The Fraport Skyliners woes continue as their path to the easyCredit BBL playoffs get more distant and distant with every new loss. They began the Easter weekend with a poor 89-76 loss against New league club Niners Chemnitz where their inconsistency continued to shine. Their Easter Sunday task didn´t get any easier as they faced off against the Crailsheim Merlins. The Club already showed their talent last season as they were on course of reaching the BBL playoffs until COVID-19 wiped out their season. They had no sophomore blues this season as they recovered after losing their first two games, but then racked up a very impressive 15-2 record beating FC Bayern Munich. Their game has stumbled in the last month as they have lost four of their last five games. Crailsheim won the first meeting over Frankfurt 76-64 as ex Skyliner Trae Bell-Haynes led his team to the win with 21 points. The 18-7 guests met the 10-15 Fraport Skyliners who were three games away from the last playoffs spot, but were unable to sweep the season series as the Mobley and Gudmundsson show dismantled them 92-84. The Hakro Merlins Crailsheim controlled the first half, but in the second half the Fraport Skyliners upped their pressure on defense and started to nail three pointers and the guests were unable to come to terms to Frankfurt´s physicality. “Both teams started off well and Crailsheim was more physical, but we became more physical in the second half and were more aggressive on the defensive end. It also helped that we began to hit our three pointers more as well”, commented Fraport Skyliner guard Bruno Vrcic. Crailsheim continue to struggle in the last month as teams have figured them out and their up and down game continues. “Frankfurt had a lot more energy than against Chemnitz. Key today was to win the possession game and we couldn´t do that. We had a chance to extend lead at the end of the second quarter, but couldn´t. We also cut down their lead at the end to two points, but then Mobley and Gudmundsson showed their qualities. It was also disappointing that we weren´t physical enough rebounding”, commented Hakro Merlins Crailsheim head coach Tuomas Iisalo.
In the first quarter both teams had a run as the Hakro Merlins Crailsheim led 18-10, but then allowed Frankfurt to come back and trail only 22-21 after 10 minutes. Crailsheim stormed out on a rapid 7-3 lead as ex FC Bayern Munich center Bogdan Radosavljevic was aggressive and scored his team´s first 7 points with four free throws and a trey. Frankfurt quickly tied the game at 7-7 as they were more active on the offensive glass as ex Rasta Vechta center Michael Kessens and ex wiha Panther Rasheed Moore made offensive rebounds and put backs. Crailsheim didn´t leave it at a tie long as they sped out on a 13-3 run to lead 20-10. They got a lot of support from many players as they surprisingly didn´t get many outside looks except for Belgium guard Elias Lasisi who hit a trey. The rest of the buckets were free throws and points near the basket. Canadian national player Trae Bell-Haynes made a steal and two handed stuff on transition, German forward Fabian Bleck made a put back, ex Gonzaga(NCAA) guard Jeremy Jones retrieved his own miss and made a put back and ex West Virginia(NCAA) guard and ex FC Bayern Munich forward Dejan Kovacevic hit free throws. Frankfurt had their up and down phase on offense and on the defensive end were too lax on the boards and had bad communication on defense. But Frankfurt got out of their funk closing out the first half with a 12-2 run to trail only 22-21 after one quarter. In the run, Frankfurt got a three pointer from ex St Bonaventure(NCAA) guard Matt Mobley, a pretty floater from ex Davidson(NCAA) guard Jon Axel Gudmundsson and 5 points from Bruno Vrcic who has given the team a lot of key energy this season from the bench. Gudmundsson had been relieved of his point guard duties against Chemnitz where he had problems and in this game was allowed to concentrate on his shooting. “They had too many second chances and easy baskets, but we did a good job not losing focus and coming back”, stated ex FC Bayern Munich guard Bruno Vrcic.
