One of the biggest draws of the season for the Fraport Skyliners since the 2003-2004 season where the clubs battled back to back for the BBL title splitting has been Brose Bamberg. Even if FC Bayern Munich may still be the biggest fan gatherer, there is no other BBL team that has the prestige that Bamberg bring each season simply for the memories of three fierce final series where Bamberg have the upper hand 2-1. However on April 18th, 2019 Brose Bamberg which had amazing players like x NBA player Elias Harris, Greek legend Nikolaos Zisis or ex Euroleague players Tyrese Rice and Ricky Hickmann actually took a back seat with the popcorn and coke to the Fraport Skyliners newest signing Andrej “the bachelor” Mangold. After not having played a professional game since 2017 with s.Oliver Wurzburg and having spent the last months entertaining exotic women on the sandy beaches of Mexico, his life has slowly settled down a bit and he decided to give professional basketball a go again. Even if Mangold´s life is calming down, the 2004 BBL champion Fraport Skyliners desire to make the most of this signing coup and quickly proclaimed the game against Bamberg “Ladies Night” in the hopes of attracting more spectators into the Fraport arena preferably young women who could raise the decibels a bit more. Mangold has had a solid BBL career where he spent the most of his time with the Telekom Baskets Bonn where he played 171 BBL games, but nasty injuries derailed his career in 2016 until the Bachelor came calling in December 2018. Mangold was back and donning a fancy Fraport Skyliners jersey and with many ladies cheering him on, but his appearance in a Skyliner jersey had to wait as he wasn´t inserted. He got some cheers with his pre game introduction that sounded mixed in with teenage screams, but more subdued then some may have expected. Head coach Gordon Herbert stated that he would have to work hard in practice to deserve minutes. Mangold was all smiles after the big 86-79 win over Brose Bamberg, but smiling for all occasions is something he has learned the last months while his teammates commented on his not playing more reserved. “It was coaches decision for not getting him in. He is still getting in game rhythm. He is still finding his way, but once he gets in the rotation, he will do good things”, warned Jason Clark.
The Fraport Skyliners entered the game with as about minimal chances of making the playoffs as it is for the Los Angeles Clippers have of getting by the Golden State Warriors in seven games even if they tied the seris 1-1. The 2000 BBL cup winner pretty much had to win every game of having any realistic chance of playing in the promised land in mid May as well as getting help form other teams. Going into the usually meaningful game against Bamberg, they were dumpling around in 13th place four wins away from the eighth and last playoff spot and had had a 3-3 record in the last six games and lost three of the last four games. Meanwhile Brose Bamberg have had a very satisfying season despite all the troubles in the current past, had regrouped and won the 2019 BBL cup, reached the Basketball Champions League final 4 and were sitting in fifth place of the BBL standings with a 19-8 record. Bamberg legends like Chris Fleming and Casey Jacobsen could be happy with their ex team as they have been the other big surprise of the season next to Rasta Vechta. But the Fraport Skyliners came out surprisingly focused and energized as this season that hasn´t always been the case and played a very solid game for 40 minutes as the Kratzer and Clark show smothered Brose Bamberg. After the huge victory, ex Georgetown(NCAA) guard Jason Clark was thrilled about the teams performance. “We came out aggressive which is what we wanted to do on offense and defense. We played very well together. Kratzer came out and was an inside presence which helped open up everything else. We stayed together late in the game. Rice is a hell of a player and made tough shots, but we never got rattled and executed on offense and stuck together on defense”, stressed Jason Clark. Brose Bamberg didn´t play their best game and didn´t start well, which carried over for the whole game as they were trailing for the most part of the game and inserted a lot of energy and just couldn´t get consistent stops on defense. “We didn´t start well and gave them confidence right away. We knew that it would be an intensive game, but we were never able to stop their inside game as we were always a step behind. Our communication wasn´t good and Frankfurt wanted it more. We played better in the third quarter, but when Frankfurt is game tough, then they are hard to beat especially in their place”, stressed Brose Bamberg guard Maurice Stuckey. Clark just smiled when he heard the name Kratzer and Clark show. “Kratzer dominated and you can see he has developed. You can see he has the confidence that he can dominate. He rebounded well and never hesitated when he got the ball down low. When he dominated it opens up the game for everyone else”, stated Jason Clark.
