Just a week ago basketball life was looking very bleak for the Fraport Skyliners, but sometimes a coaching change and snapping a seven game losing streak with a victory can do wonders for the team moral and mentality. With the season slowly winding down and the Fraport Skyliners in danger of moving to the Pro A, every game now is a game seven must win. Last weekend they finally won again upending Braunschweig on the road but their next test would be no doozy with ratiopharm who are one of those dark horse teams that could upset anyone in the playoffs. Ratiopharm Ulm have struggled a bit in Eurocup play, but have been excellent in the easyCredit BBL in 2022 having a 8-2 record and last beat the always tough Wurzburg squad back to back. The Fraport Skyliners also presented their new head coach experienced Italian Luca Dalmonte. The club may have finally won again last weekend, but they were still feeling like a wounded animal and needed a win very badly. On a rare Friday night contest, they welcomed ratioPharm Ulm and instead of it becoming a one sided offensive arsenal by the guests, the Fraport Skyliners challenged them to a real grind out game and received it losing a heart breaker 61-58. The Fraport Skyliners played a spirited game on the defensive end, but on offense it was the same old story as they just couldn’t muster points on the scoreboard on a consistent rate. ‘We gave up too many second chance points and rebounds as well as too many live balls. We had too many turnovers at the end and couldn’t execute our offense the way we wanted to’, stressed Skyliner identity figure Quantez Robertson. Ratiopharm Ulm a team that averages 83 points per game didn’t play a good game and were lucky to escape Frankfurt with a win, but they did show a lot of moral and never gave up fighting until the end. Their ex NBA trio of Thornwell, Blossomgame and Christon combined for 47 of the team 61 points and carried them. ‘I have to compliment Frankfurt for giving a great fight. It was a real physical battle. We didn’t shoot well, but we had a good fourth quarter where our main guys stepped up and pulled out the win for us. There wasn’t any thing tactical, but we just had more decisiveness in attacking the switches’, stated ratiopharm Ulm head coach Jaka Lakovic.
The first quarter was a real tug of war as little was scored and many bricks and turnovers were coughed up. Frankfurt did a solid job right off the bat getting rookie giant Matt Haarms involved as he scored twice. Quantez Robertson also connected for a 20 footer heaving his confidence as his shooting has been off lately. Ratiopharm Ulm got steady support early on from ex NBA player Jaron Blossomgame who played at Clemson (NCAA) netting 7 points and helping give the guests the early 11-6 advantage. But Frankfurt didn’t allow Ulm to run away, but closed out the first quarter strong with a 6-1 run to dead lock the contest at 12-12. Ex Alba Berlin center Jamel Mclean missed a thunderous dunk, but stayed with it getting the offensive rebound and muscling the ball through two Ulm defenders for the bucket. ‘Jamel rode to the hoop strong. It was a good dunk attempt, but an even better basket for the score’, commented Quantez Robertson. A big difference between both teams were that Ratiopharm Ulm was getting baskets through team basketball while Frankfurt was relying a lot on the 1-1 play. Ex NBA player Will Cherry also aided Frankfurt with a pull up jumper. ‘We didn’t get good shots and turned over the ball too much. We couldn’t get defensive rebounds and gave them a few extra possessions’, commented Quantez Robertson.
The Fraport Skyliners continued to play very smart team basketball in the second quarter bringing a high intensity and switching well which held the guests to only 19 points with a few minutes before the break, but Frankfurt couldn’t hold the momentum giving up a biter run in the last minutes. The second quarter seemed to begin off well for Frankfurt as Polish national player Marcel Ponitka made a steal, but he listened to many gasps in the arena as he missed the dunk. The guests responded with a basket from German beast Nicholas Bretzel who got the fine pass from Ulm identity figure Per Guenter who played his last game in Frankfurt and 15-12 Ulm lead. But the Fraport Skylines then had their best stretch of the first half going on a 11-1 run to gain the 23-16 advantage. In the run, Frankfurt got fine support from German national player Lukas Wank who dazzled with his pink shoes scoring 5 points including a trey. Mclean also added support with a runner, German big Lorenz Brenneke added an old school hook shot and Cherry made a desperation jumper from the parking lot. Frankfurt had finally found an offensive rhythm while Ulm at times really didn’t look as awake. But Frankfurt couldn’t ride into half-time with the good lead, but instead allowed Ulm to close out the second with a 10-2 run. The guests found some momentum on offense using the long ball as young Germans Philipp Herkenhoff and Karim Jallow scored. Blossomgame also scored on transition. Ex wiha Panther Rasheed Moore closed out the second quarter with a runner at the buzzer, but Ratiopharm Ulm led 26-25. ‘We gave them momentum allowing them to finish like that. We did what we could. We were able to hold them to tough shots’, commented Quantez Robertson.
