At halftime in Braunschweig two days ago and the score deadlocked, Skyliner fans still had high hopes of somehow slipping into the playoffs, but 45 minutes later, it was the same old story with the Fraport Skyliners as inconsistency was a nasty habit that the 2016 Fiba Europe Cup winner had all season long and just couldn´t shake it. At the start of April and after a tough 91-87 loss at home to the hands of FC Bayern Munich, not many had any real hopes of them making the playoffs, but they then began a hot stretch where they won five of six contests and had some fabulous results with a win over rival Brose Bamberg and a Tyler Larson buzzer beater win in Bremerhaven. But too many unnecessary loses during the regular season put them into this precarious situation and when they needed to produce most, stunk up the second half losing in Braunschweig ending their playoff hopes. In the last regular season game of the season, the Fraport Skyliners were playing for pride against their other big rival Giessen 46ers as they also had been in good position to make the playoffs, but ran out of gas in the last two months. Fans had one constellation in that even if their would be no playoffs, they could witness some great players with Jared Jordan and David Bell possibly for a last time as well baby Shaq David Bell as they are well into their late thirties. But the good news after 40 minutes was that all three told me that they will return next season and be playing somewhere. The Giessen 46ers came into the game playing uninspired basketball losing 9 of their last 11 games, but they also were playing for pride and wanted to close out the season on a fine winning note. Both teams had their ups and downs during the game, but when it came down to crunch-time, both teams were wide awake. The Fraport Skyliners rode on a late game 9-0 run to get back into the game and win it 82-81 thanks to a Garai Zeeb loose ball hustle play that led to the game winning Tyler Larson shot. “Losing in Braunschweig was tough, but we were motivated today to come back after that loss and win it for the fans and close out the season on the right note. We stuck together in tough times even when they were making tough shots. Tra Holder was huge after struggling this season, but he played out his heart”, stressed ex Georgetown(NCAA) guard Jason Clark. Two months ago, the playoffs looked like a sure shot for the Giessen 46ers, but on the last game day, they were out of it and despite playing well, couldn´t get a good shot on the last possession for the win. “This loss sums up our season. We had a lot of close wins, but also a lot of close loses. We fought very well and made the right adjustments in the second half. So often this season we lost focus in the second half, but today we had the focus and kept them off the offensive glass”, stressed ex FC Bayern Munich guard Brandon Thomas.
Before the jump ball, highlights of Quantez Robertson were shown on the scoreboard and then he yelled in German that he would remain two extra years in Frankfurt as the 5,000 fans in the Fraport arena cheered as if they had already beaten the Giessen 46ers. The Fraport Skyliners got off on the wrong foot as they couldn´t hit the ocean as they missed shot after shot, while Giessen wasn´t playing their best either but at least executed on some plays. Both teams were playing as if the game meant nothing which it actually did. Giessen built a nice 6-1 lead as Frankfurt had been blanked on five possessions except for one Tyler Larson free throw. Giessen received points from their two Germans Alen Pjanic and Mahir Agva and a pull up jumper from ex Marist(NCAA) standout Jared Jordan. Frankfurt finally got on the board at the 5,51 minute mark as Larson connected on a floater cutting the Giessen lead to 6-3. However Giessen kept their healthy offensive rhythm and cruised out on a 7-0 run to extend their lead to 13-3. Agva continued to be a wrecking crew as he delivered his fine inside out game with a fast break lay in and dropped a trey as one could sense that he was extra motivated for proving his ex team wrong for not giving him the minutes he felt he deserved in Frankfurt in the 2016-2017 season. When Jason Clark came in, the Frankfurt offensive managed better ball movement which led to a Niklas Kiel hard two handed dunk as Jason Clark gave him the dime. Ex Phoenix Hagen guard David Bell added his bread and butter with a trey while Holder added a floater as the Fraport Skyliners trailed 16-10 after 10 minutes. “We couldn´t hit anything while they hit shots better. Maybe we were a bit tired after having played 48 hours earlier. Giessen did a good job getting what they wanted easily”, stressed Jason Clark. The Giessen 46ers shot 41% from the field and 25% from outside and had 9 rebounds and 2 turnovers while the Fraport Skyliners shot 21% from the field and 0% from outside and had 10 rebounds and 3 turnovers.
In the second quarter the Fraport Skyliners finally escaped out of their offensive funk and began to play their game and led at the break. The Fraport Skyliners stormed out of the second quarter gates on a 17-6 run to take the 27-22 lead. In the big run they got massive production from Tra Holder who contributed 8 points including two three´s. The ex Arizona State(NCAA) guard who has had problems with getting minutes this season pushed that all to side and had a huge game with 18 points. “Tra was big for us. We always had a lot of confidence in his offensive game. He has shown this season that he has the ability to score in many ways. He has had limited minutes this season, but today he was aggressive. He didn´t worry about making mistakes. When he is aggressive, he makes great plays”, stressed Jason Clark. Clark did hit a trey, but his shot wasn´t falling as well early, so he did a good job with the playmaking as the Frankfurt ball movement became a lot better. Giessen got some key baskets from Agva who continued to play as if he was on a mission and a runner from Jordan, but Frankfurt led 29-27. Frankfurt was able to drift a way a bit with a Quantez Robertson lay in and another Holder three for the 34-29 advantage, but Giessen was able to close out the second quarter in style. At this juncture Frankfurt continued to move the ball well and were defending more aggressively and more passionately as Giessen coughed up the ball more. Jordan made a tough off balance shot and ex Bremerhaven forward Larry Gordon made a brutal offensive rebound in traffic and made the tough put back as the Fraport Skyliners kept the slim 34-33 lead. “I have been coming off the bench for some time now, but I always told coach that I had no problems with that. I told him I will give the team the needed energy. I was more the playmaker and made plays for my teammates”, added Jason Clark. The Fraport Skyliners shot 38% from the field and 36% from the three point line and had 20 rebounds and 6 turnovers while the Giessen 46ers shot 44% from the field and 25% from the three point line and had 16 rebounds and 6 turnovers.