Only 3,300 fans wanted to witness another interesting duel between the Fraport Skyliners and Brose Bamberg including the German bachelor Andrej Mangold, but there were also some other factors that led to the les than satisfactory turn out. Football team Eintracht Frankfurt was playing an international quarterfinal do or die game at home against Benfica Lisabon, Ice Hockey team Eisbaeren had a game, it was the first beautiful spring day of 2019 and the Easter holidays were underway. But at least the Fraport Skyliners came out on fire taking command from the jump ball and controlled the game rapidly. Frankfurt got huge production from ex Bamberg center Leon Kratzer who came out reborn against his old team scoring 8 points quickly as nobody could stop him. The German big man finished with 26 points on potent 13/17 shooting from the field and had to make the rounds at the end with many interviews and knew what was key for his success, but he wasn´t a man playing among boys. “It wasn´t that easy. It was good to play against my old team and see many of my ex teammates. I think I have developed well in Frankfurt. It took some time, but when you work hard and take it step by step, good results happen”, smiled Leon Kratzer. Frankfurt was defending with passion forcing turnovers and even making blocks helping get a comfortable 18-8 lead. Tyler Larson scored 5 points as he remained aggressive early, as Jason Clark added two three´s to help keep the comfortable 23-12 advantage after 10 minutes. “Key in the first quarter was defense. Niklas Kiel rebounded very well and good defensive stops ended in big rebounds”, added Jason Clark.
Brose Bamberg upped their game in the second quarter cutting down the Frankfurt lead, but still couldn´t get over the hump as the Fraport Skyliners had the slim 40-35 advantage at the break. Bamberg began with free throws from ex Gonzaga(NCAA) standout Elias Harris and Jonas Wolfarth-Bottermann who played only 11,26 minutes due to Leon Kratzer´s big game made a tap in for the 25-14 lead. However basketball will always be a game of runs as Brose Bamberg proved that going on a 8-0 run as suddenly Frankfurt´s lead was shaved down to 25-22. In the run Bamberg got two mid distance jumpers from ex Tuebingen forward Augustine Rubit and a trey from Maurice Stuckey. Bamberg was playing calmer and more controlled being patient and looking for better shots while executing while the Fraport Skyliners couldn´t muster any offense in that short phase. The Fraport Skyliners stayed calm and relied on what was working best and went back inside keeping the lead. Kratzer continued to be a menace scoring twice while being aggressive on the offensive boards while long time injured German Niklas Kiel also was aggressive on the offensive boards getting two buckets to keep the 33-26 advantage. Bambrgr had no solution to keep Frankfurt out of the paint in the stretch run as Kratzer and Kiel(reverse lay up) connected again, but Bamberg did a good job not getting irritated. Brose Bamberg continued to execute getting a 20 footer from Greek legend Nikolaos Zisis, a beautiful alley-op slam dunk from ex Portland Trailblazer Cliff Alexander and a three pointer from ex Boston College Eagle Patrick Heckmann, but Frankfurt led 40-35. “We got away from what we were doing well getting the ball inside, but they defended well. But we managed to go inside again and hold the lead”, added Jason Clark. The Fraport Skyliners shot 55% from the field and 40% from outside and had 15 rebounds and 4 turnovers while Brose Bamberg shot 50% from the field and 29% from outside and had 14 rebounds and 6 turnovers.
