The NBBL season keeps moving along and while Alba Berlin is making their presence known in the north, it is Eintracht Frankfurt-Fraport Skyliners that are dominating in the south just blowing everything away that dares to get in the way like a snow blower does earasing unwanted snow on a frozen football field in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Eintracht Frankfurt-Fraport Skyliners have simply been incredible bringing a lethal 6-0 record into the game averaging a potent 88 points on offense and standing like a non-destructable wall on defense allowing only 51 points per game. The club has been led by top NBBL player Len Schoorman who continues to impress everyone and plays like a man among boys. Eintracht Frankfurt-Fraport Skyliners met the RheinStars Cologne who had only a 3-3 record, but seemed to have found themselves in the previous weeks having won three of their last four contests and as of late had played their best basketball of the season as they took apart BG Goettingen 85-53 and wiped away the Baskets Juniors 67-36. The team from the Dome city came to Frankfurt with a lot of self confidence from their last wins, but had to contend with one of the top teams in the NBBL with Eintracht Frankfurt-Fraport Skyliners and played their hearts out, but had a extremely bad shooting day and couldn´t find a consistent rhythm against Frankfurt´s nasty press defense. Eintracht Frankfurt-Fraport Skyliners played an all-around solid game at both ends of the court powered by the athletic game of Len Schoormann who hit for 26 points. “We played well against their three two zone, drew fouls and got out on transition a lot. We played very good defense in the first half giving up only 25 points, but weren´t as good in the second half. We weren´t as good on the pick and roll and left their shooters open”, stressed German Len Schoormann. It wasn´t a great start for the RheinStars and the day didn´t get any better when half way through the first quarter, they lost their top scorer Thomas Fankhauser who was hit in the face and broke his nose and had to go to the hospital. The club never recovered from that blow despite Germans Joshua Burgunder and Christ Theodor stepping up as best as they could. “We didn´t come to terms with their press. We practiced it all week, but we couldn´t do anything against it in the game. Losing Fankhauser might have affected us also, but I liked how we stayed aggressive until the end”, added Joshua Burgunder.
It was the weekend of the unbeaten teams playing in the BCM as on Saturday night the Bayer Giants Leverkusen left the practice facility of easyCredit BBL team Fraport Skyliners with a commendable 8-0 record one that most experts most likely wouldn´t have predicted at the start of the season. And on Sunday the roles were reversed as the Bayer Giants Leverkusen was in da house again, but this time with their youth squad and they brought a solid 3-1 record from home and met the unbeaten team of Eintracht Frankfurt-Fraport Skyliners as they came into the contest with a perfect 4-0 record and have just been mowing away their opponents as if there is absolutely no mercy. They had found together quickly on both ends of the court as on offense had an arsenal that reminded one of an NBA team as they averaged 95 points per game and on defense reminded one of a powerful Euroleague like team that played hard nosed defense giving up only 49 points per contest. They took apart the Baskets Juniors and BG Goettingen allowing only 44 points apiece. Last weekend they destroyed Phoenix Hagen 111-32 as at halftime the score was 61-24. Eintracht Frankfurt-Fraport Skyliners have demonstrated an early bonding where everyone understands their roles and have been fortified by many as the two stars 2017 JBBL top 4 players Len Schoormann and Calvin Schaum have been solid, but not explosive yet. On a mild Sunday afternoon, Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners didn´t have a cakewalk with the Bayer Giants Leverkusen, but were never really in danger of losing the game as They erased a 11 point lead and won easily at the end 82-61 going to 5-0 while Leverkusen moved to 3-2. Frankfurt´s three stars of Len Schorrmann, Maxi Begue and Calvin Schaum combined for 55 points and the club played an overall consistent defensive game. “We played a good first half and played very good defense giving up only 18 points. In the second half we didn´t have a good answer against their zone press. The third quarter wasn´t so good, but we became stable in the fourth quarter. They scouted us well and played good zone. We did a good job all day long getting on transition and helping on defense. We gave up too many offensive rebounds”, stressed Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners 16 year old Calvin Schaum. The Bayer Giants Leverkusen played a strong first quarter, but after that couldn´t contain Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners the way they wanted to on defense. “We didn´t defend well in the second quarter giving up too many turnovers leading to easy points for them. We won the third quarter with less turnovers. Overall we didn´t have the right attitude for the whole game. That has to get better”, warned Bayer Giants Leverkusen guard Lennart Winter.
