A little more than a week ago German wonder boy Isaac Bonga saw the sides of two worlds once again as the sky is the limit for the 17 year special talent was able to broaden his horizons again something he has been able to experience time in and time out if it was playing in the basketball without boarders tournament in Lithuania or shooting the breeze with New York Knick Justin Holiday at the 2017 NBA allstar weekend in New Orleans. Bonga skipped off the sold out court in Ulm of 6,000 plus people having played the most BBL minutes this season with 26 contributing six points, four rebounds and three assists in a narrow 90-84 defeat to ratiopharm Ulm and 20 hours later, he was brought back down to reality that his basketball life isn´t only a bed of roses as he departed the floor in Munich a defeated young man as he had to accept the bitter 75-44 NBBL loss against the International basketball academy Munich with only 200 people in attendance and had ran around like a mad man leaving his heart on the floor having played 38 minutes filling up the stat sheet like a mini Lebron posting seven points, six rebounds, seven assists, four steals and one block. With his BBL season over, Bonga wanted to make his last season goal of reaching the NBBL top 4 in Frankfurt reality, but he as well as his teammates had to really show what they were made of, dig deep down within themselves and play with heart. Bonga wanted to avenge his unsatisfactory 3/18 shooting in Munich and at the same time force another do or die meeting with Munich and other German super talent Oscar Da Silva who dropped 59 points and 35 rebounds in the two game playoff series against Urspring and can continue to tell his friends that he will be attending Stanford next fall and play at the alma mater of ex Bamberg legend Casey Jacobsen. It was no secret that this special do or die game would bring out the best in Bonga and Da Silva as they combined for 40 points and 24 rebounds, but the International basketball academy Munich also known as IBAM came out on top escaping Frankfurt with a hard fought 61-60 victory. As the buzzer sounded, the few Munich fans that had made the trip jumped up in excitement as if lightening had struck them and star player and young phenom Oscar da Silva was calm, but one could see in his eyes that he was not only relieved, but also very proud for reaching the NBBL Top 4 tournament. “I am very happy about getting this win in Frankfurt. We never stopped fighting and played with high intensity. We came back through our good defense which helped us get transition baskets and that was key for the win”, stressed future Stanford Cardinal Oscar Da Silva. For Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners, it was a very successful season, but their goal of reaching the NBBL Final 4 in Frankfurt was not met and one could easily read the frustration of the players on their faces. Especially for team second top scorer Konstantin Schubert it was a disappointing way to end his NBBL career. “We knew that we could of won this game. Game one was depressing, but we had a different face today and defended very well against very good individual players. But when you only score 60 points, it will be difficult to win. We didn´t do much wrong on defense, but didn´t rebound well in the first half and when they couldn´t hit from outside, we were unable to stop their penetration”, stressed Fraport Skyliner Konstantin Schubert. “They switched to zone in the second half which gave us problems and took us out of rhythm”, added Fraport Skyliner Isaac Bonga.
In the last weeks do or die games as well as fascinating and breathtaking finishes like the unbelievable 75-73 win by North Carolina over Kentucky where Malik Monk´s last second shot was overturned by Luke Maye´s last triple with 0,3 seconds remaining to propel the Tar Heels into the 2017 NCAA Final 4 were as usual as it has been for ratiopharm Ulm winning and winning in the BBL this season, but also in the NBBL playoffs do or die games have been growing as last weekend the Igeko Falcons BC Nurnberg had to win at home against Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners to keep their season alive and did with a super performance as they won 63-51 stepping up their defense allowing 29 less points than in game one and carved the total points by German wonder boy Isaac Bonga and Cosmo Gruehn in half from 57 points to only 29 points and forced them to coughing up the ball 20 times with their aggressive defense. It hadn´t helped the cause of Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners that they were without their other strong performer Konstantin Schubert as he had been nursing an ankle injury. Both teams arrived into the game with their two star players Isaac Bonga who registered his first triple double in the Pro B a few weeks ago and is a projected 2018 NBA Draft Pick and Moritz Sanders who currently is averaging 7,2ppg in the Pro A and quietly developing further as a basketball player and were hoping to move on and face the International Basketball Academy Munich with their star player Oscar De La Silva. Despite being without second top scorer German Konstantin Schubert again for the third time in the series, Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners had enough other weapons and depth and took advantage of their home court despite some loud Nurnberg fans who had made the trip to cheer on the kids and escaped a last furious comeback by their opponent to slip into the quarterfinals with a satisfying 70-60 victory.
