A little more than 27 months ago on a warm latesummer day, easyCredit BBL team Fraport Skyliners were playing an exhibitiongame against Pro A team RheinStars on the Us Army Base in Wiesbaden about a 20minute drive from Frankfurt. In this test game, fans saw the first signs of areal star being born in Isaac Bonga as the 16 year old got ample minutes fromhead coach Gordon Herbert and he presented his unending athleticism, but whatwas even more enjoyable to witness were his no look passes which some of theyoung German kids that were there that day wearing the Cologne jersey surelydidn´t forget. Now Isaac Bonga is living the ultimate basketball dream in La Laland with the Los Angeles Lakers G-League team South Bay as his call up is onlya matter of time while the Rhein Stars are in the cellar in the Pro B southstandings. So much has changed in the last two years as the RheinStars pathhasn´t gone the desired route. They came to Frankfurt with a disappointing 1-9record and sitting in 12th place as their defense hasn´t found anidentity yet giving up 80 points per contest while the Fraport SkylinersJuniors season has had two faces and recently been like night and day. Theybegan the season in lightening fashion coming out of the gates with a six gamewinning streak, but currently were riding a poor four game losing streak. Thebiggest problems in the last weeks has been their defense. They are currentlystill the fourth best defensive team allowing 72 points per game, but in thelast four games were giving up 78 points per game and had three games with 80points or more given up. Another problem had been that their roster had beenshaken up as key contributors Jules Akodo left for London and JT Roach returnedback to California as combined they scored 18 points per game something that wasmissing now. The Fraport Skyliners Juniors didn´t have an Isaac Bonga anymore,but had enough offensive and defensive forces on board with guys like Big manLeon Kratzer who made his Pro B debut as well as well good support from roleplayers Felix Hecker and Len Schoorman and a whole lot of defensive pressurefor 40 minutes overwhelming the RheinStars Cologne 77-55. After the big game,Frankfurt head coach Sebastian Gleim was content with the victory. “It was animportant win when looking at how tight the standings are. If we had been 8-3now, I would have been very happy, but at 7-4, I´m still happy. One couldalready see last weekend against Coburg that our game was getting better again.The team could practice a lot this week and guys were fresh and were happy. Ourdefensive pressure was good and everyone played at a high intensity”, said headcoach Sebastian Gleim. The RheinStars Cologne never gave up, but shot poorlyand had problems against the defensive pressure of Frankfurt and taking care ofthe ball. After the loss ex Western Michigan Tucker Haymond was miffed by theloss and felt a bit helpless as well. “Frankfurt played very good defense andwere the better team today. They did a good job scouting and took certain guysout of our game plan. We played hard, but our sense of urgency wasn´t good. Wedidn´t match their physicality until the end of the game”, added TuckerHaymond. “It may have looked like an easy win to you, but it was hard work. Weplayed good defense which always gives us success. We deserved to win the game.We had good defensive pressure, but our three ball wasn´t falling. Our high Lowgame of Kayser, Trtovac and Kratzer worked well. We moved the ball well also.We trained together almost everyday and were fresh”, smiled Richard Freudenberg.
New Fraport Skyliner Dennis Mavin watched the game as he played for the Giessen Rackelos in the Pro B last season and also saw BBL action and this season played with the ScanPlus Baskets while in the stands Fraport Skyliner lifer Quantez Robertso who has season tickets to the Pro B games had an old teammate by his side with current Euroleague player with Baskona Shavon Shields who played with Frankfurt during the 2016-2017 season and was in Frankfurt for a lay over. Both teams had difficulty finding an offensive rhythm as the RheinStars were using a good Box and one zone while Frankfurt´s defensive pressure irritated Cologne from the get go and continued for 40 minutes. The Fraport Skyliners Juniors did a good job getting the ball inside early to big Man Armin Trtovac who got a bucket and got to the line easily. Frankfurt also was finding their shooters as ex Bremerhaven guard Garai Zeeb connected and ex Kronberg guard and 2017 NBBL player of the year Felix Hecker supplied outside shooting and five points and ex St Johns forward Richard Freudenberg made a lay in like a guard as Frankfurt led 15-9. While the RheinStars couldn´t find their outside shooting touch, did find production inside from young German Benedikt Van Laack and ex Tuebingen big man Yasin Kolo with a turn around shot. Frankfurt did a good job as always using their bench and their depth didn´t disappoint as 20 year old German energizer Konstantin Schubert scored inside and then Hecker scored inside again as Swedish shooting star Elijah Clarance who often couldn´t get inside had to opt for finding his teammates and did with a no look pass. Ex Dragons Rhondorf forward Thomas Michel who has three BBL games with Bonn on his account dropped a trey ending the first quarter as the Fraport Skyliners Juniors led 19-12. “Frankfurt did a good job moving the ball and had good looks. Their aggressive defense gave them good opportunities on offense. They also controlled the pace well knowing when to slow down the game and when to run”, stressed ex Auburn(NCAA) guard Quantez Robertson. The Fraport Skyliners juniors shot 35% from the field and 29% form outside and had 9 rebounds and 1 turnover while the RheinStars Cologne shot 27% form the field and 17% from outside and had 11 rebounds and 7 turnovers.
