Winning against the New Yorker Phantoms Braunschweig in the last decade has come as easy for the Frankfurt Skyliners as it is for Hollywood actor George Clooney to decline marriage proposals, Blake Griffin dunking over Kendrick Perkins of the Oklahoma Thunder or New England Patriot Tequan Underwood carving the team logo into his head for the Super Bowl as the last time Frankfurt lost to Braunschweig was 71 months ago and 13 wins ago. The last time, Frankfurt had to creep back into their locker room defeated in their own living room, their opponent was called TXU Braunschweig, Phantoms shooting star point guard Dennis Schroeder was nine years old, the German version of American idol was still a few months from going on air, Jan Lipke was on the Braunschweig roster at age 19, Immanuel Mcelroy was playing for the Grand Rapids Hoops and the Boston Red Sox were still living in the curse of the Bambino as Braunschweig won 80-62, 112 months ago. In that win, the point guard was a little known American named Demond Mallet who had 20 points and the Skyliners were led by Andy Kwiatkowsky with 16 points. Braunschweig will have to wait another season to get that most desired win as they lost again failing 81-80 in OT losing their second consecutive game in the extra time. “It was an ugly win, but a win is a win. The Skyliners have had their number in this series for a while. They came back, but we got the win and can knock on wood for keeping the long winning streak intact”, stated Skyliner forward Jacob Burtschi. Before the game, Phantom sport director Oliver Braun was very composed and seemed almost a bit too confident in the chances of his club. “A series always has to end sometime. I remember I was playing in Greece the last time they won”, stressed Oliver Braun. “I don´t think much about history and what once was. This was a good win, even though it almost back fired for us”, expressed Skyliner captain Marius Nolte.
The Fraport Skyliners entered the Fraport arena riding on a two game losing streak and were looking for their third win in their own stomping ground. The team that had averaged 63 points in the 11 games prior to the last two loses, had given up an average 80 points in the last loss. After three quarters, it looked like they would reach their solid defensive average before their two game losing streak, but gave up 31 points in the fourth quarter and almost lost the game in OT to young germna talent Dennis Schroeder.
“We lost our composure in the fourth quarter and didn´t take good care of the ball. It felt like we wanted to wait until the clock expired. Braunschweig almost taught us a lesson today”, warned Jacob Burtschi. The New Yorker Phantoms Braunschweig already had injury woes the last weeks, but to lose two heart breaking games in OT in Bremerhaven and Frankfurt had their mood turned sour. They played their hearts out, but in the end the only thing that missed was a Schroeder lay up bouncing in for the win. “We showed a lot of character tonight. But all in all, we gave up too many turnovers, missed free throws and gave up that offensive rebound at the end. I give a lot of respect to the my players who fought back in the fourth quarter”, stressed Phantoms head coach Sebastian Machowski.
Before the jump ball commenced, there were as always some interesting observations to see on the court like the two German youngsters Daniel Theis and Danilo Barthel chatting at center court or Michale Umeh and Jacob Burtschi talking. “Me and Jake played in the same conference in college”, stressed Michael Umeh. Sky girl made it into the Fraport arena agin supporting Dunking Kong and Dennis Schroeder was playing with a jersey that read Schroede. The Fraport Sklyiners were without Justin Gray and Jermareo Davidson while The New Yorker Phantoms Braunschweig were without Stephen Dennis and Lamarr Greer who didn´t make the trip to Frankfurt. Rich Melzer wasn´t 100% and only saw limited duty. When the game did start, 4,950 people were in the arena as Frankfurt fans quickly saw first hand how dangerous new point guard Igor Milosevic could be as he found ex Wake Forest center Kyle Visser for two quick hoops including a beautiful behind the back pass that Larry Bird couldn´t have perfected better. Milosevic has played for top Euroleague Teams Rytas Vilnius and Olympiakus Piraus and showed how active he was with the ball. “Milosevic likes to pass first, but if he has the option then he will finish himself. He learned his basketball from the Jugoslavian school of basketball”, stressed Oliver Braun. “Igor isn’t 100 integrated into the team yet. But one could see what he can do tonight. As soon as his fitness gets better and knows his teammates more on the court, then he will be a big help for us”, stated Sebastian Machowski. The Fraport Skyliners quickly took the lead 5-4 as Jimmy MCkinney hit a jumper and Michael Thompson hit a three pointer. Frankfurt held the lead due in thanks to a strong Tim Ohlbrecht who was coming off a solid performance in Ludwigsburg and scored back to back buckets as Frankfurt led 11-8. Frankfurt was hitting their shots from all over as Thompson, Quantez Robertson and Mckinney connected giving Frankfurt the 18-12 lead. It looked as if Frankfurt might add to the lead, but Braunschweig closed out the first quarter with a 5-0 run as Serb Branko Jorovic hit an open three pointer off great ball movement and then dropped a fade away jumper as the Fraport Skyliners led 18-17. “Frankfurt was very aggressive in the first quarter. Tim Ohlbrecht got going and my brother hit some big shots. Frankfurt slacked a bit on defensive at the end”, stated Michael Thompson brother Navarro Thompson. The Fraport Skyliners were shooting 50% from the field and 40% from outside while the New Yorker Phantoms Braunschweig were shooting 50% from the field and 20% from outside. Frankfurt had the 7-6 rebound edge and two turnovers while Braunschweig had three turnovers.
