It is only February and still a few months left in the regular season for the Fraport Skyliners, but there are most likely some fans who wished the season was already history now. It hasn´t been a disappointing season, but more than that, one to forget and hide in a drawer. Having to change point guards and the seemingly non ending injury woes has hurt the club day in and day out all season long. The biggest hurdle in the last weeks has been not having pure scorer Lamont Jones as well the reborn German Richard Freudenberg who finally has surfaced from his shell in his third season. In the last weeks, they definitely didn´t lack effort as they probably would have won in Vechta had they had had Jones and Freudenberg and in Bamberg had another horrible third quarter where they suffered 5 treys that gave Bamberg the momentum and led them to coast to the win. After starting 2020 with a massive Hessen derby win against rival Giessen, they then suffered a 4 game losing streak and continue to slip in the standings so badly that they now have to look behind them and be careful that teams like Giessen and Hamburg don´t sneak up and pass them. They won the first contest against the big season surprise team Crailsheim 76-68 despite allowing the raining of 14 three´s. This time the Crailsheim Merlins met a hungry Frankfurt club who controlled the game for the most part, but couldn´t hold on to a 9 point lead halfway through the fourth quarter as they rallied and gutted out a non-pretty 83-81 win. After the win the Crailsheim Merlins celebrated as if they had just won a title and it remained relaxed as head coach Tuomas Ilsalo joked with American Jeremy Morgan telling him each player had got 500 Euro for the win, but since he was late coming from the court he had missed out on the hard cash. It was all in good fun as it is never an easy task winning in Frankfurt. The match winner was American Dewayne Russell who had had a weak first half, but picked up his game hitting a big shot to force OT and hit back to back shots in OT including the winner was all smiles after the victory. “We were without two important players, but we still stuck together for 40 minutes. We showed our toughness and did a good job securing offensive rebounds. Aaron Jones was a key factor today getting 9 offensive rebounds”, stressed ex Grand Canyon(NCAA) guard Dewayne Russell. For the Fraport Skyliners it was another sad ending to a game they should have won. It was especially tough for ex Braunschweig forward Shaquille Hines who had a career day netting 29 points, but couldn´t enjoy a win. “I felt that we played a good game. We fought hard and stuck to the game plan. We played against one of the top offenses in the league and played pretty good defense against them. We ran out of gas and in the end it came to them making shots and we didn´t”, warned Shaquille Hines.
Crailsheim was without top scorer Javontae Hawkins and ex Northeastern center Quincy Ford while Frankfurt was without German Richard Feudenberg. Both teams were feeling each other out in the first quarter as it went back and forth until the Fraport Skyliners could break free a bit and lead by 5 points after 10 minutes. Frankfurt got big man Leon Kratzer going early as he scored with a left and right handed hook shot. Crailsheim big man Aaron Jones had some problems matching the physicality of Kratzer. But he responded with a long three to give Crailsheim it´s second lead after Jeremy Morgan who played at Northern Iowa(NCAA) had drilled home a trey. Both teams traded some leads as Hines and Morgan scored. Russell had 3 early turnovers as he wasn´t an offensive factor yet. Morgan had the hot hand early and drilled home a catch and pop trey giving Crailsheim a 12-11 advantage. But the Fraport Skyliners found some daylight ending the first quarter with key 8-2 run to lead 19-13. In the run, the Fraport Skyliners got key production from Skyliner legend Quantez Robertson who dropped a trey and then made a steal as he was reading passing lanes easily and made a coast to coast sprint for the basket. Ex Michigan State guard Matt Mcquaid added to the scoring frenzy with a three pointer. “Robertson brought energy to the team. His steals helped get transition points. When they got stops, they got transition baskets. Frankfurt controlled the game and defended well allowing contested shots”, stressed Lich guard Jermale Jones. The Fraport Skyliners shot 44% from the two point range and 50% from outside and had 8 rebounds and 3 turnovers while the Crailsheim Merlins shot 50% from the two point range and 25% form outside and had 12 rebounds and 6 turnovers.