In the second quarter the Fraport SkylinersJuniors were able to extend their lead into double figures and controlled thegame into half-time. Ex Bamberg center Leon Kratzer got Frankfurt on the boardfirst with a pretty old school hook shot. The Fraport Skyliners Juniorsexcellent defense sparked their offense which led to Freudenberg trey and Elijah Clarance´s energygave Frankfurt another push as he stuffed home a big two handed jam and sunk atrey as Frankfurt led 29-19. Frankfurt moved the ball well and were sparked byClarance´s high intensity while the RheinStars were unable to get good ballmovement and had to get by with individual feats as Michel spun his way to therim for a lay up and 20 year old German Flip Kukic scored in the lane.Frankfurt continued to keep their double digit lead as Hecker stayed hot fromoutside launching a missile that landed through the net and Kratzer scoredinside again retrieving the lob pass from Freudenberg for the 36-19 advantage.The Rheinstars then found some daylight and hit Frankfurt with a 11-3 run tocut their lead down to 39-30. Frankfurt had some defensive break downs whichthe RheinStars used to their advantage. Kukic scored in the paint, Yassin Koloplayed pick and pop dropping a trey and testing his 37% accuracy from down townand Van Laack made an offensive rebound and put back. Clarance took Frankfurtinto the break with a steal and run away two handed dunk as the FraportSkyliners Juniors led 41-30 after 20 minutes. “Freudenberg played wellrebounding well, hitting shots and playing good defense. Frankfurt also did agood job not just pressuring the guy with the ball, but everyone”, warnedQuantez Robertson. The Fraport Skyliners Juniors shot 41% from the field and33% from the three point line and grabbed 20 rebounds and had 5 turnovers whilethe RheinStars shot 31% from the field and 30% from the three point line andgrabbed 21 rebounds and had 12 turnovers.
The third quarter was a tale of two halves asthere were two runs as the RheinStars matched Frankfurt´s intensity in thefirst five minutes cutting down their lead to only five points, but then gaveup a large nasty run to Frankfurt pretty much deciding the game after 30minutes. Both team´s offenses stalled in the first two minutes as both teamswere stumped on their first three possessions. The RheinStars then upped theirintensity and defense and rode out on a timely 11-5 run to cut Frankfurt´s leadto 46-41. In the run the guests had their long ball game working. Kolo nailed atrey as the big man continued to be a dangerous weapon inside and out, but thatdidn´t scare Frankfurt as they got back to back buckets inside using theirspeed as Len Schoorman scored with his left hand on penetration and Zeebfollowed with a high lay in off the glass as Frankfurt led 46-35. The doubledigit lead was quickly cut down drastically to 46-41 as the RheinStars gotmassive support form the three ball as ex Essen German Tim Van Der Velde who played48 Pro A games with the RheinStars dropped a trey and 17 year NBBL star ThomasFankhauser also connected from outside. The RheinStars overall aggressivenessalso sparked their play on the boards in this phase. But the Fraport SkylinersJuniors had seen enough and erased the RheinStars run with their own 13-3 runleading comfortably again 59-44 after 30 minutes. In the run, Cologne onlyreceived a trey from Van Laack as Frankfurt spent a lot of time at the freethrow line as Kratzer and Clarance combined for 9 points from there andSchoorman made a pretty reverse lay up from the wing and Kratzer also scored.“We need to play consistent defense for 40 minutes, but showed that we didn´tin this quarter. We continued to bring a lot of energy and always found ways tobe successful even when our shot wasn´t falling”, stressed Richard Freudenberg.“We made a good defensive run and hit three´s. But then Kolo and I got in foultrouble. We then lost some 50/50 balls and had the whistle go the other way andwe lost some of our momentum”, added Tucker Haymond. The Fraport SkylinersJuniors shot 37% from the field and 24% form the parking lot and had 36rebounds and 7 turnovers while the RheinStars shot 28% form the field and 33%from the parking lot and grabbed 29 rebounds and had 16 turnovers.
In the fourth quarter the Fraport Skyliners Juniors continued to play with a high intensity at both ends of the court and executed well on offense while holding the RheinStars to 11 points. The first two plays of the game was a great example of what kind of a competitor Garai Zeeb is. He made a play that will stand in the stat sheet, but his hustle and never giving up on the play before is something that won´t be seen on the stat sheet. Zeeb lost the ball at mid court and instead of hanging his head, he chased his man down the court and made a big block making amends for his moment of lost concentration. That led to a Schoorman pull up jumper who had an excellent game with 10 points, 4 assists and 4 steals in 25 minutes while shooting a strong 67% from the field. The 16 year old had the best efficiency on his team with 17 something that surely was noticed by head coach Sebastian Gleim. After the RheinStars got three measly points off free throws from Kolo and Michel to cut the Frankfurt advantage to 61-47 and make the game somewhat interesting again, the Fraport Skyliners Juniors slammed the door shut on the RheinStars for good going on a 7-0 run to extend their lead to 68-47. In the run, Frankfurt got another huge trey form Hecker and then got added support from the Dunk duo of Schoorman and Clarance. Schoorman who compares his game to De’Aaron Fox jumped into a passing lane made the steal and was off to the races making a hard one handed dunk and Clarance followed with a beautiful floater that was text book like. The Rhein Stars did get some three point support down the stretch from Haymond and young German Christ Theodore, but it wasn´t enough. Frankfurt also got some baskets from Armin Trtovac with a offensive rebound and put back, reverse lay up from Freudenberg and a trey from Hecker closing out the game. “We were fresh and kept our energy going and made pressure for 40 minutes. They got a little tired, but we continued to paly our game”, warned Richard Freudenberg. “Their defensive pressure really hurt us. They are a deep team and had two good units. Even if their second unit it always score, but they did a good job from keeping our unit form not scoring. Their defensive intensity was strong no matter who was on the court”, stressed Tucker Haymond. The Fraport Skyliners Juniors were led by Elijah Clarance and Felix Hecker with 14 points apiece. Leon Kratzer added 11 points. The RheinStars were led by Yasin Kolo and Tucker Haymond with 11 points a piece. The Fraport Skyliners Juniors shot 41% from the field and 29% from outside and hauled down 50 rebounds and had 14 coughed up balls while the RheinStars shotb23% from the field and 30% from outside and hauled down 38 rebounds and had 20 coughed up balls.