Even if the last away games for the Fraport Skyliners didn’t offer the desired results against Alba Berlin and the Telekom Baskets Bonn, their results in their own living room Fraport arena in the last 3 games had been very refreshing. It took the 2000 BBL cup champion a long time to get going, but it seems like they have finally found their groove and being able to beat better ranked teams. Now it’s time for the 4-10 team who are in 16th place to keep their winning drive going, but against teams in the lower part of the standings as beating these teams are so important for their goal of remaining in the BBL. One of those teams arrived in the Fraport arena with the Hakro Merlins Crailsheim who were in 13th place with a 5-8 record. The team that recently fired ex Skyliner coach Sebastian Gleim came to Frankfurt having won their last 2 games against Braunschweig and Heidelberg and wanted to keep the streak alive in Frankfurt. On Sunday afternoon in Frankfurt, The Fraport Skyliners got up on the wrong side of the bed and literally stunk up their living room. Even if they had good spurts of offense, they never found a game identity on defense and had no answer how to combat the Hakro Merlins Crailsheim physicality and how to stop them 1-1 on the penetration. ‘ We were weak on defense and didn’t execute as well as we could on offense. They found shots and made plays and killed us on the boards’, stressed ex Auburn (NCAA) great Quantez Robertson. The Hakro Merlins Crailsheim played a solid game and both ends of the court and were rewarded for their effort. ‘I felt that we did good. It was more of a complete game for us. It is hard to be perfect for 40 minutes. I thought we played really well for 37 minutes. Our focus today was on defense. We were really aggressive and didn’t care about fouls. In the past we have been too passive on defense and teams took advantage of it. But today we sacrificed ourselves on defense and the offense took care of the rest’, stressed ex George Mason (NCAA) guard Otis Livingston II (180-PG-1996, college: GMU).
Quantez Robertson lay in
The Fraport Skylines began well, but after a few minutes of back and forth, they allowed a brutal run by the Hakro Merlins Crailsheim and couldn’t recover from it. The game was tied at 9-9 quicky as both teams got their offenses flowing quickly as the guests shared the ball nicely as ex Wichita State (NCAA) center Asbjoern Midtgaard made a lay in, ex wiha Panther Jaren Lewis a floater and free throws and Edon Maxhumi a three pointer. While the Fraport Skyliners did a good job getting ex Purdue (NCAA) big man Matt Haarms going with a dunk and 4 free throws. Teammate Isaiah Washington of Jelly Fam fame made a nifty pass that looked a little Doncic like. ‘That was a rap around pass. It looked crazy, but normal. Guys will make that pass when the opponent overplays’, stated Quantez Robertson. But then the game changed as the guests overpowered Frankfurt going on a brutal 19-5 run to lead 28-14. In the run the Hakro Merlins Crailsheim got 2 baskets from Otis Livuingston, a deep trey from Jaren Lewis, a Fabian Bleck lay in, a Bogdan Radosavjjevic and lay in from ex Fraport Skyliner Bruno Vrcic. The guests did a great job playing team ball and finding their spots really well. The Fraport Skyliners had little ball movement and relied on the quick offense that offered little points. Frankfurt did close out the first quarter well with a 5-0 run to cut the lead down to 28-19. Laurynas Beliauskas scored on the penetration while German national player Joshua Obiesie hit a trey. ‘After Haarms got some buckets, they began to rotate better on pick and roll. We had to make different options. We couldn’t hit shots after that start’, stressed Quantez Robertson. Both teams shot under 40% from outside while the guests shot 64% form the two point range and Frankfurt 43%. Crailsheim had the 12-7 rebound edge and 0 turnovers while Frankfurt had 3.
