It seems like it was only yesterday when Donald Trump was putting on the last final touches of his 2016 Presidential campaign and the NBBL season was just getting into swing, but after a few months the regular season is winding down and the playoffs are looming quickly. For one team, the playoffs were already booked while the other team was fighting for that last spot. Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners had a 10-3 record and sitting in position two despite having lost two of the last three games, but won their last game in Langen 92-68 where Cosmo Gruehn poured in 28 points. In their two previous games, they had lost to ratiopharm Ulm and Urspirng where they were missing their four top players and were led by players like Leon Pullen and Oliver Babitsch who usually get lesser minutes. On the other side of the court the Young Tigers Tuebingne arrived into the game with a 6-7 record and in fifth place battling Urspring for that last playoff spot who also had a record of 6-7, the Young Tigers Tuebingen had to win their last game in Frankfurt to reach the playoffs since they had won both regular season games against Urspring. However Eintracht Frankfurt had their allstar ensemble on board and wanted to cruise into the NBBL playoffs with full force and easily took apart the Young Tigers Tuebingen 75-52 on a wet Sunday afternoon. Only 16 hours earlier 17 year old German wunderkind Isaac Bonga had experienced his first big milestone as a professional registering his first triple double of the season with 10 points, 15 rebounds, and 10 assists in a win against Nordlingen propelling the Pro B team Fraport Skyliners Juniors into the playoffs. Bonga wasn´t as good against Tuebingen as he only had six points and six turnovers, but was solid on the boards with seven rebounds and had seven assists, but it didn´t really matter since his team had strong support from their three starters Konstantin Schubert, Cosmo Gruehn and Niklas Pons who combined for 44 points and young 16 year old German Alvin Onyia gave good energy from the bench netting 13 points. After the game Konstantin Schubert who is the clean cut guy who never looks like he broke a sweat, but looks more like a young banker in training understood that the club wasn´t totally consistent, but important that everyone was on board. “We had our ups and downs, but was a good preparation for the playoffs. We wanted to go into the playoffs with force and it was important that everyone could play together. We did a good job rebounding and had the height advantage and really took advantage of it”, stressed Konstantin Schubert.
The Young Tigers Tuebingen big highlight of the season was sweeping top German youth team Urspring, but lost both games to TV Langen probably costing them the playoffs, but head coach Manuel Pasios was still content with the performance of his team against a very strong Frankfurt squad. “It was a very scrappy game. Our three point shooting kept us in the game. We were at a big disadvantage under the boards as we couldn´t compensate their height. Frankfurt gave their all and wanted to go into the playoffs strong. We were able to annoy them only a little with our press, but that was it”, stressed Young Tigers head coach Manuel Pasios.
The middle of the week days are usually reserved for the international club games where a Brose Bamberg is usually battling away at home against a Real Madrid or CSKA Moscow´s or are tingling around somewhere in Europe at a Macabbi Tel Aviv or FC Barcelona, but this week there were also other teams in action from the easyCredit BBL, but also in the NBBL there was a make up game between two teams Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners and Team Urspring that could be classified at the moment belonging to the top basketball schools as in the last years both teams have developed big talents like Johannes Voigtmann, Danilo Barthel and now Isaac Bonga while Team Urspring have brought out talent after talent like Lucca Staiger, Christian Standhardinger, Gavin Schilling or Mahir Agva that played his first BBL game at age 16 and now plays for the Fraport Skyliners and is fighting for minutes from head coach Gordon Herbert. Team Urspring came to Frankfurt with 5 NBBL titles in their baggage and only a disappointing 4-6 record this season, but a lot of self confidence as they had dismantled TV Langen for the second time this season holding them to only 53 points while Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners were reeling off a hard 76-57 loss to ratiopharm Ulm where all their stars didn´t suit up. The club played a lot of their bench players giving them abundant minutes and the club fought with heart cutting down a double digit lead to six points with four minutes to go, but then ran out of gas giving up a 15-2 run to end the game. Both Eintracht Frankfurt and Team Urspring were motivated to finish the season strong as the home team had already qualified for the playoffs while the guests need a good run in the last games to reach the promised land. Team Urspring controlled the first quarter, but Eintracht Frankfurt improved their play in the second and third quarters and were on the same level as the guests, but lost control in crunch-time as the Tekka And Noeres Show took control extending their losing streak to two games losing to Team Urspring 71-65.
After the game an old known face of the region Sebastian Barth who played many years in Langen was coaching only his second NBBL game was content about the win, but also felt that his team has a realistic chance of reaching the NBBL playoffs. “We defended long phases with heart, but we didn´t have consistent ball movement in the game. It was a hard fought game, but in the end the three pointer by Patrick Teka was big and we did a good job forcing them to difficult shots. I think that this win will give us added self confidence to reach the playoffs. I think we need at least one win against either ratiopharm Ulm or Ludwigsburg”, expressed Team Ursping head coach Sebastian Barth. Eintracht Frankfurt 17 year old swing man Oliver Babitsch had his best game in the NBBL netting 19 points and was disappointed that the club couldn´t get the easy things done on the court and not surprised that he could deal with the responsibility having to take over for the top players out of action. “We didn´t play for 40 minutes and had too many up and down phases. We woke up too late in the first quarter. The second half was a lot better. The little things killed us at the end. Team defense was good and we played with a lot of heart, but our one on one defense wasn´t good. In Hanau, I was a player that my team relied on to have good games. So needing to step up now was nothing new for me”, expressed Oliver Babitsch.
