The quest for the 2019 easyCredit BBL playoffs are still as alive for the Fraport Skyliners just as it is for the Florida neighbors Miami Heat and Orlando Magic who are battling for that last eighth spot in the East. The 2016 Fiba Europe Cup winner Fraport Skyliners have understood the severity of their current position as they have to win very many games until the end of the regular season if they want to book one of the last tickets for the playoffs. They have played a lot better in the last weeks having won three of their last four games and currently were riding a two game winning streak. They also have found back to their old ways of defending consistently as they have averaged giving up only 70 points per game in the last two. But their path didn´t get any easier as many tough games awaited them like Rasta Vechta who have little experience in the BBL, but this season have surprised everyone as they have turned into the little darlings of the league as they have played brilliantly resting in fourth place with an 18-7 record. Their success can be credited to Spanish head coach Pedro Calles who has put his own stamp on the success in which he has led a club of no superstars, but hungry players that play for each other and defend with passion something that BBL clubs have moved away from in the last years. The Fraport Skyliners were lucky that they caught Rasta Vechta early in the season as they hadn´t found their rhythm or chemistry yet and beat them 87-83 for their third straight loss. Since that loss the club turned it around winning 18 of 22 games. In that game Frankfurt rebounded very well, but despite coughing up the ball 18 times played smarter in crunch-time to escape the Rasta Dome with the win. The Fraport Skyliners have a new face as some players have departed and went into the game living off the momentum of their two game winning streak while Rasta Vechta was reeling off their shoot out loss to Bamberg. Rasta Vechta came into Frankfurt with a lot of self-confidence and gave an offensive clinic while playing aggressive defense for 40 minutes with heart that tore apart the Fraport Skyliners in the second half winning 100-80. After the big victory veteran TJ Bray who finished with 14 points and 9 dimes explained why his team was able to win another game in their Cinderella season. “We played with a lot of intensity and hard for 40 minutes. We play 24 seconds at a time. We might not be able to have everything come together at once, but if we keep grinding then we are confident that we will come out on top. It was a real team effort and our defense was on the same page. Our success starts each day with coach Calles and filters down to every player”, stated ex Princeton(NCAA) guard TJ Bray. It was another tough loss for the Fraport Skyliners as each loss puts a huger dent in their playoff hopes. After the disappointing loss, Jason Clark tried to dissect the loss as best as he could. “We were down by 8 at half-time, but they stepped up their defense in the second half and we had too many turnovers. We got good shots, but they didn´t fall. Turnovers really hurt us and they did a good job scoring off them”, explained ex Georgetown guard Jason Clark.
3,500 fans came out to witness a rare Friday night game and also see the return of German talent Niklas Kiel who last strapped on a Skyliner jersey 315 days ago. He was still a bit rusty getting 2 boards, a steal and a turnover in 12,41 minutes, but it was good to see him back and getting the trust of head coach Gordon Herbert. Both teams offenses got rolling from the get go as lead changes were as abundant as the amount of baskets that Clint Chapman and Leon Kratzer were sharing in the first quarter. Both teams wanted to get both involved and they didn´t hesitate to produce. Chapman had 10 points while Kratzer had 6 points, 3 boards and a block after 10 minutes. “Kratzer´s put backs and dirty work that he did also helped keep Frankfurt in the game”, added TV Lich guard Jermale Jones. The other Frankfurt bright spot was Jason Clark who netted 7 points and had two dimes as he kept Frankfurt competitive. “He was aggressive and put his team on his back and put them in a position to win. He made shots and free throws”, stated TV Lich guard Jermale Jones. Rasta Vechta was playing solid team basketball on offense and totally perplexing Frankfurt with their defense with the ball pressure and help often getting them to make bad passes which led to turnovers. BBL veteran Josh Young who played three season´s in Tuebingen had a huge first quarter off the bench netting 6 points and getting three steals. “He gave a lot of energy and hit big shots. He is an older guy, but the way he can still move for his age is very good. He played tough defense and read the passing lanes well”, added Alabama native Jermale Jones. Frankfurt hit some big shots at the tail end of the first quarter as ex Auburn(NCAA) standout Quantez Robertson and ex Arizona State(NCAA) guard Tra Holder connected. After 10 minutes and 9 lead changes Rasta Vechta led 25-24. “It was a solid performance from both teams. Chapman started very well, but Frankfurt then got going. Frankfurt stayed together and got fast break points to stay in the game”, added Jermale Jones. Rasta Vechta shot 53% from the field and 50% from outside and had 6 rebounds and 2 turnovers while the Fraport Skyliners shot 50% form the field and 38% from outside and had 11 rebounds and 5 turnovers.
In the second quarter Rasta Vechta began with a 9-0 run to set the tone and get away from the Fraport Skyliners, but they couldn´t shake them off yet as they led only by 8 points at the break. Rasta Vechta broke away on a lethal 9-0 run to extend their lead to 34-24. In the run they got a lay in from ex Giessen 46er Austin Hollins, two buckets from ex Alba Berlin center Clint Chapman and a trey from TJ Bray. Bray was playing the way a point guard should looking to get his team involved first a she was getting little looks and then executing himself when he had a good opportunity. “I just took what the defense gave me. There are so many guys that can score on the team. One day I will be scoring while on the other day it will be passing. I don´t care about how much I score, but just that we win”, added TJ Bray. On defense the guests were playing hard nosed rattling Frankfurt´s offense as they were switching a lot with their defensive formations always keeping them off guard leading to turnovers or forced shots. The Fraport Skyliners had little offensive options as only Jason Clark and Quantez Robertson had the hot hands. Robertson nailed a trey while Jason Clark used his speed to get two baskets inside. Rasta Vechta had numerous offensive options and guys that hit their shots. MVP candidate Hollins dropped a three and snuck back door for two while Chapman drowned a 20 footer and Josh Young connected on a tough off balance shot in the corner. Rasta Vechtá offense was calm and patient and just worked hard for the best shot while Frankfurt didn´t have the same luxury as they couldn´t do that because of the Vechta unpredictable defense. Rasta Vechta led 43-35 at half-time. “Vechta did a good job trying to slow down Frankfurt. Even when Frankfurt started scoring after the Vechta run, they also kept scoring so Frankfurt couldn´t get closer. Vechta continued to do a good job to get Frankfurt to turnover the ball and got their bigs in foul trouble”, added Jermale Jones. Rasta Vechta shot 55% form the field and 42% from the three point line and had 14 rebounds and 7 turnovers while the Fraport Skyliners shot 41% from the field and 27% from the three point line and had 16 rebounds and 10 turnovers.
