Every year Franz Wagner seems to get taller and also a bit more masculine. Two years ago, he was a tall 15 year old kid that helped Alba Berlin win the JBBL(U-16) title in Frankfurt. Last season, the 16 year old helped Alba Berlin defeat Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners in the playoffs in route to helping Alba Berlin win the NBBL(U-19) title in Quackenbruck. Now at age 17, he hasn´t only made a name for himself in Germany, but also in Europe. He has started games for Alba Berlin, played Eurocup and showed just how talented he is for his age, but at the end of the day he is commonly know as the little brother of Los Angeles Laker Mo Wagner. A week ago 24 hours after helping Alba Berlin reach the Eurocup final in Andora, Spain, he wasn´t tired enough not to play game one of the Pro B playoffs against the Fraport Skyliners Juniors helping the team to a 78-58 win netting 10 points in 24 minutes. Wagner was back again a day before a big BBL game in Bamberg, only a two hour drive from Frankfurt as it was Lok Bernau with the second best offense in the Pro B averaging 84 points per game against the number one defense in the Pro B with the Fraport Skyliners Juniors who give up 71 points per game. In the past, the Fraport Skyliners Juniors have survived do or die games, but also faltered and against Lok Bernau, the team definitely needed a lot of luck and a little of the basketball God on their side to force a third game in Bernau next weekend. But at the end, it wasn´t the Fraport Skyliners Juniors that had the luck, but Bennet Hundt who had been cold all night long finally found the ocean as he dropped a huge three propelling Lok Bernau to the 84-76 victory and on to the semi-finals. After the win an elated Quadir Welton reflected on how Lok Bernau was able to get by the Fraport Skyliners Juniors. “Key for the win was being patient and believing in each other. We played good defense and controlled the pace and didn´t get sped up”, stressed Quadir Welton. The season of the Fraport Skyliners Juniors ended, but they gave a good fight for 40 minutes, but missed that one extra three and a few stops to force a game three. “We made too many small mistakes and didn´t finish the plays the way we should have. We didn´t score enough in both games to have a chance to win. If you can´t score 70 points, you will have problems winning. We were too slow getting loose balls. We lost to a very good team”, stated Fraport Skyliner Junior Tobias Jahn.
Around 20 boisterous and energetic fans made the long trip from Bernau to help cheer on their team. The Fraport Skyliners Juniors were without Richard Freudenberg and Konstantin Schubert, while Lok Bernau suffered a severe blow as 2017 NBBL rookie of the year Jonas Mattiseck had to depart the game after 30 seconds. He had hurt his leg and had it iced the rest of the way on the bench a she never returned. The first minutes were tight as both teams found their offensive rhythm quickly. Frankfurt relied on getting big man Armin Trtovac involved who scored twice and got a huge trey from ex BC Darmstadt 18 year old German Maxi Begue. Lok Bernau got early production from 2010 Eurochallenge winner with BG Goettingen Robert Kulawick who hit two treys for the 10-7 advantage. After ex Bremerhaven guard Garai Zeeb hit a runner to cut the Lok Bernau lead to 10-9, it was Lok Bernau that demonstrated how lethal their offense can be and how good they can defend when they want to when they went on a 10-2 run to lead 20-11. In the run Lok Bernau did damage inside as Kulawick scored, Wagner scored and 2018 NBBL champion Lorenz Brenneke scored. Lok Bernau stepped up their defense and forced Frankfurt to tough shots and were more aggressive on the boards and had more intensity. The Fraport Skyliners Juniors understood that they couldn´t allow their opponent to go on a big run and not respond. Frankfurt answered with baskets from Florida native Dennis Mavin and ex Freiburg forward Cosmo Gruehn and trailed only 21-16 after 10 minutes. “Frankfurt wasn´t playing good transition defense and lost their man on defense a lot. Bernau pressured Frankfurt well and played like they were the number one defense in the Pro B”, stressed ex Auburn(NCAA) stand out Quantez Robertson. Lok Bernau shot 54% from the field and 29% from outside and had 8 rebounds and 2 turnovers while the Fraport Skyliners Juniors shot 47% from the field and 17% from outside and had 7 rebounds and 4 turnovers.
In the second quarter Lok Bernau kept the lead, but the Fraport Skyliners Juniors did a superb job staying on their heels and fighting to stay in the game. Frankfurt third year man Niklas Pons who had a disappointing second season, but also dealt with injuries has played a lot better this season bringing energy from the bench and dropped a three pointer cutting Lok Bernau´s lead to 21-19. Frankfurt continued to chip away getting a 25 footer from Armin Trtovac and a trey from big man Tobias Jahn to cut the Lok Bernau lead to 27-24. Jahn isn´t a guy that takes a lot of three´s as in the last 8 seasons he had shot 13/53 from the parking lot, but the way he stood there and fired away, it looked like the easiest thing. “I felt like a young deer after I made that shot”, smiled Tobias Jahn. Quantez Robertson gave a little smile after talking about Jahn´s three and had to mention ex teammate Mike Morrison who hit a rare three last season in Frankfurt. “He hasn´t taken many three´s this season. He played good offense and was getting rebounds. Morrison´s three was funnier. Jahn can shoot, but Mike can´t smiled Quantez Robertson. Both teams offenses weren´t rolling, but both were playing good defense which allowed Frankfurt to remain in the game. Jahn didn´t get many minutes this season, so when he gets the opportunity, he gives his best and continued to be aggressive on the offensive end as he scored a reverse lay up to cut Lok Bernau´s lead to 29-27. Lok Bernau continued to keep the lead as they got continued strong production from Kulawick who dropped another trey while Croatian 216Cm center Kresimir Nikic played sound offense being a menace close to the basket scoring twice to give Lok Bernau the 36-31 lead. Garai Zeeb hit a clutch three in the last minute, but Franz Wagner used his athleticism for an easy basket at the end as Lok Bernau led 39-34. “Frankfurt got big three´s from Pons and Jahn. Frankfurt settled down and got back to playing their game. Mavin and Zeeb got good looks”, added Garai Zeeb. Lok Bernau shot 50% from the field and shot 27% from the three point line and got 15 rebounds and 9 turnovers while the Fraport Skyliners Juniors shot 46% from the field and 33% from the three point line and got 16 rebounds and had 12 turnovers.
