With only two days remaining in 2021, the Fraport Skyliners were more than relieved that 2021 was finally coming to an end as so far the season had been one to forget. In a phase now where the team needed wins as much as the NBA need their players back from COVID sicknesses, the 2004 BBL champion had been losing games that they must win and came into the next do or die game against new BBL team MLP Academics Heidelberg riding a disheartening 4 game losing streak. The good news for Frankfurt was that they had injured guys Will Cherry (185-PG-91, college: Montana) and Brancou Badio back and that their foe Heidelberg continued to struggle in the worst way. After starting the season with a bang winning four of the first five games were reeling to finally win again riding a eight game losing streak having lost unfortunate crunch-time games to Bayreuth, Chemnitz and Alba Berlin all games that they could have won. With the last game of 2021, the Fraport Skyliners wanted to enter 2022 on a positive note and welcomed the MLP Academics Heidelberg and finally won again slugging it out in the fourth quarter as both teams scored 67 points combined, but at the end the Fraport Skyliners had the last laugh prevailing 87-82 and landed at position 14 in the standings. Frankfurt showed in the fourth quarter that when their offense is finally rolling for longer than a few minutes, they can win games. A half hour after the win, a thrilled Will Cherry explained what motivation they had for winning again. ‘We needed to win. Coach Ocampo really had us pumped up after his half time speech. We had no choice but to be fired up after that. We almost gave it up after the missed free throws at the end. Every guy has each other’s back. We wanted to win for Jamel Mclean’s new baby girl that was born today’, stressed ex NBA player Will Cherry. For the MLP Academics it was another very brutal loss, one like so many others this season, they could have won. ‘We gave a big fight. But Frankfurt was simply better and more clever at the end. We have to learn from our mistakes be better the next time’, stressed MLP Academics Heidelberg center Philipp Heyden.
The first quarter was a tug of war as both teams had difficulty finding an offensive rhythm. Frankfurt relied on the three ball while the MLP Academics Heidelberg based their game on getting buckets in the paint. Frankfurt quickly got back to back three’s from Rasheed Moore and German national player Lukas Wank for the quick 6-2 advantage. But Heidelberg struck back with a rapid 7-2 run to get the 9-8 lead. In the run the guests got some key baskets from ex Alba Berlin guard Rob Lowery and ex Missouri (NCAA) standout Jordan Geist and a tip in from ex Harvard (NCAA) forward Keith Wright. Frankfurt had massive problems with 1-1 defense which has been a big problem this season. But Frankfurt struck back with their veteran force of ex Alba Berlin players Will Cherry who nailed a trey and Jamel Mclean made a lay in for the 13-9 Frankfurt lead. But Heidelberg showed early on that they were a fighting team and that would hold on until the buzzer sounded at the end as German Niklas Wuerzner connected on a three pointer and Geist made a pretty runner to dead lock the contest at 15-15. Geist continued his aggressive offensive game converting on a free throw and making a lay in for the 18-15 lead after 10 minutes. Frankfurt already had 5 turnovers, but they would trim down that problem as only 7 more would follow in the last three quarters. ‘We started ok, but were a bit shaky at the end. Some guys came from the bench and gave good energy’, stressed Fraport Skyliner guard Felix Hecker.
The second quarter continued to be a real dog fight as no teams could get away from the other as there were 8 lead changes and both teams defense stuck out. The guests got on the board first as a Geist steal led to an easy basket by Wuerzner. But Frankfurt fought back going on a 5-0 run to dead lock the game at 20-20. Ex Alba Berlin forward Lorenz Brenneke made a pretty left handed runner and three and D specialist Felix Hecker struck with a trey. It was a game of little runs as now Heidelberg struck back going on a 6-0 run to lead 26-20. In the run, the ex Pro A team got good support from Heyden who made a turn around shot, ex Ludwigsburg American Kelvin Martin scored on transition and Wuerzner also scored on transition. Frankfurt was up and down as usual. After two good defensive stops, they couldn’t muster any new offense and on defense gave up real belated X-mas gifts as their concentration just went down. After a Lowery 25 footer and 28-23 guests lead, Frankfurt made a timely run of 7-0 to regain the lead at 30-28. In the run they got free throws from Mclean, a three from Moore and a put back from Hecker who made an impressive offensive rebound. ‘I play off my defense which than carries my offense. Coach always says to crash the boards. I was a little off balance and was lucky with getting the rebound’, stated Felix Hecker. Frankfurt couldn’t keep the lead as after Barncou Badio made free throws, it was Geist again who made a huge play getting the loose ball with 2 seconds to play and dropping a fade away jumper at the siren to tie the game at 32-32 after 20 minutes. ‘The game was at eye level. We defended pretty well. It was a back and forth game where no one could get away’, said Felix Hecker. Frankfurt wasn’t shooting well, but had control of the rebounds and only coughed up the ball 3 times.