With 10 minutes remaining in the semi-final contest between FC Bayern Munich and Alba Berlin, Germany´s most famous team had the five point lead an even if the game was a close affair, they seemed to have control of the game until Franz Wagner and Jonas Mattisek stepped up as both finished with 18 points. Wagner opened up the fourth quarter with back to back three´s as his attention to planting his feet and nailing that next shot were as ruthless as a jaguar on a safari tour in Africa when it´s hungry. That brought Alba Berlin to life and 2018 NBBL MVP Jonas Mattisek followed the Wagner three´s with his own arsenal of three´s after having had much misfortune with his shot. Both guys had that killer instinct on their mind and they wanted to continue that mind set and positive play in the final as they met the home team Young Rasta Dragons. It had been their overwhelming experience that had aided Alba Berlin getting over the hump against FC Bayern Mun ich and now they had to deal with a very feisty and creative Young Rasta Dragons team that was looking to win at home again after capturing the JBBL(u-16) title back in 2014 and head coach Florian Hartenstein was looking for his second title. Both teams entered the contest focused and battled hard for 40 minutes and in the fourth quarter it seemed like the Young Rasta Dragons would capture the title, but just like in the semi-final game where it looked like Alba Berlin were down and out again, but made an amazing comeback again showing impressive character and fighting mentality rallying to win the 2018 NBBL title 77-68. The day had started out superb fashion for Alba Berlin as they won the JBBL(U-16) title and now achieved the double and 2018 NBBL top 4 MVP Franz Wagner was all smiles after the win, but had his problems solving the riddle of what was still missing for Alba Berlin. After he learned that the only thing that was missing was the BBL team winning in the final and achieving the triple, he quickly understood that Alba Berlin is very close of reaching the peak of German basketball again.
“This was an unbelievable fight and one of the hardest games that I ever played in. We were behind, but our character showed that we can perform also in tough games. We did a good job playing under pressure and had a great team mentality”, stressed Alba Berlin forward Franz Wagner.
When trying to fit these three terms At Close Range, Sean Penn and Alba Berlin together, the average observer born after 1990 most likely will be unable to piece together the similarities that they do have, but the older generation that follow movies and German basketball might just be so shrewd and be able to link it all together. Close Range was an 80´s movie and for many the only thing that will be remembered will be the theme song by Madonna “Live to tell” and that it featured up and coming actor Sean Penn. At that time in 1985, the American who was an up and coming actor was reeling off the critically acclaimed flick the Falcon and the snowman and followed that up with the next masterpiece “At Close Range”. The only problem, nobody noticed except for the critics as the movie theaters weren´t overflowing as it grossed only $2,347,000 at the North American box office during its theatrical run in 83 theaters, earning less than its production budget of $6.5 million which was a major disappointment. Ok so these three terms might not directly have too much in common with the famous German team Alba Berlin, but there is always a way how certain things can be linked. In the case of acclaimed actor Sean Penn, Close Range and Alba Berlin, it has to do more with success. At that time, Sean Penn was a big acting talent, but just hadn´t really had that big success at the box office, but they would occur later in his career. It isn´t much different for Alba Berlin either. The German basketball powerhouse have had a lot of talent over the last 10 years, but not had as much success as a Marco Baldi would have liked. Winning cup´s are nice, but not the same as going through the playoffs and standing at the top of the peak at the end of the successful run. Winning a cup translates in a successful weekend where you win two games and was able to play your best basketball in a short period of time. The fact of the matter is that Alba Berlin hasn´t won a league title in 10 years and the Alba Berlin drought has been as annoying for the traditional organization as it has been for the Boston Celtics who also won their last NBA title in 2008. Penn was looking for that box office success in 1985 while Alba Berlin is seeking that league title success after a long delay, but they are at close range. But not only is the Professional team Alba Berlin that is at close range this season of reaching the basketball peak, but also the two youth teams the JBBL(Under 16) team and NBBL(under 19) team that are battling this weekend in Quakenbruck for two titles. Alba Berlin is battling the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg for the ticket to the easyCredit BBL final as well. In a few days the German basketball world will know if the Alba Berlin organization will celebrate two youth titles and in a few weeks if Alba Berlin can finally win a league title again.