In the second quarter the Fraport Skyliners picked up their game and were able to lead in double digits, but too many mental lapses allowed Crailsheim to get back into the game and trail Frankfurt only by 6 points at the break. The Fraport Skyliners got going right away going on a lethal 11-3 run to lead 30-16. Frankfurt did a good job finding their spots and scored in the paint three times as ex Ludwigsburg pure scorer Lamont Jones did it twice including finishing with a very acrobatic lay up while ex Braunschweig guard Joe Rahon also scored. Mcquaid nailed three free throws and Hines also made a lay in. Frankfurt played very good 1-1 on offense in this phase and on the defensive side had no breakdowns and forced the guests to contested shots. But basketball is a game of runs and now it was Crailsheim who got some offensive production going on a 14-5 run to trail only 35-30. Crailsheim was sharing the ball well as Morgan hit a trey and Russell finally got going netting two baskets. His quickness and agility left any defender in the dust as he scored on a lay up and then hit his bread and butter the pull up jumper. Aaron Jones also supplied input making a huge alley-oop dunk. Jones had a big game with 20 points, 11 boards, 2 steals and 2 blocks. His development in the last years has been good as he was a rookie in 2015-2016 in Germany with the Pro A team RheinStars and then had to pay his dues in Bulgaria and Finland, but all the hard work has paid off as he is a solid BBL big man “He does what the coach asks of him and plays his role. He rebounds well, gets loose balls and does the dirty work. He also showed that he plays above the rim with some huge dunks. He just makes good plays”, stressed Lich (Regionalliga 2) guard Jermale Jones. Frankfurt had more mental lapses and just hurried their offense and made dumb mistakes. Frankfurt then was able to get some much needed offensive production going on a 8-3 run to extend their lead to 43-33. In the run they got two massive three´s from Hines and a lay in from ex Berlin guard Akeem Vargas. But they couldn´t keep the momentum as the Crailsheim Merlins closed out the second quarter with a timely 4-0 run as Aaron Jones finished off another huge alley-oop dunk where he showed beautiful hang time and Dewayne Russell made a pretty left handed lay in at the buzzer. “The Frankfurt defense broke down a few times with the Jones dunks. When Crailsheim started to move the ball better, they got more open shots and became more comfortable. When everyone is feeling it, you will feel more comfortable taking shots”, stressed Jermale Jones. The Fraport Skyliners shot 59% from the two point area and 55% from the three point line and had 16 rebounds and 8 turnovers while the Crailsheim Merlins shot 67% from the two point area and 30% form the three point line and had 15 rebounds and 8 turnovers.
The Fraport Skyliners continued to control the game in the third quarter and were able to lead by double digits, but also allowed Crailsheim on a few runs to get closer, but Frankfurt had a 9 point lead after 30 minutes. German Fabian Bleck started the third quarter with a lay in, but Frankfurt came back quickly letting it rain three´s going on a 9-2 run to extend their lead to 52-41. Hines continued his shooting onslaught with two three´s while ex Auburn(NCAA) standout Quantez Robertson also hit one. Hines finished with 29 points and couldn´t enjoy his career high scoring game. “I was feeling it early. Lately I have been very confident. I knew that I would play a lot today. I got a little tired at the end. They made adjustments late not giving me good looks”, stressed Shaquille Hines. The only real Crailsheim bright spot in the Frankfurt run was Aaron Jones who was a beast on the glass making an offensive rebound and put back over three players. Frankfurt continued to stay active on offense and got buckets from Hines who hit another trey and a lay in from Kratzer extending Frankfurt´s lead to 59-45. But Frankfurt would continue to have defensive break downs and a lack of scoring allowing Crailsheim on a 8-0 run to cut Frankfurt´s lead to 59-53. The 7-0 run was German dominated as ex Trier guard Sebastian Herrera scored twice and ex Wurzburg big man Dejan Kovacevic hit a deep three pointer. Frankfurt was scolded for two turnovers in a row that led to instant Crailsheim baskets. The Crailsheim run didn´t derail Frankfurt´s precision outside shooting on this day as Rahon and Hines hit back to back three´s for the 65-54 lead. Frankfurt was unable to close out the third quarter well as another mistake led to an Aaron Jones steal and big two handed dunk as Crailsheim trailed 65-56. “Jones was impressive. Our game plan was not to give him looks, but all he did was live on the rim. His big dunks kept them in the game. A big problem this season has been us losing focus and energy in certain phases of the game. We need to be able to play great for 40 minutes. All it takes is for a team to play one quarter well which could allow them to win the game”, stressed Shaquille Hines. “We never gave up. Whenever Frankfurt went on a run, we came back. We have shown this season that we hold each other´s backs”, warned Dewayne Russell. The Fraport Skyliners shot 46% from the two point area and 63% from the parking lot and had 26 rebounds and 12 turnovers while the Crailsheim Merlins shot 64% form the two point area and 25% from the parking lot and had 24 rebounds and 10 turnovers.