In the second quarter, The Fraport Skyliners started off hot going on a 9-0 run to lead 27-17. Jacob Burtschi tested out his 25% three point percentage by nailing a shot from downtown while Ohlbrecht continued to be hot hitting a left handed hook shot and making a dunk as he was fed perfectly from Burtschi. Burtschi was also playing heads up defense drawing two charges resulting in Braunschweig offensive fouls. Mid way through the second quarter, Frankfurt lost a little concentration, but didn´t lose ground as the Phantoms couldn´t score on offense. After Visser made one free throw, Frankfurt recovered from their lapse on offense as Marius Nolte scored and Jacob Burtschi scored on the fast break as Frankfurt led 32-21. Braunschweig was lacking calmness on offense, but in the stretch run of the second quarter found their rhythm getting back into the game going on a 9-4 run to trail only 36-30. Mcelroy started the run with a big three pointer something he has improved in the last years and Jorovic scored in bunches again hitting a three pointer as Schroeder set him up with a crisp swing out pass and the Serb then hit a fade away shot as Frankfurt led 32-26. Schroeder then showed his first brilliance of the game setting up 221cm big man Nick Schneiders with an ally-op dunk. Mcelroy and Thompson traded buckets at the end as Frankfurt led 38-30 at the break. “Frankfurt had good start with Ohlbrecht making his shots. They let them back in the game, but did a great job only having three turnovers”, stated Navarro Thomspson. The Fraport Skyliners were shooting 45% from the field and 30% from the three point line while the New Yorker Phantoms Braunschweig were shooting 44% from the field and 30% from the three point line. The rebound duel was dead locked at 15-15, but Braunschweig had eight turnovers while Frankfurt had only three turnovers.
The third quarter was the tale of two runs that brought the New Yorker Phantoms back into the game as quickly as getting them way out of the game again. Braunschweig went on a 10-5 run to cut the Frankfurt lead to only to 41-40. In the Phantoms run, it was Milosevic that scored the first six points getting to the free throw line, showing a nice touch from outside and scoring inside as the total point guard package was evident to see. Umeh hit a runner and Visser made a crashing dunk as he was fed from Jorovic with the extra pass. Frankfurt led only 41-40 and it seemed like the game could turn, but instead of the Phantoms scaring away the Skyliners with their potent basketball, it seemed like they bought entrance to witness a offensive clinic by the Skyliners as they showed just how dangerous a 12th place team can be as they rolled over their opponent on a 20-1 run to lead 61-41 after three quarter. Everything that could go right for the Fraport Skyliners was going right as Braunschweig seemed shy on offense not getting into a flow while Frankfurt stepped up their defense. On offense, the Fraport Skyliners weregetting contribution from many different faces and getting to the free throw line since Braunschweig was over the team foul limit. Ohlbrecht scored inside as did Thompson and Robertson as Frankfurt led 50-41. Gibson also got onto the board scoring inside and getting free throws and German national player Johannes Herber hit a big three pointer. “We played unbelievable defense, holding them to one shot or too very bad shots and forced many turnovers”, stated Jacob Burtschi. The Fraport Skyliners were shooting 47% from the field and 33% from the parking lot while The New Yorker Phantoms were shooting 42% from the field and 27% from the parking lot. Frakfurt had the 25-20 rebound edge and only seven turnovers while Braunschweig had 14 turnovers.
