Almost a year ago, it seemed like the Fraport Skyliners Juniors were in the drivers seat after stealing game one in Bochum with a seven man rotation including two U-19 youth players as they squeaked out a 87-83 OT win, but instead of advancing in the playoffs, the club totally lost control losing game two at home and game three back in Bochum. Now almost a year later the two clubs met again and surprisingly there weren´t as many faces around like last year as guys had come and gone, but some that had stuck around and were still on the court today were players like Konstantin Schubert, Garai Zeeb and Cosmo Gruehn from Frankfurt and Mark Gebhardt, Niklas Meesman and Raphael Bals from Bochum. The Fraport Skyliners came into the playoffs with a 13-9 record and got third place in the regular season and had momentum having won the last two games against the RheinStars and Coburg while the VFL Sparkassenstars Bochum had a slow 2019 winning only two of eight games and needing some kind of spark as they lost two of their last three games. Boisterous Bochum fans came waving flags and spraying confetti all around the gym as that they tried to transport that carnival feeling to Frankfurt. It was a game of highs and lows for both teams, but when the contest was tight in crunch-time, it was the Fraport Skyliners Juniors that pulled out the exciting 89-80 victory to take the 1-0 series lead. After the win, it was four year man Garai Zeeb who wasn´t pleased at all with the way his team played, but was still thankful for squeezing out the win. “it was unacceptable to let this big lead slip out of our hands at home. On the road a game like this could be lost. On offense we mostly had good ball movement finding the open man usually. We scored well, but we gave up way too many points”, explained ex Bremehaven guard Garai Zeeb. After the tough loss, top Bochum scorer Montrael Scott was left sitting on the bench and fuming about the loss. He was content that they could have won this game in crunch-time. “We had too many down stretches and it was simple mistakes that hurt us. Three´s, second chance points and offense rebounds did the job. We didn´t get back on defense”, stressed ex Prairie View(NCAA) guard Montrael Scott.
The Fraport Skyliners Juniors jumped all over the VFL Sparkassenstars Bochum taking a quick 9-2 run. Frankfurt refrained mostly from the long ball and got big man Armin Trtovac involved early with two buckets while Zeeb contributed 5 points. The guests got some production from ex Rhondorf center Florian Wendeler with a 20 footer and some Spanish fire from Albert Del Hoyo with a trey, but still trailed Frankfurt 13-7. Frankfurt continued to be aggressive in the paint and got easy baskets from German Richard Freudenberg who came into the game with some personal momentum having scored 12 points against Alba Berlin the night before and a lay in by Florida native Dennis Mavin as Frankfurt led 19-12. Bochum then got some extra energy from their sniper ex BBL player Marco Buljevic who played 65 BBL games with Giessen and Oldenburg and 182 Pro A games with the ETB Wohnbau Baskets as he stroked home consecutive three´s as Frankfurt retained the slim 19-18 advantage. Frankfurt got a lay up by Zeeb and free throws from Mavin as they led 23-20 after one quarter. The Fraport Skyliners Juniors put their dominant foot on the glass and would never look back as they led the rebound duel 12-7 and shot at a high clip from the field with 56% while they were cold from outside at 20%. The VFL Sparkassenstars still weren´t really in the game offensively despite having scored 20 points, but shot well at 44% from the field and from outside. Both teams had five turnovers a piece.
The second quarter would remain very tight as the VFL Sparkassenstars got off on a quick run, but soon it would be ex St Johns(NCAA) forward Richard Freudenberg that would take control and give the team a special energy that would spark them to get the lead back. The VFL Sparkassenstars Bochum went on a 8-0 run to take their first lead at 28-23. In the run it was their work horse Florian Wendeler who scored twice. His game has taken big strides since his Rhondorf days via Cuxhaven as he has improved his scoring and rebounding each season. Scott added two free throws and role player German David Stachananczyk add a fast break lay up as the guests had displayed more fighting qualities and more energy. But Frankfurt clawed back and led a furious charge from Armin Trtovac and Richard Freudenberg to steal back the lead at 35-33. Trtovac continued to play his game and overpower Bochum under the basket with an old school hook shot, offensive rebound and put back and lay in, While Freudenberg exploded with two dunks. The first was a massive base line drive dunk while the second was off a steal and coast to coast run. “The first one was a pretty good dunk. It was almost a poster dunk. He has to continue to use his quickness so he can dunk like that more often”, stressed Quantez Robertson. Frankfurt didn´t cave in after stripping Bochum of the lead, but kept the momentum and lead as Zeeb nailed two big time three´s for the 41-37 lead. His calmness and coolness continues to be a big strength in his game as he doesn´t fail often under pressure. Bochum got some support from ex Nordlingen big man Adrian Lind, but shortly before the half-time buzzer, Zeeb dropped another three for good measure as the Fraport Skyliners closed out the second quarter well and led 46-41. “Zeeb and Freudenberg hit some big three´s. The dunks got them going and they then played more aggressive defense”, stressed ex Auburn(NCAA) guard Quantez Robertson. The Fraport Skyliners Juniors shot 51% from the field and 33% from the three point line and got 19 rebounds and had 9 turnovers while the VFL Sparkassenstars Bochum shot 48% from the field and 38% from the three point line and got 16 rebounds and had 12 turnovers.