The Fraport Skyliners played their best basketball in the third quarter netting 20 points and getting the lead midway and holding it. Quantez Robertson showed that he wanted to be aggressive scoring to baskets early. His first basket reminded the older fans of his early days in Frankfurt more than a decade ago when he would fly in from the base line and get the back door pass from 2011 BBL MVP Dashaun Wood. The only difference was back then he would dunk and now settles for the sure lay in. He also knocked down a pull up jumper to tie the game at 29-29 showing a lot of zip in his movement for a 37 year old. Will Cherry then dropped three free throws and ex Xavier (NCAA) great and ex Oklahoma Thunder guard Semaj Christon made a lay in for the 32-32 contest. But the Fraport Skyliners then took flight going on a 13-6 run to lead 45-38 after 30 minutes. In the run Frankfurt got ample support from Jamel Mclean who gave 6 points. He was as usual a work horse in the paint and always fighting for the best position and letting his lethal offense do the talking. Frankfurt also got a lay in from Rasheed Moore over Blossomgame and a clutch trey from Lukas Wank in the corner. Ulm got 4 points from Christon as they couldn’t muster much of an attack against the aggressive Frankfurt defense that didn’t allow anything easy inside the paint. ‘We began the third quarter aggressive and executed well. We never stopped fighting and got defensive stops and got on transition’, stated Quantez Robertson.
In the fourth quarter the Fraport Skyliners led by as much as 9 points, but couldn’t hold it as Ratiopharm Ulm clawed back and got over the hump late and got the lead and never relinquished it. Ponitka got Frankfurt going with a runner and the 47-38 advantage. But Ratiopharm Ulm knew now that they had to execute better if they wanted to have a chance to win and did. Bretzel and Christon followed with baskets to cut Frankfurt’s lead down to 47-42. Will Cherry then dropped another clutch trey giving Frankfurt the 50-42 lead. But Ratiopharm Ulm then erupted on a 8-2 run to cut Frankfurt’s advantage to only 53-50. The Ulm ex NBA players now stepped up and showed why they once played in the best league in the world. Ex LA Clipper Sindarius Thornwell (196-G-1994, college: S.Carolina) connected on a three pointer and runner and Christon added a trey. Frankfurt did a good job reacting against the Ulm blows by punching back as Moore scored on a tough lay in from the wing for the Frankfurt 55-50 lead. But Ulm then supplied that last lethal blow with 9 unanswered points to grab the lead back at 59-55. Again it was the ex NBA studs Thornwell who dropped 5 points and Blossomgame with a three that did the severe damage. Cherry did drop a three late to cut Ulm’s lead to 59-58, but Christon supplied the exclamation point on the win with a fadeaway jumper. Frankfurt had one last possession to try to send the game into overtime, but Cherry couldn’t withstand a double team at the three point line and coughed up the ball to end the game. ‘This was a real battle between two teams that came to compete. We made the better plays at the end. We kept fighting and never gave up’, stated Sindarius Thornwell. ‘We didn’t have the energy to play 1-1 defense which gave them open shots. Key for us is how we can play a better offense with better flow. We also need to be faster from defense to offense. We also need to be faster when we attack. We have to be quicker with getting that first entry pass’, stressed Luca Dalmonte. Ratiopharm Ulm was led by Sindarius Thornwell and Jaron Blossomgame with 16 points a piece while Semaj Christon added 15 points, 7 dimes and 4 steals while the Fraport Skyliners were led by Will Chery with 14 points. Jamel Mclean added 12 points and 10 rebounds while Quantez Robertson added 11 points and 7 assists. Ratiopharm Ulm shot 43% from the field and 35% from outside and had 32 rebounds and 15 turnovers while the Fraport Skyliners shot 43% from the field and 31% from outside and had 34 rebounds and 15 turnovers.