In the third quarter Lok Bernau was able to up their offense and take their biggest lead of the game of 14 points as the Fraport Skyliners Juniors were reeling and clinging to their basketball life. Lok Bernau broke out on a quick 8-4 run to extend their lead to 47-38. In the run they received continued solid production from Kulawick who dropped another three as well as a tip in from 2017 JBBL champion Malte Delow and an overwhelming throw down alley-op dunk from Welton who was fed the perfect lob from 178cm guard Bennet Hundt. “We both practice alley-op´s a lot. We have had 5-6 alley-op´s this season. This one was my second best of the season. Last week´s was my best this season. We have a connection. When he has the ball, I know that all he has to do is throw it up and I will get it”, stressed Quadir Welton. Lok Bernau was playing with more intensity and were more aggressive on the boards. The Fraport Skyliners then found a spurt of offense as Trtovac hit back to back baskets cutting the Lok Bernau lead to 47-42. Frankfurt just wasn´t playing their usual aggressive and consistent defense as Lok Bernau was always able to go on runs while they continued to defend well. Lok Bernau kept up the pressure and went on another run of 11-2 to lead 58-44. In the run their bulk of the production consisted of three trey´s from Wagner, Kulawick and Nico Simon who played 290 BBL games and once played against Golden State Warrior Draymond Greene at the University games in 2011. Basketball will always be a game of runs as now it was Frankfurt that found some success on offense going on a 10-4 run to cut Lok Bernau´s lead to 62-54 after 30 minutes. In the run got a massive three from Dennis Mavin and continued timely production from Cosmo Gruehn who hit a three and scored in the paint. Ex Chemnitz center Aaron Kayser supplied free throws. “We found our rhythm and flow on offense. We got easy baskets which made it easier to play defense. We got a lob dunk form me and three´s. We stuck together”, stressed Quadir Welton. “We couldn´t handle their transition game. It was always the small things that hurt us and kept them ahead”, added Tobias Jahn. Lok Bernau shot 53% form the field and 41% from the parking lot and got 21 rebounds and had 13 turnovers while the Fraport Skyliners Juniors shot 50% form the field and 38% from the parking lot and got 22 rebounds and 17 turnovers.
In the fourth quarter Lok Bernau continued to stay ahead and were able to withstand a brutal Frankfurt comeback at the wire. Lok Bernau got buckets inside by Nikic and Kulawick while the Fraport Skyliners Juniors got a trey from ex Kronberg guard Felix Hecker and a Cosmo Gruehn turn around shot as Frankfurt trailed 69-60. Kulawick continued to show why he is more than just a shooter as he continued to score lay ups at ease, but also defended properly and got a break away basket for the 71-60 lead. With crunch-time slowly approaching and the Fraport Skyliners Juniors season on the line, they made one last desperation comeback and suddenly were only three points back. Frankfurt broke out on a 12-4 run to trail Lok Bernau only 75-72 with 1,26 minutes to play. “Their pressure hurt us a lot. They were very physical and we rushed our plays. We took to many quick shots and Hecker hit big shots”, stated Quadir Welton. In the run was the rebirth of young German Felix Hecker who got the hot hand making 8 points with two three´s. This was also a very strong phase of Dennis Mavin who scored twice. On one play he was the recipient of a Zeeb touch down pass and then stole the ball from Hundt in Lok Bernau´s half of the court and made the lay in. “Hecker hit big three´s. If he hadn´t made them, we would have had no chance. If he would have made one more, the game would have been tied up”, added Tobias Jahn. The momentum was on Frankfurt´s side, but then out of absolutely nowhere Bennet Hundt made the game changing play and gave Frankfurt the back breaking play. After being 0/8 from the field, he hit a huge three giving Lok Bernau the 78-72 lead. “That was the biggest shot of the game for us and him. That was the ultimate back breaker and a key play for us”, said Quadir Welton. “Gruehn was on him. I have a lot of respect for a guy that takes a shot like that. He took it, because he knew he would make it”, expressed Tobias Jahn. Frankfurt might have been shocked, but not dead yet as Zeeb hit a big three to cut Lok Bernau´s lead to 78-76 with 42 seconds remaining. Lok Bernau closed out the game with six free throws as Frankfurt couldn´t make a shot when they needed it most. It was a good season for the Fraport Skyliners Juniors and Tobias Jahn reflected on it. Schoormann, Begue, Gruehn and Hecker all developed further. Trtovac had a great season and for me was the best center in the Pro B”, warned Tobias Jahn. Lok Bernau was led by Robert Kulawick with 23 points. Kresimir Nikic added 16 points and Quadir Welton and Franz Wagner added 12 points a piece. The Fraport Skyliners Juniors were led by Armin Trtovac with 14 points. Dennis Mavin added 13 points and Cosmo Gruehn and Felix Hecker produced 11 points a piece. Lok Bernau shot 50% form the field and 40% from outside and had 33 rebounds and 19 turnovers while the Fraport Skyliners Juniors shot 47% from the field and 42% from outside and had 30 rebounds and 19 turnovers.