Basketball competition can´t always be fair and often you do have those examples where one would love to see that Davey and Goliath situation prevail where the small clobbers the big, but more often than not that is only a dream and occurs in fairytales or if the opponent suddenly had some Lebron James´s cloned for their upset attempt. NBBL team Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners had the unwanted and not desired task of meeting the super mighty and powerful club of Alba Berlin as the German capital team were the overwhelming favorites. They came into the series with a 15-1 record against the 10-4 Frankfurt record and an arsenal of offense talent that had scored 90 points or more nine times and 100 points or more five times and had that NBA type scoring atmosphere working. On top of that Alba Berlin had a roster where eight players averaged 10 points or more compared to Frankfurt having three youngsters attaining that feat and had the overwhelming size advantage with 9 guys listed at 2,00 meters or taller. Alba Berlin also brought two of Germany´s biggest talents with Jonas Mattisseck and Henrik Drescher that get minutes in the EasyCredit BBL and also two notable names with Franz Josef-Wagner who is the kid brother of 2018 NCAA finalist with Michigan Moritz Wagner and Elias Rodl who is the son of 1993 NCAA champion with North Carolina Henrik Rodl. Of course Alba Berlin didn´t bring all players like Rodl, but sure had a great variety of players to chose from. One could quote one of the bank robbers from the classic Boston made film The Town as the thugs are about to rob another bank with “Say your prayers”, because no team has had an easy time with the powerful Alba Berlin team. Eintracht Frankfurt-Fraport Skyliners was in their own smug living room staring at a do or die game as they had been destroyed in game one 91-61 as Alba Berlin controlled the boards and forced the Frankfurt club to a pathetic 35 turnovers.
Could Davey and Goliath make a statement or was Alba Berlin destined to make another trip to the NBBL Final 4? There would be no Skyliner miracle as game 2 took a very similar pattern to game one as Alba Berlin dominated at both ends of the court easily disposing of Eintracht Frankfurt-Alba Berlin 95-62. After the game, the Alba Berlin players were all huddled in the corner of the gym as they had just taken care of business again chilling and wondering when the pizza would arrive to help tame their stomachs during the long 8 hours bus drive home and top German guard Jonas Mattisscek reflected on the win as if it was the most normal result ever. “We didn´t get rattled by their physicality and were able to play better than them. We did a good job pressuring them for the whole game and just were allowed to play our game and put constant pressure on the ball”, stressed Alba Berlin guard Jonas Mattisseck. Eintracht Frankfurt-Fraport Skyliners had a solid season, but were totally outmatched in every area of the game, but gave their best and had their moments like 15 year old Len Schoorman who led all scorers with 25 points who was a bit in awe of the incredible talent of Alba Berlin. “I have never played against such a great team. One can really learn a lot from them. I felt we played better in game 2 than game 1. We did a better job against their press this time. There were very big and played well so together, but we gave it our best”, stressed Eintracht Frankfurt-Fraport Skyliners guard Len Schoorman.
