It was a long and extended summer period for the Fraport Skyliners Juniors as their 20-21 season ended early in March. As usual they have a very deep roster with many young guys and also kept a number of guys who have been there for years like Konstantin Schubert, Leon Pullen, Alvin Onyia or Jordan Samare, but also added new youngsters like Nils Leonhardt, Lorenz Brenneke and Devin Jacobi, and brought back Felix Hecker and added veteran Marco Voeller who will help out like Marius Nolte did some years ago when he ended his BBL career. The always ambitious club EPG Baskets Koblenz had a disappointing 20-21 season where they wanted to play for the Pro B title. Like last season they built a very potent roster with new players Dominique Johnson, Marvin Heckel (190-PG-97)l, Shembari Phillips and Leo Saffer while also keeping veteran Brian Butler and young gun Lukas Meyer. New head coach Mario Dugandzic hopes to carry the team to the playoffs and make a run in the post season. While Frankfurt’s goal is always to continue to develop it’s young players for higher challenges. On an untypical Tuesday night, both teams opened up their seasons in Frankfurt and the home team stuck with the favorite EPG Baskets Koblenz for a half, but in the second half the guests showed their true colors and set an explosive fourth quarter offense scoring 37 points and getting the easy 98-72 win. After the win a satisfied Ben Marello explained why his team could get the win. ‘We had a few moments where we had a lack of focus. It didn’t have anything to do with Frankfurt, but moreover with us. Once we move the ball well we are as good as anyone in this league. We gave a collective effort and played together’, described forward Ben Marello. The Fraport Skyliners Juniors gave a spirited effort, but when push came to shove, the EPG Baskets Koblenz were simply a few classes above them. ‘You have to give a lot of respect to Koblenz. You could see that they are a top team in the second half. When we helped too much, they hurt us with their three’s. We moved the ball well at times and did a good job getting offensive rebounds’, stressed forward Konstantin Schubert.
You could see in the first quarter that this was a season opening game as both teams were coughing up balls left and right as there were a total of 16 turnovers. Both teams had serious problems on offense trying to find a rhythm. Frankfurt tried to establish an identity inside getting baskets from ex Trier forward Nils Leonhardt, Alex Richardson and Marco Voeller, while the guests had a second secret weapon behind Brian Butler with Marvin Heckell who showed his aggressiveness early getting to the free throw line. With Frankfurt leading 9-6 half way through the first quarter, Koblenz then suddenly went on a 8-0 run to lead 14-9. In the run the guests got superb support from rookie Shembari Phillips who played at Tennessee (NCAA) making a fade away and trey and Florida native Ben Marello drilled home a trey. Frankfurt just didn’t have much offensive rhythm and couldn’t get the lead back. The EPG Baskets got further support rom Estonian forward Indrek Sunelik who won two titles in his homeland last season and a jumper from Marello. Both teams had low shooting percentages while Frankfurt rebounded the ball better and hadn’t allowed Brian Butler to do any damage, but they still trailed 19-15 after one quarter. ‘That first quarter was brutal. We obviously didn’t want to have so many turnovers. I still felt like we sold ourselves well despite the turnovers’, stated Konstantin Schubert.
The second quarter remained a tight affair with a few lead changes in the first few minutes, but then the EPG Baskets calmed down got the lead and kept it until the end even if Frankfurt was hanging on their door step. There were four lead changes in the first few minutes as Schubert and Leonhardt scored for Frankfurt while Marvin Heckell continued to be that valuable spark plug killing Frankfurt with his drive, but also causing annoyance with his pull up jumper. Heckel was a real menace and whenever Frankfurt was threatening to come back, he had an answer. His whole game reminded one of two years ago where he had led Baunach to a road win in where he steered home 23 points. Ex BBL Player Dominique Johnson who played with Chemnitz last season was also unstoppable pouring home his jumper from all over the floor. Two scores from Johnson gave Koblenz the 32-27 lead. Frankfurt was lax on the 1-1 defense as they had no answer to slow down the penetration. But the EPG Baskets Koblenz couldn’t get away as Nils Leonhardt was aggressive getting to the free throw line and also dropping a two handed dunk in transition. Phillips closed out the second quarter with a lay in as the Fraport Skyliners Juniors trailed 38-34. Frankfurt continued not being able to hit consistently, but continued to have the rebound lead. ‘Slowing down Brian Butler was part of the gameplan. That was why we started with Voeller and Richardson to bring that physically. Hadenfeld did a good job and led us to staying in the game’, stressed Konstantin Schubert.
