haynes and ex Bamberg big man Leon Kratzer. The Fraport Skyliners returned home after their crushing Eurocup loss in Russia at the hands of Lok Kuban and broke out to a lightening 9-2 lead. The quick lead was a combination of good team defense that led to easy buckets on transition with a two handed dunk by ex St Johns(NCAA) forward Richard Freudenberg and a Tyler Larson off balance shot in transition while the offense got going quickly as ex Auburn(NCAA) stand out Quantez Robertson nailed a trey and Jason Clark produced a pull up jumper. The MHP Riesen excel at pressure defense and 1-1 play, but in the early minutes neither functioned at all. The guests finally found an offensive rhythm as ex Butler(NCAA) stand out Kelan Martin hit a pull up jumper and ex Middle Tennessee State(NCAA) guard Marcos Knight got going hitting two quick baskets as suddenly Frankfurt led only 12-8. Here and there Ludwigsburg made mistakes like fouling Robertson behind the three point line, but Knight kept them in the game with his acrobatic shots. But Frankfurt´s offense continued to be flowing and ex S Dakota(NCAA) guard Tyler Larson did a great job leading the Frankfurt attack as he scored himself and set up his teammates. Kratzer nailed a hook shot and ex Arizona State guard Trae Holder dropped three free throws as the Fraport Skyliners led 23-15. Knight continued being a one man show hitting from anywhere as no one could contain him properly. Knight finished the game with a personal BBL best 32 points shooting an astronomical 76% from the field as he connected on 13 of 17 shots. Jason Clark agreed after the game that he is like a bull on the court. “He is a bull and does a good job getting to his spots and him being so strong is huge. But the biggest plus in his game is that he is so patient. He lets the game come to him. Even if there is pressure, he stays composed”, added Jason Clark. Frankfurt had the comfortable 25-19 advantage after 10 minutes. “Our aggressive play got us the lead. We were able t get stops and get out on transition”, stated Jason Clark.
In the second quarter the Fraport Skyliners began to struggle and witnessed the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg claw their way back and even grab the lead back shortly before the break. Larson got Frankfurt going doing a real old school play anticipating that his shot wouldn´t fall and catching the guests napping as he snuck inside got the rebound to his miss and made the put back for the 28-21 lead. Frankfurt did make mistakes and would be punished as ex Phoenix Hagen big man Owen Klassen secured an offense rebound and scored, but their bench kept them ahead of the guests. Holder who continues to find his role as scorer off the bench better and better scored in bunches keeping Frankfurt ahead 32-26, but every time they attempted to break away, it was Knight that continued to breathe down their backs and made tough shot after tough shot. He saw the hands of Freudenberg in his face, but still found a way to drop the shot. The guests were hit wit their fifth team foul after a few minutes and Frankfurt continued to attack getting an easy Jonas Wolfahrt-Bottermann two handed dunk as Larson supplied the dime for the 37-28 advantage. The Fraport Skyliners were never safe as a 7-0 Ludwigsburg run demonstrated to cut Frankfurt´s lead to 37-35. Martin hit free throws, Knight dropped a huge three and Lithuanian point guard Donatas Sabeckis who last season played for BC Siauliai and led the LKL and Baltic leagues in assists scored for the third time in the game with the same drive that Frankfurt couldn´t stop. Frankfurt´s offense continued to click and Robertson nailed a trey and Larson drove and scored, but Ludwigsburg continued to serve answers as Sabeckis scored again on the drive and ex Bowling Green(NCAA) guard Jordan Crawford helped continue to punish Frankfurt on the drive as he blew by Freudenberg for an easy basket. After a Larson jumper, Ludwigsburg closed out the second quarter in style as Crawford nailed a deep three and Martin scored. Crawford would really catch fire in the second half ending with 19 points and 7 dimes and his energetic and aggressive play at both ends of the court gave Frankfurt fits all day long. “He is small, but knows how to pressure and is quick on his heels. He knows how to play to his strengths. He isn´t the strongest, but always plays aggressive”, stressed Jason Clark. “Jordan played great. He is a hell of a player that plays with so much heart. We always push each other to the max in practice. We were holding each other accountable in the losing stretch, but now we aren´t”, warned Marcos Knight. The MHP Riesen went into the break with the 47-46 lead. “Their pressure got to us and forced us to turnovers. They did a good job pressuring us in the back court, so when we got out of it, we had around 10 seconds left to get into our offense. That is how they play and we played into their hands”, stressed Jason Clark.