Isaac Bonga and Miles Schmidt-Scheuber: Postgame interview in Rhöndorf, December 2016
It was a game that Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners led from early on, but allowed Igeko Nurnberg Falcons BC very close in crunch time, but it was the overall sound team play and superb leadership by 17 year old Isaac Bonga that allowed the home team to preserve the win. After the quick win, Bonga had exactly one hour and five minutes before his next game in the BBL against the Telekom Baskets Bonn and was dripping with sweat outside the locker room and showed absolutely no panic about having to get to the Fraport arena in time and reflected about the victory and keeping a cool head at the end. “I knew from the start that I had to take responsibility today. That is my job as point guard. We were always awake in the game and stayed calm even in tough times”, stressed Isaac Bonga.
When Bonga was long gone and on his way to the Fraport arena for the 10 minute drive from the BCM gym, Cosmo Gruehn was still on the court stretching and found the right words for the win. “Rebounds was key today as we were the better rebounding team in the first half and also defense as we held them to 60 points. We also did a good job keeping Sanders and Hassfuerter in check. We didn´t have to rely as much on our outside shooting like in game two, but were able to penetrate more with success”, added ex USC Freiburg big man Cosmo Gruehn.
It was shortly before High Noon in the German Pro B league as the top 8 teams in the two brackets south and north were looking forward to battle it out in the Playoffs and wanted to end the regular season in fine fashion while the bottom four teams in both brackets were looking to glide into the playdowns with some force hoping for their poor season showing to be rewarded with better play in the very important last weekends of the season determining who would stay in the Pro B or who would step down into the fourth league the regionaliga. The Giants Nordlingen came to Frankfurt with a lot less pressure as they knew their fate of having to play in the Playdowns while the Fraport Skyliners Juniors not only had a do or die game, but also had to hope for some help from team BG Karlsruhe who were playing against TG Wurzburg and or Weissenhorn who were battling the Dragons in Rhondorf. The only goal that the Frapoort Skyliners Juniors was to win and reach the playoffs would be a reality if at least one team Weissenhorn or Rhondorf lost. In the first meeting in Nordlingen, Frankfurt gutted out a nerve wracking 64-63 victory where German youngster Cosmo Gurehn once again showed his big man passing qualities finding other German Stefan Ilzhoefer for the winning bucket in the last minute. Back then, Frankfurt hadn´t hadn´t had their complete roster and hadn´t returned Alaska native Travis Thompson either, but still won. Thompson returned in December and has been anything short of brilliant, but his hot shooting has carried the team in his 13 games as he has scored in double figures in every game and had some huge games against the Dragons Rhondorf with 32 points on eight trey´s and scorched Leipzig last weekend for 33 points on almost perfect shooting going 8/9 from the parking lot. However the Giants Nordlingen had their own secret weapon in American rookie Terrence Smith who quietly is having a great season as well as he has scored in double figures in each game including explosions against Lich with 28 points and hit FC Bayern Munich for 24 points. In the first meeting against Frankfurt, the Russellville, Alabama native smith was close to a double double having had 16 points and nine assists in the bitter loss. Both Thompson and Smith were extra focused and motivated to carry their teams to victory, but Thompson had an off night as the stellar play and milestone belonged to Garai Zeeb who hit Nordlingen with 22 points while Isaac Bonga recorded his first triple double as a professional notching 10 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists leading the Fraport Skyliners Juniors to a massive 83-59 rout of the Giants Nordlingen securing a playoff meeting with top Pro B North team Lok Bernau while the 26 points of Terence Smith remained a side note.
After the win one of the first things Garai Zeeb does is go visit his family and friends in the stands and when he had gotten his last hug, had a big smile on his face about reaching his second playoff in a row with Frankfurt. “We came into the game knowing their strengthes and did a good job on one on one defense and when a man got beat our help was there. On offense we had too much running around in the first half, but had better structure in the second half and played calmer helping us get the win”, stressed ex Bremerhaven guard Garai Zeeb. The Giants Nordlingen wanted to get into the playdowns with some force and momentum, but couldn´t handle the unending offensive weapons of Frankfurt and just caved in in the second half. “Frankfurt made shots and spread it out on defense. We lacked communication and rotations were missing on defense. Frankfurt rebounded very well. When Frankfurt missed, they got the rebound”, stressed Alabama native Terence Smith.