Sometimes the overwhelming differences that two basketball teams may possess on paper can be as hard to digest for an opposing coach in terms of what strategy he will use for 40 minutes as it was NFL coaches and defenses to figure out how to stop a Tom Brady of the New England Patriots who at age 39 seems to be playing like in his prime and having that very special and rare football gen called forever young. When one observes Germany´s youth league NBBL which displays the faces of tomorrow and possible professional players in the making, one can´t always expect games in the 90´s or a 50% field goal percentage as these kids are all still learning, but sometimes the stats on paper do tell the story. This was the case as unbeaten Eintracht Frankfurt who had beat MTV Kronberg in a thrilling OT game where they showed their true colors in OT and last weekend needed a 26 point explosion in the fourth quarter to leave the Junior Baskets Rhein Necker in the dust faced off against the 1-1 Schoder Junior Giraffen Langen in another classic Hessen derby. The guests lost the first game of the season against Porsche BBA Ludwigsburg with 65-58, but last weekend nipped the well-known basketball academy Urspring 55-53. The immense statistical advantages that Eintracht Frankfurt had were mindboggling as they averaged 82 points to 56 points of Langen, had the massive rebound edge of 51-26 and in the playmaking department also had more creativity with the 20-11 edge. Langen did have the better defense in the first two games giving up only 59 points while Eintracht Frankfurt did 65 which wasn´t too shabby either. Stats are one thing, but in the end the only thing that counts is what happens on the court for 40 minutes and that is when both teams leave everything they have on the court. The Schoder Junior Giraffen Langen played a hard first half where nobody would of noticed any kind of big advantage for Eintracht Frankfurt, but the home team did break out of their shell in the third leading by as much as 17 points only to see the guests fight back and force OT, but then ran out of gas as Eintracht Frankfurt squeaked out a 82-74 win. After the game, 18 year old German Konstantin Schubert didn´t look anymore pooped than after any other game, but he had played an overwhelming 81 minutes in 17 hours dating back to the Fraport skyliners Juniors OT win in Nordlingen the night before, but was still able to give sound answers concerning his second OT win within 24 hours. “I feel very tired. This was my second OT game. I played 42 minutes last night and 39 minutes now. We were up by 17 in the third and can´t let the opponent come back like that. We brought more power than Langen did into the OT and hit the deciding shots that gave us the win”, stressed Eintracht Frankfurt forward Konstantin Schubert. The Schoder Junior Giraffen Langen played a very spirited game, but used up a lot of energy after being down 17 in the third and just didn´t have the needed gusto in OT to prevail. “This was a tough loss for us. The third quarter killed us. We never gave up until the end, but Frankfurt just had more energy than we did”, added Schoder Junior Giraffen Langen forward Julian Pfaff.
With all the German professional leagues already having got underway in their new seasons, many were waiting in heavy anticipation of the new NBBL(under 19) league to commence as it is always a delight to observe Germany´s young prospects doing work on the court and developing from boys to men and for some into professional basketball players. On a rare Friday evening, Eintracht Frankfurt who belong to the Fraport Skyliners faced off in a true Hessen derby against MTV Kronberg which is only 15 minutes away if one stages their own Formula One race tempo over the autobahn and country roads. Eintracht Frankfurt went into the game as the heavy favorite as it had more players with Pro B experience with guys like Isaac Bonga, Konstantin Schubert, Niklas Pons and Cosmo Gruehn while MTV Kronberg did have seven players aged 18. 16 year old Isaac Bonga who is the biggest German talent since Dennis Schroeder played, but had a severe cold, but still played 26 minutes scoring eight points, grabbing seven rebounds and dishing out six assists before fouling out in the fourth quarter. Despite the talent and experience advantage of Eintracht Frankfurt, MTV Kronberg didn´t let that take their focus or grit away as they did a fantastic job staying with their opponent for 40 minutes, but in the OT, the home team showed their true colors going on a harsh 14-2 run to overcome MTV Kronberg 86-74. “We didn´t underestimate them, but this is a team that we have to beat by a lot. We knew that Felix Hecker could shoot, but we slept too many times in this game, but we will work on our mistakes and come back better”, warned Eintracht Frankfurt guard Isaac Bonga. “We played against a very good team, but we gave it our best. Our point guard came late to the team and wasn´t in form yet. We didn´t have so much strength at the end”, added MTV Kronberg forward Felix Hecker.