In the third quarter Brose Bamberg got big time production from Elias Harris, Augustine Rubit and Tyrese Rice who combined for 22 of the 27 third quarter points reeling in the lead again 62-59. The Fraport Skyliners continued to do what they did best all game long and hammer the ball inside as they were rewarded with three more Kratzer buckets. He finished with two two handed dunks and a tap in to keep the valuable 46-39 advantage. But Brose Bamberg never gave up, but continued to chip away at the Frankfurt lead and got a clutch 6-2 run all scored by ex Los Angeles Laker Ellias Harris to cut the Frankfurt lead to 48-45. Harris showed just how versatile he is hitting a 20 footer, connecting on a lay in on transition and making a two handed dunk on the pick and roll play with Tyrese Rice. Frankfurt was holding on to a thread as Brose Bamberg continued to threaten on offense, but just couldn´t get over the hump quite yet. Brose Bambergr played to their offensive strengths as Rubit nailed three deep mid distance jumpers while Frankfurt got contribution from ex Alba Berlin guard Akeem Vargas who drained a trey and Tyler Larson hit a floater as Frankfurt led 55-54. Bamberg simply had too many weapons as now it was time for the uprising play of Tyrese Rice who closed out the third quarter with 8 points with two massive three´s and a fade away jumper while Jason Clark hit a deep trey over Alexander, but Brose Bamberg led 62-59. “Bamberg has a lot of offensive weapons. Guys like Harris and Rubit are very athletic and hit tough shots. We weren´t playing bad defense, but when everything is rolling for them, it is hard to stop them. But we handled the situation well and didn´t get rattled”, stressed Jason Clark. “We had more intensity and were quicker on offense and defense”, stressed Maurice Stuckey.
In the fourth quarter, it looked like Brose Bamberg had figured out the Fraport Skyliners taking a six point lead early, but the Kratzer and Clark show with a touch of unsung hero Tra Holder wouldn´t disappoint as they turned around the game leading Frankfurt to the well deserved win. Despite getting struck by two flagrant fouls early, it didn´t faze Brose Bamberg as Frankfurt couldn´t capitalize. Brose Bamberg got clutch three´s from Euroleague champion Ricky Hickman and German youth national player Louis Olinde. But like in so many times in the game, the Fraport Skyliners didn´t get rattled as they struck back as Jason Clark hit Brose Bamberg with 6 points dead locking the game at 68-68. “We had good ball movement and I just took what the defense gave me. Larson did a good job drawing the defense as did Robertson and Shawn Huff with drive and kick. Once we are rolling and find our spots, I get open shots. I knocked down these shots because of my teammates”, warned Jason Clark. After a Alexander put back, it was Holder who made a pretty runner bank shot to tie the game at 70-70. He made some big plays in a few minutes time keeping Bamberg at bay. Frankfurt didn´t crack under pressure, but got consistent production from Kratzer who scored two more times, but each time Bamberg matched Frankfurt with a Harris lay up and Rice floater to cut the lead to 76-74. Clark then hit a huge three to give Frankfurt the 79-74 lead, but Rice struck back with another trey cutting Frankfurt´s advantage to 79-76. Bamberg had their chances, but couldn´t execute. Zisis missed an open three from the corner which led to a Larson pull up jumper for the 81-76 lead. With 39 seconds to play. Rice then missed two shots which sealed the win for Frankfurt after Larson free throws for the 84-76 lead. A late three by Hickman and lay in by Huff ended the game. “Our defense was key at the end. We knew that Rice wanted the ball. Kiel switched and did a good job forcing him to take a tough shot”, stressed Jason Clark. “It was the small things like loose balls that cost us the game at the end”, stressed Maurice Stuckey. The Fraport Skyliners were led by Leon Kratzer with 26 points. Jason Clark added 22 points and Tyler Larson had 14 points, 6 rebounds and 8 assists while Brose Bamberg were led by Tyrese Rice with 18 points. Augustine Rubit added 15 points and Elias Harris had 12 points. The Fraport Skyliners shot 54% from the field and 44% from outside and had 33 rebounds and 11 turnovers while Brose Bamberg shot 53% from the field and 35% from outside and had 28 rebounds and 11 turnovers.