In the third quarter both teams went on huge runs, but at the end it was the Fraport Skyliners Juniors that were in front with the slim four point lead. Frankfurt played their best basketball in the first five minutes as they cruised out on a 14-3 run to lead 61-44. They stopped the guests on their first 9 possessions. Frankfurt´s tough aggressive defense forced them to turnover after turnover while they got many easy fast break buckets. On offense they continued to dominate inside as Zeeb and Mavin used their quickness to their advantage getting easy baskets. Trtovac also became active again scoring with a hook shot and then grabbing an offensive rebound and muscling home a put back while Freudenberg delivered his third dunk of the game. With Swedish shooting star Elijah Clarance not available anymore this season as he will only be inserted for BBL games, one had to wonder who would fill his spot as Mr dunk. 16 year old Len Schoorman is a worthy candidate as he can dunk with the best of them, but with Freudenberg it seemed like a new dunk star was born. At the 3,34 minute mark, the VFL Sparkassenstars Bochum finally got their first field goal of the quarter with an Adrian Lind runner. This basket also brought the guests the needed energy to close out the third quarter with a lethal 15-2 run to cut the Frankfurt lead to 63-59. Bochum played very smart while Frankfurt was extremely sloppy especially giving up an inbounds pass basket to German Raphael Bals at the end. They also allowed Bochum to visit the free throw line too much as Stachanczyk, Wendeler and Del Hoyo scored. Del Hoyo also scored back door and Scott hit a pull up jumper. “We gave up way too many easy lay ups. We didn´t get back and didn´t have good defensive communication and we threw away the ball too much”, stressed Garai Zeeb.”We got stops in our run and scored on transition. We got the ball to Wendeler and it worked to our advantage”, added Montrael Scott. The Fraport Skyliners Juniors shot 48% from the field and 19% from the parking lot and had 27 rebounds and 15 turnovers while the VFL Sparkassenstars Bochum shot 48% from the field and 38% from the parking lot and had 22 rebounds and 20 turnovers.
The fourth quarter remained tight, but the Fraport Skyliners Juniors had the better nerves in crunch-time propelling them to the win. Gruehn got Frankfurt going with a trey which was followed by Wendeler free throws. Bals then got another inbounds lay in as Bochum cut Frankfurt´s lead to 66-63. But Bochum stayed on Frankfurt´s heels as each time they scored, they came up with an answer. After a Zeeb lay in and Gruehn bucket, it was Niklas Meesman and Scott who scored cutting Frankfurt´s lead to 71-68. Then it time for Marco Buljevic to crawl out of his shell as he had been partly invisible since the first quarter as he drilled home another trey to dead lock the game at 71-71. Frankfurt had been up and down while the VFL Sparkassenstars Bochum had displayed great calmness in their offensive sets. Frankfurt came out of the time out rejuvenated going on a 4-0 run as Trtovac controlled the paint area scoring a hook shot and then made an offensive rebound and put back for the 75-71 lead. Meesmann quickly reacted hitting a trey to cut the Frankfurt advantage to 75-74. Then came the turning point of the game as the Fraport Skyliners Juniors demonstrated their extraordinary offensive fire power that can arise at anytime hitting the guests with a deadly 9-0 run. Gruehn and Zeeb hit back to back three´s and Freudenberg followed it up with a nine point play as Frankfurt led 84-74. “We have enough players to take the big shots. I live to take these kind of shots and have enough self confidence to make them”, stressed Garai Zeeb. “That run was the game changer. Those three´s took our momentum away”, said Montrael Scott. The Fraport Skyliners Juniors were able to keep the lead and win as Zeeb, Freudenberg and Gruehn added free throws down the stretch. “We played good defense and had intensity, but were just a step too slow. We have to be more alert in the next game. We have to learn from our mistakes and get better in game two”, warned Montrael Scott. The Fraport Skyliners Juniors were led by Garai Zeeb with 28 points. Armin Trtovac added 20 points and Richard Freudenberg added 18 points. The VFL Sparkassenstars Bochum were led by Montrael Scott with 19 points and Florian Wendeler contributed 18 points. The Fraport Skyliners Juniors shot 51% from the field and 26% from outside and they hauled down 35 rebounds and had 20 turnovers while the VFL Sparkassenstars shot 48% from the field and 39% from outside and they hauled down 25 rebounds and had 25 turnovers.