In the third quarter the Fraport Skyliners Juniors had a very good phase getting vital support from Felix Hecker and Konstantin Schubert, but they couldn’t hold that
momentum as the guests closed out the quarter with a little run leading in double digits after 30 minutes. Koblenz got on the board first with a Johnson trey to extend their lead to 41-34, but Frankfurt retaliated with baskets from Richardson and Hecker to cut the Koblenz lead down to 41-39, but whenever Frankfurt was about to turn the tide, it was Marvin Heckell who found answers. He led Koblenz on a 8-0 run to get their biggest lead of the contest at 49-39. Heckel shone with a basket and beautiful shovel pass to Moses Poelking while Sunelik scored again. Frankfurt had lost that energy that Philipp Hadenfeld had supplied as he had caught his fourth foul and had to sit. Frankfurt got some energy from Konstantin Schubert. He led Frankfurt on a magnificent 11-2 run to trail Koblenz only 51-50. The German who is in his eighth season with Frankfurt hit back to back three’s while Hecker also dropped one. ‘It was a great feeling making those three’s. It was worth doing all that rehab. That is why we play the game’, warned Konstantin Schubert. Schubert had broke his foot last season and played only one game. He was all smiles being able to step back on the court. ‘It was unbelievable being back. I felt normal. I’m top fit. It was a cool atmosphere playing with the guys and seeing fans again. It’s also nice that my brother is on the team. That was a huge reason why I returned’, stressed Konstantin Schubert. But basketball is a game of runs and Koblenz closed out the quarter with a 10-2 run and game then 47-22 displaying a very lethal offense. In the run, the guests let it rain three’s as Johnson connected again as did Sunelik. The EPG Baskets Koblenz had the commanding 61-53 advantage and would never look back. ‘We stuck to what we had to do. We knew that they would try to make a run. We didn’t freak and stayed focused’, stated Ben Marello.
The EPG Baskets Koblenz began with a bang and decided the game in the first four minutes going on a 10-0 run to extend their lead to 71-53. They stopped Frankfurt on their first five possessions and punished them on offense getting key production from Phillips on transition, a Poelking lay in and another trey from Sunelik. Hecker finally got Frankfurt on the board with a lay in with 6,40 to play, but trailed 71-55. Frankfurt had their moments on offense getting buckets from Onyia and Hecker, but they got no stops on defense as Koblenz seemed to shift up a few more gears. Sunelik and Johnson three’s gave Koblenz the 83-66 advantage continued to weaken Frankfurt as the more energy they gave the weaker they got. And before Frankfurt even knew what had hit them, ex Schalke Forward Niclas Sperber and Heckel followed with two more three’s and the 89-66 lead. It would have been interesting to have found out what kind of a bus ride home Brian Butler would have had if he would have put up the big goose egg, but lucky for him, he scored his first points with 1,34 to play. He finished with two points, three boards, two assists and two steals in 20 minutes. ‘We like to get all involved. There will be nights where Brian will dominate. We have so many guys that can play. We put the individuality aside and focus as team’, stated Ben Marello. 16 year old Jamaal Phatty got some garbage points at the end showing his great athleticism and Marello closed out the game with a lay in. ‘We relaxed on offense and didn’t let them speed us up. We dictated the game and made them react to us’, said Ben Marello. ‘We try to hold teams to around 70 points a game. We had allowed 73 after three quarters. That makes it hard to win games. I think that we were tired in the fourth, but that isn’t an excuse. We just have to defend better on great shooters like Johnson’, warned Konstantin Schubert. The EPG Baskets Koblenz were led by Marvin Heckell with 25 points. Dominque Johnson added 18 points and Indrek Sunelik produced 15 points while the Fraport Skyliners Juniors were led by Felix Hecker with 19 points. Marco Voeller and Konstantin Schubert had 12 points a piece. The EPG Baskets Koblenz shot 59% from the field and 55% form outside and had 36 rebounds and 16 turnovers while the Fraport Skyliners Juniors shot 44% form the field and 30% form outside and had 30 rebounds and 19 turnovers.