The third quarter continued to be very close as there were 8 lead changes and no team led by more than 3 points as the MLP Academics Heidelberg led 52-50 after three quarters. Heidelberg kept the lead in the first few minutes as ex Wurzburg forward Brekkot Chapman and Academics lifer Shy Ely who was controlled pretty good by Frankfurt scored for the 37-36 lead. Frankfurt then took the lead again getting two buckets from Jamel Mclean, a player who lives off getting fed the ball down low and muscling his way to points and a Cherry three for the 41-39 advantage. The leads kept going back and forth as Chapman scored again as did Moore with a three and the 47-44 Frankfurt lead. Little defensive mistakes kept robbing Frankfurt of the lead as Wuerzner scored again for the 48-47 Heidelberg advantage. Len Schoormann who had put up the big goose egg in the first half got more aggressive in the third quarter making free throws and a lay in for the 50-48 lead. But a Diego Ocampo technical foul gave Jordan Giest the opportunity for 3 free throws and he nailed all of them. ‘Both teams showed that they really wanted to win. But no team could make a run’, commented Felix Hecker. Heidelberg was shooting over 40% form the field, but was only at 25% form outside while the Fraport Skyliners still controlled the boards and had 3 turnovers.
The fourth quarter became a real explosive offensive showdown as a combined 67 points were produced. Will Cherry and Len Schoorman took over in this quarter combining for 25 of Frankfurt’s 37 points. Cherry began the offensive spectacle scoring 6 points. One of his baskets was a big heads up play as he threw the ball off the back of a Heidelberg player retrieved it and had an easy lay in, but he would save his best for last showing that shade of Kyrie in crunch-time. The Frankfurt offense got going thanks to Cherry, but the turning point of the game was Jamel Mclean’s rare three pointer to give Frankfurt the 61-58 lead. That shot in a way also sparked Heidelberg as now both offenses were clicking and executing. ‘When a guy like that makes a three like that, it gives you energy right away’, stressed Felix Hecker. Len Schoorman also went off scoring 10 crucial points in the fourth quarter including a three for the 66-60 lead. But Heidelberg never let up and always kept clawing away at Frankfurt’s lead. One guy who really was on was Chapman who showed his fine inside out game and Lowey who also scored big baskets including a step back to trail Frankfurt 71-67. Even when Schoormann made a lay in for the 73-67 lead, Frankfurt was never allowed to breathe smoothly because Heidelberg was always in comeback mode and before Frankfurt knew what was up Ely had connected on a floater trailing only 74-71 with 1,57 to play. Even with another Schoormann three and Moore lay in, the 79-71 Frankfurt lead wasn’t secure, because Heidelberg was simply too well oiled in the fourth quarter. Heidelberg kept supplying pressure and somehow made a 8-2 run in crunch-time to trail only 81-79. In the run, they got key support from Chapman who had the touch nailing two three’s. Lowery hit a huge trey from the corner as Frankfurt led only 83-82. ‘Rob is my boy. We played together with Alba Berlin. I didn’t think that he would make it’, said Will Cherry. Frankfurt missed some free throws from Mclean and Cherry and were clinging to life, but then Cherry unraveled a shot that he may have seen the Harlem Globe Trotters perform or ex teammate Kyrie Irving as Uncle Drew. He came down on transition and made a backwards shot that some how went in. ‘That is in my top 10 best shots. The funny thing is I had the lane the first time and didn’t take it and the second time I got it up and somehow it fell in. Kyrie would have given me a thumbs up and said I had taken a page out of his tricks’, smiled Will Cherry. ‘That was the neck breaker and finally did them in. It reminded me of Jordan. Heidelberg never gave up. We were a bit shaky with the free throws, but we pulled it out at the end’, expressed Felix Hecker. ‘Both teams had their offensive rhythm in the fourth and we did a good job fighting against it. They got easy baskets and more stops. That was the difference’, stressed Philipp Heyden. The Fraport Skyliners were led by Will Cherry with 22 points. Jamel Mclean added 20 points and Len Schoormann 16 points while the MLP Academics Heidelberg were led by Brekkot Chapman with 19 points and Jordan Geist contributed 17 points. The Fraport Skyliners shot 48% from the field and 42% from outside and had 32 rebounds and 12 turnovers while the MLP Academics shot 47% from the field and 32% from outside and had 34 rebounds and 11 turnovers.