In the fourth quarter the Fraport Skyliners controlled the game for the first five minutes keeping the Crailsheim Merlins at bay, but couldn´t finish the game allowing them to force OT. Russell began the last frame with a pull up jumper which was followed by Robertson and Bleck three pointers, but that was it as both team´s offenses were sputtering for a few minutes. Frankfurt then got a big hustle play from Marco Voeller making a tip in and got a two handed dunk from Hines for the 74-67 advantage. Crailsheim then got a huge 9-0 run to force OT as Jones made a runner and Russell made a very difficult finger tip role lay in to cut Frankfurt´s lead to 76-71. Frankfurt was defending well, but Crailsheim was making real tough shots. Aaron Jones then made a huge block on Quantez Robertson which led to a Sebastian Herrera three pointer to cut Frankfurt´s lead to 76-74. Robertson then missed a shot leading to Russell making another very difficult lay in to dead lock the contest at 76-76. “Coach has a lot of confidence in me and I believed that I could make that shot”, stressed Dewayne Russell. With 12 seconds left, the Fraport Skyliners had the opportunity to seal the win, but Lamont Jones missed the shot. “We went on a scoring drought at the end. They never gave up and made hard shots to force OT”, stressed Shaquille Hines. “Our toughness was key and we didn´t give Hines any more good looks”, added Dewayne Russell. The first three minutes of OT was a brick party as no points were scored. Frankfurt had huge misfortune as Leon Kratzer and Lamont Jones missed shots that they would usually make. Crailsheim finally got on the board getting a Herrera free throw and another beast dunk from Aaron Jones who had secured another one of his 9 offensive rebounds for the 79-76 advantage. Frankfurt finally got a huge tip in from Quantez Robertson to cut the Crailsheim lead to 79-78. The game was winding down and it was Dewayne Russell that would become the hero. He was Mr clutch and showed that his 42 points in the NCAA against Louisville was no fluke as he came up big time. He burned Frankfurt with a jumper after penetrating a bit something the defense should have seen coming for the 81-78 lead with 48 seconds remaining. On the next possession it was Robertson who nailed a clutch three tying the game at 81-81 with 29 seconds to go. Crailsheim went to Russell again and he did the exact same thing making a jumper after starting to penetrate for the 83-81 win. “My teammates gave me the confidence that I could make the shot and I took it”, added Dewayne Russell. “Russell is tough to stop. I played against him in college and he was the same way there. Rahon did a real good job on him, but he just made tough shots”, said Shaquille Hines. Frankfurt had another chance to win the game with 12 seconds, but Robertson forced an airball to end the game. “The last play was for Jones on the ball screen so he could decide to score or find open man. Robertson got a good look, but it didn´t want to fall. Jones and Kratzer usually make those shots in OT that they missed. They were just back from injury and they might have had some tired legs which effected those shots”, added Shaquille Hines. “We tried to stay as close to Robertson to make his shot as tough as possible. We were tough at the end and made the right plays”, explained Dewayne Russell. The Crailsheim Merlins were led by Dewayne Russell and Aaron Jones with 20 points a piece. Sebastian Herrera added 12 points and 11 boards and Jeremy Morgan added 12 points and 8 boards. The Fraport Skyliners were led by Shaquille Hines with 29 points. Quantez Robertson added 16 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists and 6 steals and Lamont jones added 15 points. The Crailsheim Merlins shot 66% form the two point area and 22% from outside and had 50 rebounds and 16 turnovers while the Fraport Skyliners shot 36% form the two point range and 56% from outside and had 37 rebounds and 13 turnovers.