In the fourth quarter, the New Yorker Phantoms Braunschweig still had some energy and fight in their bodies as they would make a huge come back. They quickly jumped on a 6-0 run as Robert Kulawick who is known for his unorthodox, but quick release hit a three pointer while Visser scored inside. Schroeder penetrated to the hoop, but found the better positioned Visser as the German showed his enormous high basketball IQ for his 18 years of age. Braunschweig kept chipping away at the Frankfurt lead as Visser hit a difficult left handed hook shot and 5 time German title holder Mcelroy scored inside as Braunschweig trailed only 65-52. Frankfurt was getting many unnecessary turnovers and Braunschweig continuing to hit their shots. After another Kulawick three pointer, Frankfurt led only 65-55 as the Phantoms had cruised out on a 14-4 run. Frankfurt them finally got back on the board as German Danilo Barthel hit a reverse lay up and Devin Gibson hit free throws as Frankfurt led 68-55. However Braunschweig still didn´t give up going on a 7-0 run to trail only 68-62 as Phantoms captain hit a in your face Three pointer of Ohlbrecht, Milosevic scoring inside and Umeh hitting a jumper. It seemed like Frankfurt wasn´t intelligent enough to win as they kept allowing Braunschweig get closer and closer as Mcelroy and Umeh got to the free throw line and Milosevic scored inside again as Frankfurt suddenly only led 69-68. Now it was time for the big moment of Dennis Schroeder. He made a big lay up cutting the Frankfurt lead to 69-68 with a minute to go. Thompson then made a floater as Frankfurt led 71-68. Schroeder then took command of the Phantoms offense scoring in the lane again as Frankfurt led 71-70. Thompson then drew a foul, but made only one of two free throws as Frankfurt led 72-70. Braunschweig then had one last chance as Schroeder scored again inside to tie the game at 72-72. He could of won the game, but missed a free throw. Braunschweig stole the ball and could of won the game, but the shot of Rick Melzer stayed glued between the rim and back board sending the game into overtime. “Coach told me to take responsibility. That is something a point guard needs to do. I wasn´t afraid”, added Dennis Schroeder. “We put more pressure on the ball and forced Frankfurt out of their comfort zone. Schroeder made the big plays”, stressed Michael Umeh.
In the overtime period, Jimmy Mckinney quickly took responsibility by making his first shot and getting to the free throw line as Frankfurt led 76-73. However, after a brutal OT loss in Bremerhaven last weekend, it seemed like the Phantoms weren´t going to do the same mistake by letting the opponent decide the game quickly as ex Giessen 46er Umeh hit a clutch three pointer to tie the game at 76-76. Mckinney and Schroeder then traded free throws as the game was dead locked at 78-78. It seemed like there was a love relationship with Schroeder and the basketball as he played like no one was in the arena and made another clutch play scoring around Nolte like abolt of lightening as Braunschweig led 80-79. However one player seemed to be a little more in love with the basketball as Mckinney sealed the win with a huge clutch tip in off the second free throw of Nolte as the Skyliners pulled out the win 81-80. Schroeder had one last try, but didn´t get a Phantom bounce on his layup in traffic. Mckinney was his usually slick and suave after the game talking about his winning shot. “At first I wasn´t going to go up for the rebound, but I sensed that he was relaxed so I got the tip in and am so happy it went in. It is every players dream to be the clutch man in OT. I always want the ball. It either goes in or it doesn´t”, stated Jimmy Mckinney. “I have a lot of respect for Jimmy. He had hurt his hand on that missed dunk and sat a lot in the second half. But he had the will to come into the game and help win the game”, said Jacob Burtschi. “Jimmy is a leader and I told him in OT to be aggressive and he was”, commented Marius Nolte. Despite the win by Frankfurt, a new German basketball star was born tonight with Dennis Schroeder who finished with 12 points, three rebounds and three assists in 22 minutes. “Schroeder played great. It was unlucky that the last shot didn´t go in, but he made great decisions”, stressed Sebastain Machsowski.”I was really impressed by the composure of the youngster in this setting. He has a great ability getting to the rim. He has a lot of potential to become a big player”, warned Jacob Burtschi.
The Fraport Skyliners were led by Michael Thompson with 16 points. Tim Ohlbrecht produced 15 points and 11 rebounds. Jimmy Mckinney added 13 points and Devin Gibson chipped in with 11 points. The New Yorker Phantoms Braunschweig were led by Kyle Visser with 14 points and six rebounds. Igor Milosevic had 13 points. Branko Jorovic and Dennis Schroeder contributed 12 points a piece and Immanuel Mcelroy chipped in with 11 points, eight rebounds and three assists. Sometimes a win comes down to very small things. The New Yorker Phantoms Braunschweig shot better from the field and from outside while the Fraport Skyliners won the rebound battle 39-36 and both teams had 19 turnovers a piece. However one thing is for sure, Muli Katzurin will his team the fourth quarter again, because this was a game the team should never have let the opponent get back into. “We made this game too exciting. We have to close out games better. We played three quarters well, but we will have to analyze the fourth quarter again”, warned Marius Nolte. A win like this can be important when the Skyliners face another game where the game is tight. “We stayed mentally tough and were able to pull out the win in OT”, stressed Jimmy Mckinney. For the New Yorker Phantoms Braunschweig, losing two games in a row in OT is bitter, but they will get out of this rut. “We have had bad luck. We have too many up and down phases in games. We are much better than this”, warned Igor Milosevic. The Fraport Skyliners get back to work again on February 15th in Bremerhaven.