Bruno Vrcic at the FT line
The Hakro Merlins Crailsheim continued to control the game and led by as much as 16 points in the second quarter and led by 13 points at half-time. The difference between both teams was simple. Both executed, but the Hakro Merlins Crailsheim just did it at a better and more consistent rate. The guests continued to clobber Frankfurt on the boards. Frankfurt allowed guard Maurice Stuckey to get his own miss and make an easy put back. Quantez Robertson then made a lay in on transition and free throw but Frankfurt trailed 30-22. The Fraport Skyliners were running around in circles all day long as the Merlins ball movement was excellent and usually got open shots. A Stephens off balance shot, Stuckey three pointer and Jaren Lewis catch and pop jumper profited on the 7-0 run and 38-22 lead. Frankfurt got some energy and production from Washington and Robertson who scored, but they couldn’t make any ground as the Merlins kept executing as Jaren Lewis and Stephens scored for the very comfortable 45-31 advantage. Frankfurt allowed too many extra chances that the guests easily took advantage of. Here and there, the Fraport Skyliners got big buckets as German national player Lukas Wank and Washington hit three’s to cut Crailsheim’s lead to 47-39, but they couldn’t go into the break strong. They allowed a costly 5-0 run as Livingston made a 20 footer and Lithuanian forward Arunas Mikaluaskas hit a buzzer beater trey for the 52-39 Hakro Merlins Crailsheim lead. ‘We didn’t do a good job boxing out and gave them too many second chance points. We took too many quick shots and allowed them to get on transition’, commented Quantez Robertson.
Quantez Robertson at the FT line
The Hakro Merlins Crailsheim couldn’t muster much offense in the third quarter scoring 13 points, but their defense held the lead as the Fraport Skyliners once again couldn’t gain ground and get over the hump. Fans in the arena witnessed the first 7 possessions go without any points. Haarms got Frankfurt on the board first with free throws and Midtgaard scored the Merlins first field goal at the 7,18 minute mark to lead 54-41. After a stop, the Hakro Merlins Crailsheim received a clutch trey from Radosavljevic who had a solid game with 12/5/4 stats. ‘His good decision making, passing ability and pick and pop help us every game’, warned Jaren Lewis. The Fraport Skyliners then had their best faze of the game going on a 10-0 to cut the Merlins lead to only 57-51. In the run they got vital three’s from Beliauskas and Washington and a Wank lay in with the back door pass by Marcus Lewis. But the Fraport Skyliners couldn’t hold their momentum as they allowed a 8-3 run by the guests to lead 65-54 after 30 minutes. Crailsheim got their 5th team foul during the run, but Frankfurt didn’t bang the ball inside to draw fouls. Instead The guests crushed Frankfurt with the mid range game and penetration as Livingston scored twice and Fabian Bleck once. ‘When they cut the lead to 57-51, we stayed the course. We have had the experience this season to see teams make runs. We weren’t as composed earlier in the season but today we were. We weathered the run’, stated Otis Livingston II. ‘We stopped being aggressive. We didn’t go to rim and took jump shots and couldn’t execute the offense’, warned Quantez Robertson. The Hakro Merlins Crailsheim shot 61% from the two point range and shot 25% from outside and had 32 rebounds and 6 turnovers while the Fraport Skyliners shot 47% from the two point range and 35% form outside and had 24 rebounds and 11 turnovers.
Myles Stephens for 3
In the fourth quarter the Hakro Merlins Crailsheim continued to play their well rounded game at both ends and slam the door shut on the Fraport Skyliners. The Hakro Merlins Crailsheim began the fourth quarter on an electrifying 11-2 run to ultimately decide the game leading 76-56. In the run the guests began with 3 lay ins from Livingston, Stuckey and Bleck as there was no 1-1 defense existent by Frankfurt, then came a Mikaluskas dunk and a Bleck three pointer. Frankfurt’s offense was up and down all game long, but at least they finished the game with some rhythm. Belauskas produced the most damage scoring 10 points and 3 three pointers. Marcus Lewis also contributed a trey. The guests didn’t get as much support, but it didn’t matter as they had made most of the damage for 35 minutes. ‘We did a good job sticking to our game plan. So often this season we had had a big lead, but let teams come back to cut it down to 2-3 points. But that didn’t happen today. We kept the lead and got the job done’, stated Otis Livingston II. ‘We didn’t defend aggressively and allowed them to find their spots and allowed them to make the right plays’, stressed Quantez Robertson. The Hakro Merlins Crailsheim were led by Jaren Lewis with 16 points. Otis Livingston II and Bogdan Radosavljevic added 12 points a piece while the Fraport Skyliners were led by Laurynas Beliauskas with 21 points. Lukas Wank added 14 points and Isaiah Washington had 13 points. The Hakro Merlins Crailsheim shot 47% from the field and 31% from outside and had 42 rebounds and 8 turnovers while the Fraport Skyliners shot 38% from the field and 34% from outside and had 33 rebounds and 13 turnovers.