Four and a half months ago, the 2017-2018 NBBL season commenced with the best young German players and also from other countries going head to head to capture the best record possible, and now on the last game day of the regular season some teams are smiling and getting excited for the playoffs while other teams are looking to have successful playdown games. For Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners they have had a good push to the playoffs having won four of their last five games while Team Bonn/Rhondorf after a terrible begin to the season where they lost their first four games have played a lot better basketball in the last weeks having won five of their last seven games. In the first meeting of the season, Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners won on the road against team Bonn/Rhondorf 76-65. Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners did have their difficulty keeping the Team Bonn/Rhondorf away from the glass losing the rebound battle 41-28, but it was their aggressive defense that carried them for 40 minutes to the win. They forced Team Bonn/Rhondorf to an outrageous 30 turnovers and had 16 extra possessions which was instrumental in helping Frankfurt get the victory. Both teams met on Sunday afternoon in Frankfurt at Basketball City Mainhaiten and fans saw a tight first quarter, but Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners broke away in the second quarter and never looked back riding into the playoffs with an easy 82-54 win against Team Bonn/Rhondorf. After the game a content 15 year old German Len Schoormann who was top scorer in the game with 17 points and once again displayed his versatility with scoring, passing, rebounding, making steals and sheer athleticism was beaming with joy and was thrilled with the performance of the team. All 11 players of Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners scored and left the floor as happy winners. “That was our best game of the season. Our defense was really good. Our strong defense got our offense rolling. Coach really had us motivated and played good team offense and defense. When we are all communicating is when we play as a team. When we aren´t communicating is when we play more 1-1. Our ball movement was very good and everybody felt comfortable having the ball in their hands”, stressed Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners guard Len Schoormann. Team Bonn/Rhondorf played a solid first quarter, but then couldn´t get adjusted to the pesky Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners press defense and couldn´t stop their penetration. After the game a pooped Jona Thiel was disappointed with the effort of his club. “We lost our consistency from the first quarter. We just weren´t mentally there from the second quarter until the end. We had a game plan for their press defense, but mentally couldn´t cope with it. We usually play man, but played zone against their athleticism, but we didn´t defend well and they shot well against our zone. Their athleticism and deny defense was too much for us”, added Team Bonn/Rhondorf center Jona Thiel.
The NBBL regular season is slowly winding down as Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners with a record of 8-4 are going down a straight path to the playoffs while the RheinStars Cologne were caught in quick sand early on losing three of their first four games and couldn´t react properly and are going down a different path without the playoffs. In their first meeting in Cologne in November, Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners gave a solid performance over 40 minutes winning 84-65 despite coughing up the ball an unacceptable 22 times. Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners relied on their consistent defense, depth as German Denis Machlab who isn´t known as a scorer contributed 16 points and six boards in 24 minutes and on their rebounding as they outrebounded the RheinStars 42-30. Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners was unable to keep Colognes top prospect Tillmann Woerner who showed his versatile and unselfish play netting 20 points and dishing out seven assists. Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners relied on their deep roster in the first win in Cologne as they had four guys scoring in double figures with Machlab, Maxi Begue, Niklas Pons and Leon Puellen. Both teams met in Frankfurt in the pretty BCM gym in the return game which has welcomed NBA players like Dirk Nowitzki, Carlos Arroyo and Alan Anderson over the years for an early 1.00pm Sunday matinee. Fans witnessed an exciting ending as Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners squeaked out a nail bitter 68-64 as they cruise into the playoffs. Even if the game seemed decided at half time, the RheinStars never gave up and stepped up their game in the second half and could even have won the game on their last possession, but in the end Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners had the better nerves. The Fraport Skyliners have been known for years to not only developing young talent, but also finding those young 13-14 year old kids and reeling them in. The next big talent Len Schoormann has been tearing up the JBBL(U-16 league) where he once scored 42 points in a game, but he also has adjusted to the NBBL(U-19 league) and had his real breakout game netting the RheinStars for 26 points showing everyone his world on the court and doing absolute everything on the court and filling the stat sheet like a Russell Westbrook. After the win, the 15 year German reflected on the win and his break out game and was very eloquent and seemed very at ease talking basketball. “We lost our rhythm a bit in the third quarter. We had the needed energy and we knew we had to win to get the home court advantage in the playoffs. Overall we moved the ball well and our good offense gave us more energy to play good defense. I have gotten better into the team the last weeks. There is a difference to the JBBL as here the guys are bigger, understand the game better, have more experience and the skill level is higher. It was important for me that I started off well hitting my first shots which brought me self confidence”, stressed Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners guard Len Schoormann. The RheinStars Cologne played their hearts out and gave everything despite not having their two top scorers on board. After the loss, one could see the disappointment on the faces of the young players and 16 year old 200cm German Thomas Fankhauser was sad, but also proud of his teammates who never gave up. “We slept at the start, but heightened our game in the second half. We gave a great team effort. We fought hard and it was too bad we couldn´t pull it out at the end. We did a good job compensating the loses of two top players. I felt we moved the ball well and did what the game gave us well”, added RheinStars forward Thomas Fankhauser.