In the third quarter the Giessen 46ers would find back to their game and lead by as much as 8 points and have the 62-54 advantage after 30 minutes. The Giessen 46ers showed a flash of the Golden State Warriors three point expertise as they let the long ball fly and were successful. Giessen showed the Brandon Thomas show which Frankfurt couldn´t slow down. Ex Paderborn forward Niklas Kiel got Frankfurt on the board first with a trey, but Giessen then erupted on a lethal 14-2 run regaining the lead to 47-39. In the run, Brandon Thomas was a one man wrecking crew dropping 11 points including three three´s and a hard one hand dunk displaying still lively athleticism for a 34 year old who has two years left on his contract with Giessen. Clark demonstrated that he can match Thomas´s scoring in bunches contributing 8 points and two three´s to cut Giessen´s lead down to 50-46. Frankfurt couldn´t get over the hump as Thomas continued to be an offensive thorn in the side of Frankfurt as he scored from the wing getting a pass form David Baby Shaq Bell and connecting on a trey with the dime going to Jordan as Giessen led 55-48. The Fraport Skyliners continued to play at a high level of intensity and never lost focus and just chipped away. After a Larson runner, it was Garai Zeeb who made a big hustle play keeping a Frankfurt possession alive and finishing with a lay in to cut Giessen´s lead to 57-52. David Bell then used his keen sniper qualities sinking a trey while Robertson hit a wild step back jumper. Agva closed out the third quarter with free throws as Giessen led comfortably 62-54. “I missed some wide open shots in the first half, but coach continued to have confidence in me. I just kept shooting and made shots. But we all made shots and stuck with it”, stressed Brandon Thomas. “They hit shot after shot. Jordan did a good job on the screens and we overhelped which let him find the open shooters. Jordan is a real engine that ran the team”, stressed Jason Clark. The Giessen 46ers shot 50% from the field and 45% from the parking lot and had 22 rebounds and 7 turnovers while the Fraport Skyliners shot 42% from the field and 40% from the parking lot and had 28 rebounds and 8 turnovers.
In the fourth quarter the Fraport Skyliners made a comeback in crunch-time and held their nerves to get the win. In the first four minutes there were little whistles as both teams were practicing run and gun as both offensives were clicking, but Frankfurt couldn´t get over the hump. The Fraport Skyliners got vital production from Jonas Wolfarth-Botterman who made a hook shot and lay in while Clark made a lay in and Zeeb a jumper. The Giessen 46ers got strong production from David Bell who stroked home five points on a trey and finger tip roll in while Thomas and Agva also scored, but Giessen still had the comfortable 71-62 advantage. But then as is so often the case in the age of basketball a hot run became the game changer as Frankfurt scored 9 unanswered points to suddenly deadlock the contest at 71-71. Frankfurt was fortified with three three´s from Larson, Zeeb and Holder. “We started to move the ball better and just stuck with it. We got on the fast break and did it against a team that likes to do it. They weren´t able to get back as well as we used it to our advantage”, stressed Jason Clark. Giessen quickly got the lead back with a Agva lay in and free throw, but Zeeb got Frankfurt the lead back with a three giving Frankfurt the 76-74 advantage. Agva continued to be a work horse and got to the free throw line sinking two shots to tie the game at 76-76. Giessen continued to keep the lead as Thomas made a three point play and Agva made free throws for the 81-78 lead with 34 seconds to go. Robetrson then made two free throws with 28 seconds to go. Then came the big turning point of the game as Larry Gordon dribbled the ball off his foot and Zeeb made like Boris Becker diving for the loose ball and getting it to Robertson who found Tyler Larson for the winning bucket with 8 seconds to go. “I saw the ball rolling toward the sideline and just dove and tried to push the ball to Tez. He got the ball to Larson for the winning basket”, smiled Garai Zeeb. “That was a big play by Zeeb. He is such a smart player and he made a real winners play. Many guys wouldn´t have made that play in a meaningless game, but Garai is the kind of player that will always make that play. He shows that he is a winner. He has a huge heart”, stressed Jason Clark. Giessen had one last play, but Frankfurt knew where the ball was going as David Bell let a contested ball fly that had no chance of going in. “We knew that either Thomas or Bell would get it. We wanted to play solid, not foul and get the stop”, added Jason Clark. “They made tough shots and made a clutch steal and tough shot. We had our most athletic player Pjanic on Larson on that last play so we did the right thing on defense. He just made a tough shot”, stated Brandon Thomas. The Fraport Skyliners had 6 players in double figures as Tra Holder had 18 points. Tyler Larson and Jonas Wolfarth-Bottermann combined for 13 points a piece. Jason Clark added 12 points and Garai Zeeb 11 points. The Giessen 46ers were led by Brandon Thomas and Mahir Agva who had 23 points a piece. David Bell added 13 points and Alen Pjanic 12 points. The Fraport Skyliners shot 46% from the field and 45% from outside and had 38 rebounds and 10 turnovers while the Giessen 46ers shot 48% from the field and 39% from outside and had 28 rebounds and 10 turnovers.