The third quarter was an offensive fest as a total of 56 points fell, but Rasta Vechta could finally break away as they rattled home 33 points to lead by 18 points after 30 minutes. Frankfurt never gave up and had good offensive moments with a Shawn Huff turn around shot and Clark trey, but they couldn´t play consistent defense which haunted them all night long. Every time Frankfurt got within 7-10 points, Rasta Vechta would hit big shots. Chapman continued to be a rude menace for Frankfurt as he hit from wherever he wanted. He made a floater, alley op tap in and a three. TJ Bray who had been kept in check well in the first half scoring wise became more aggressive and began to attack the rim more. He made a finger tip roll in for the 57-44 advantage, but Rasta Vechta was never home free as Frankfurt had enough energy to rally back. The cold Tyler Larson who scored only 7 points on 3/10 shooting nailed a trey that was followed by a Clark trey and suddenly Frankfurt was down only 57-50. Little mini runs would accompany each team. Rasta Vechta countered with Hollins and Bray baskets while Frankfurt got a Jonas Wolfarth-Bottermann tip in and Shawn Huff three to trail Vechta 63-55. Rasta Vechta then went on a back breaking 10-0 run as the clock work offense of Rasta Vechta continued to flourish as many guys produced. Bray scored in traffic again, Hinrichs made free throws, Young nailed a trey and ex Braunschweig forward Tyrone Nash made a lay in off a Hinrichs steal who fed him the shovel pass for the easy basket and 73-55 advantage. Rasta Vechta´s intensity never let up as their variable defense gave Frankfurt´s offense fits as they couldn´t establish a sound rhythm. Robertson closed out the third quarter with a trey, but Rasta Vechta led 76-58 after three quarters. “We didn´t play good defense in the first quarter. It got better in the second quarter and in the third we jumped on them with our defense. We didn´t let our offense dictate our defense. We played hard defense and our offense came”, stated TJ Bray. “We had too many turnovers and they hit tough shots. They went on another run and we couldn´t recover. We had too much mis communication on defense which led to open shots for them”, stressed Jason Clark. Rasta Vechta shot 61% from the field and 47% from the parking lot and had 20 rebounds and 9 turnovers while the Fraport Skyliners shot 43% from the field and 38% from the parking lot and had 26 rebounds and 13 turnovers.
In the fourth quarter Rasta Vechta would lead by as much as 25 points, but they let up a bit on offense, but Frankfurt couldn´t catch them in 10 minutes. After German Robin Christen connected on a 20 footer, both teams then relied on the long ball. Robertson dropped two trey´s and Rasta Vechta countered with a trey from Bray and Hollins as Frankfurt trailed by 84-64. After another Hollins three pointer and Nash lay in, Frankfurt trailed 91-66 and it seemed like they had called it a night, but they still had energy for a come back attempt. They found some added intensity and broke out on a 8-0 run to trail only 92-74. In the Frankfurt run, they got production from a Clark pull up jumper, Huff trey and Clarance lay in and free throw. Time was running out for Frankfurt as they simply had had to big of a deficit to be able to make any kind of serious dent in the Vechta lead. In the last minutes Rasta Vechta head coach Pedro Calles gave big talent 16 year old Luc Van Slooten extended minutes as he got aggressive and visited the free throw line three times. Rasta Vechta was able to get the 100 points on the last possession as German Robin Christen´s lay up was blocked, but ruled as goaltending ending the game 100-80 for Rasta Vechta. The ambitious Vechta team didn´t close out the game well and the team wasn´t pleased with it. “We weren´t happy with how we played the fourth quarter giving up that 8-0 run. It was good seeing Luc Van Slooten get minutes at the end. We got learning points in the fourth quarter, but it was important that we played hard for the entire 40 minutes”, warned TJ Bray. “We had a little run, but it wasn´t enough to get back. We got a little tired with their tough pressure for 40 minutes. We had to many turnovers. We have to learn to play better when we are tired”, warned Jason Clark. Rasta Vechta continue to live out their Cinderella season and they are the best example that you can be successful not having the best players. “They were clicking as a team. They played well on offense and defense and Bray was their engine. He infected his teammates to play hard for 40 minutes. They might not be the most talented team, but they play hard for 40 minutes and out work you”, stressed ex Georgetown(NCAA) guard Jason Clark. Rasta Vechta was led by Clint Chapman with 28 points Austin Hollins added 24 points. The Fraport Skyliners were led by Jason Clark with 27 points. Quantez Robertson added 17 points. Rasta Vechta shot 60% form the field and 48% from outside and got 29 rebounds and had 14 turnovers while the Fraport Skyliners shot 42% from the field and 35% from outside and got 35 rebounds and had 18 turnovers.