The third quarter belonged to the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg as they served up a lethal 30 points, but allowed the Fraport Skyliners to hang around as they led only 77-72 after 30 minutes. The Fraport Skyliners would seize the lead back at 48-47 with a Clark runner in Traffic, but the guests then exploded on a 13-3 run to lead 60-51. Ludwigsburg presented the Crawford and Knight show as they combined for all points. Crawford who stands only 168cm and on the court looks like he could be Mr Regionalliga Ricky Easterling´s brother as they look similar with their hairstyle, but the big difference is that the BBL player is 21 cm´s smaller, nailed two three´s and Knight added three baskets and a free throw. Their amazing one on one qualities were stinging Frankfurt and they couldn´t do anything about it. The duo would score again which was baskets 6 and 7 from them as the only other Ludwigsburg player to interrupt their scoring fest was Martin with a lay in as Frankfurt had fallen into a deep hole trailing 67-55. Knight scored again as he was benefited by standing in the right place and scooping up a loose ball and making easy two points as Frankfurt trailed 69-57. The Fraport Skyliners then found some light at the end of the tunnel going on a 12-3 run to cut Ludwigsburg lead to 71-69. Frankfurt put Quantez Robertson on Crawford finally slowing him down more. Clark led the charge with 5 points, while Finish national player Shawn Huff buried free throws, Robertson nailed another three and Trae Holder scored in the lane. It wasn´t Robertson´s day taking care of the ball, but he shot the ball well at 60%. “We know that Tez can shoot the ball. If he misses, he stays aggressive and keeps shooting. Larson did a good job getting him good shots. Tez is a big time player that has been doing it his whole career”, stressed Jason Clark. Ludwigsburg became too comfortable with their big lead which led to bad decisions. The MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg got a spark from Owen Klassen in the last minute as he dumped 5 points on Frankfurt as Ludwigsburg led 77-72. “Basketball is a game of runs. We played well for the first three to four minutes and then they went on a run. We did a good job staying calm and helping each other out”, added Marcos Knight. “We remained aggressive and shared the ball well while still playing good defense. I had a rough first half and was frustrated. I wanted to make a point of staying aggressive. The ball came my way and I played to my strengths”, said Jason Clark.
The fourth quarter remained tight and a dog fight as no team was able to lead by more than five points. Larson led the Fraport Skyliners on the come back trail netting big shots, but Ludwigsburg continued to have answers ready. After Knight and Crawford baskets Larson would add a huge three to cut the Ludwigsburg lead to 81-80. A Huff runner and free throw gave Frankfurt the 83-81 advantage and it seemed like the tide had changed. Even if Larson missed some key shots in crunch-time, his stellar play since he has arrived has been a delight and he continues to improve as he gets more accustomed to his teammates and style. The American finished with 23 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals. Larson has turned a broken team into a very much stronger team. “He has been very important and exactly what we needed. His leadership, aggressiveness and scoring has helped. He just knows how to play. I had seen him play in Belgium and knew what he brought to the table. I told him when he came, don´t be timid, but be aggressive. He does it all”, warned Jason Clark. The Crawford and Knight show continued to do huge damage as they both scored giving the guests the 86-83 lead. Quantez Robertson then took over hitting a trey and runner as he gave instant offense a new meaning and gave Frankfurt the 89-88 lead. Frankfurt got a pair of defensive stops and added Huff free throws and a Robertson lay in. Frankfurt led 93-88 with 2,59 to play. Knight scored his last basket of the game cutting the Frankfurt lead to 93-90. After the win, he was as humble as can be concerning his day at the office with 32 points. “I can´t play without God and my teammates. I just took what the defense gave me and my teammates put me in good position to score. I just try to do whatever I can to help us win”, stressed Marcos Knight. Larson then couldn´t finish his good game as he missed a shot and made a turnover. Knight stepped aside and allowed American Lamont Jones to take over. The ex Iona(NCAA) stand out who was the third best scorer in the NCAA in the 2012-2013 season hit a jumper and then made a lay in dead locking the game at 94-94 with a little under a minute to play. Ludwigsburg then made a stop and with 17 seconds to play they had the chance to win the game as Jones hit a jumper with 2 seconds remaining. Frankfurt couldn´t get a shot off at the end leaving the floor with the loss. “Jones had a mis match and I told him that it was his time to shine. He made a hell of a shot. I believe in all my teammates. It was great to see him hit the winner. We needed him”, stressed Marcos Knight. “It went back and forth in the fourth. We played together and got everyone involved. Losing like that at the end was tough. They have a lot of guys that can score. We didn´t think that it would be Jones. He scored against me making an aggressive play. That shows that everyone can play in this league”, warned Jason Clark. The MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg were led by Marcos Knight with 32 points. Jordon Crawford added 19 points. Owen Klassen produced 13 points while Kelan Martin added 12 points and Lamont Jones 10 points. The Fraport Skyliners were led by Quantez Robertson and Tyler Larson who added 23 points a piece. Jason Clark added 16 points and Tra Holder had 11 points. The MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg shot 51% from the field and 27% from outside and had 29 rebounds and 9 turnovers while the Fraport Skyliners shot 48% from the field and 33% from outside and had 40 rebounds and 18 turnovers.