In the second quarter the Fraport Skyliners were up and down again and after having a short lead, allowed Crailsheim to retake the lead and control of the game. Bruno Vrcic gave Frankfurt the lead back with a clutch trey 24-23. Crailsheim then got some baskets from Radosavljevic and Bleck, but Frankfurt stayed with them as 2017 JBBL finalist Len Schoorman dropped a trey to dead lock the game at 27-27. Crailsheim then could break away a bit going on a 9-1 run to lead 36-28 as Frankfurt was covering the three point line well so they had to execute more inside. The Crailsheim guards provided instant offense as Bell-Haynes, ex Wurzburg German Maurice Stuckey and ex North Carolina Central University (NCAA) guard Nimrod Hilliard all scored in the paint. Crailsheim got easy baskets and Bell-Haynes was able to play his offensive game better as Frankfurt had limited him better in the first quarter. The Fraport Skyliners didn´t panic, but allowed Matt Mobley to play his lethal offense as he scored 7 unanswered points in a few minutes to get Frankfurt back to 38-36. In this phase he made such a crazy trey as he was in the corner and had a hand in his face, but made the shoot look easier than a Steph Curry shot. “He makes unbelievable shots. Sometimes they seem physically impossible. His play gives us all an extra push”, stressed Bruno Vrcic. Crailsheim kept the 43-36 lead thanks to a Stuckey three and Hillard free throws, but got sloppy at the end. Crailsheim fouled Jon Axel Gudmundsson behind the three point line with 0,7 left on the clock and the Iceland native punished them with three free throws as they trailed only 44-42 at the break. “We came together better as a team. We moved the ball better and got open looks. We came back and didn´t allow Crailsheim to get a big lead. Gudmundsson was key with his last second free throws”, stated Bruno Vrcic.
In the third quarter the Fraport Skyliners stepped up their defensive pressure and gave the Hakro Merlins Crailsheim a hard battle as there were 5 lead changes, but they kept the 63-59 lead after 30 minutes. Frankfurt was able to stop Crailsheim on their first five possessions, but couldn´t lead by more than 48-45. Frankfurt´s pressure and communication was good and they clogged the lane well. Kessens and Mobley baskets helped Frankfurt regain the lead. Frankfurt continued to defend well and Vrcic came up big with another big three pointer for the 51-46 advantage. Vrcic had a huge game scoring 16 points and shooting 71% from the field. “For me it was important to have a good game again. My last games weren´t that good in terms of my shooting. Coach keeps telling me not to hesitate and just shoot”, said Bruno Vrcic. Crailsheim is always able to produce instant offense and rallied with a 8-2 run to get the lead back with 54-53.They had had problems getting open looks from outside, but in this run got vital three´s from Jones and Hilliard and Stuckey made a nice spin move and lay in. The leads then changed twice as Gudmundsson and Jones exchanged trey´s as Crailsheim led 57-56. Frankfurt then closed out the third quarter strong with a 6-3 run to lead 63-59. In the run, Frankfurt got free throws from Vrcic and a lay in and free throws from Gudmundsson. “Coach Gleim had told us at half time to continue to play like we did at the end of the second quarter while upping our aggressiveness”, said Bruno Vrcic. “We were unable to have control of the game. We were sloppy and they were more prepared and aggressive”, expressed Trae Bell-Haynes.
In the fourth quarter the Mobley and Gudmundsson show took over as they led the Fraport Skyliners to their first win against a top 8 team this season. A rapid 5-0 run by Frankfurt set the tone as Kessens made free throws and Mobley connected on a three for the 68-59 Frankfurt advantage. Crailsheim received some instant offense from Bell-Haynes and Radosavjlevic who hit three´s, but so did Frankfurt who countered with Gudmundsson and Quantez Robertson trey´s and then 74-65 advantage. Frankfurt continued to execute very well on offense and were more relaxed in their sets. Gudmundsson continued to play a strong offensive game finding Kamari Murphy for the perfect alley-oop dunk feed and then nailed a trey for the 79-67 advantage. The contest didn´t seem like Frankfurt could lose their momentum, but then as if lightening had struck in the Fraport arena, the Hakro Merlins Crailsheim showed what they are capable of as they unleashed three consecutive three´s as Jones scored twice and Bell-Haynes once to suddenly trail only 76-74. But Frankfurt proved that they could play Crailsheim´s run game and struck back with a lethal 8-0 run to lead 87-77. In the run they got a Vrcic lay in, and three´s from Mobley and Gudmundsson. Crailsheim still had some energy in their gas tank as Lasisi hit a trey and Bell Haynes a lay in to cut Frankfurt´s lead to 87-82. But Mobley then slammed the door shut on the Merlins with another three pointer and iced the win with free throws. “Our biggest strength today was that everybody was on the same page on offense and defense”, added Bruno Vrcic. “Frankfurt found a way to make plays and tough shots. We have to dig deeper to make plays”, warned Trae Bell_Haynes. The Fraport Skyliners were led by Matt Mobley with 26 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists while Jon Axel Gudmundsson had 22 points and 5 assists. The Hakro Merlins Crailsheim were led by Trae Bell-Haynes with 26 points, 4 rebounds, 6 assists and 4 steals and Jeremy Jones added 16 points and Bogdan Radosavljevic had 15 points. The Fraport Skyliners shot 45% from the field and 47% form outside and had 37 rebounds and 18 turnovers while the Hakro Merlins Crailsheim shot 42% form the field and 41% from outside and had 33 rebounds and 18 turnovers.