Ever since the Fraport Skyliners then known as the Opel Skyliners won their last Beko BBL title in 2004, they have had a long championship dry spell as they are still searching for their third club title, but the way the 2000 cup winner is playing this season, that long drought could finally be stopped as quickly as Carolina Panther Cam Newton can escape the pocket from the right defensive end and squeeze through the line and get the first down. The Fraport Skyliners most likely will have the opportunity to win three competitions with the cup(2 games), Europe Cup(5games) and if they make a run in the playoffs a total of 9 games. But before one looks forward and dreams too much, the Fraport Skyliners get down to real title business this weekend in Munich and arrive as the hottest team riding a 13-1 hot streak that dates back to December 23, 2015 and oozing with so much self confidence that could even give Alba Berlin head coach Sasa Obradovic some jitters. Bamberg hasn´t lost in the Beko BBL in the time of the Frankfurt winning streak, but three times in Euroleague. The last loss in the Beko BBL was in Frankfurt so if the troops of Andrea Trinchieri reach the final against Frankfurt, there will be some serious revenge on the minds of a Brad Wanamaker and Darius Miller. The Fraport Skyliners will meet 9 time Beko BBL champion Alba Berlin in the second semi-final as FC Bayern Munich hosts 2015 Beko BBL champion Brose Baskets Bamberg in an afternoon affair Saturday. In the last 10 years Frankfurt have had some interesting tangles with Alba Berlin getting by them in the 2005 and 2010 semi-finals of the playoffs while bowing out to them in the 2011 semi-finals of the playoffs. The club also met in the 2009 semi-final of the cup in Hamburg and lost. For some reason, basketball fate doesn´t want to let these two teams battle in a title final yet.
The Fraport Skyliners have become the little darlings of the league this season as the club continues to make progress in the last two seasons. Last season the team reached the sixth position, but bowed out against FC Bayern Munich in the quarterfinals. Usually known for poor starts, the Fraport Skyliners didn´t start off the season with back to back loses like the season before, but found a healthy groove early despite having had injuries all throughout the season. The secret to the success of the Fraport Skyliners is head coach Gordon Herbert who is a scout master, has unending confidence in his players and always believed in his German players. Two days ago, the Fraport Skyliners celebrated another normal day at the office disposing of AEK Larnaca 83-60 in Europe Cup play rising their record to 13-0 in that competition. After the win, a drained and disappointed Brandon Bowman described why the Gordon Herbert scouting is so lethal. “They knew everything that we ran. They knew our defense and were well prepared”, stressed Brandon Bowman. It also didn´t hurt that the club held many players from last season upping their continuity and keeping team chemistry in tact and just having a bunch of players that really harmonize and like each other on and off the court has been an extra icing on the cake. The two biggest strengths on the court and staple is their consistent defense allowing 69 points in the Beko BBL and 66 points in Europe Cup which fuels their offense and unbelievable great ball movement where a player will forgo a good shot for a great shot. All this has given the team a 13 game winning streak earlier in the season and a 12 game winning streak as their self-confidence rises a tic more with every new win. The club is led by the big German three of Johannes Voigtmann, Danilo Barthel and Konstantin Klein. Barthel and Klein have been out for weeks, but that almost seemed unnoticed as the team continued to win. The club is also led by Canadian national player Aaron Doornekamp and franchise player Quantez Robertson. The two new pieces to the puzzle with Jordan Theodore and John Little have fit as perfectly into the rotation and new team chemistry as a wine glass can into a beer glass. You have complete opposites in terms of achievement, but as hungry as a famished lion as Little won the 2010 Eurochallenge with BG Goettingen and constant play appearances while Theodore played for losing teams in Turkey and France the last three years and this season just wants to win and continue to get better. Frankfurt have a thin and young bench, but all guys that play their heart out each night. Mike Morrison, Johannes Richter,Tomas Dimsa, Max Merz and Stefan Ilzhoefer are always ready to go. And not to forget the team´s secret weapon Philip Scrubb becoming less hidden and more known through his consistent stellar play. Described as the greatest Canadian college player ever came to Frankfurt after a short stay in Greece and right away has fit in and become a very important scoring and shooting threat while his overall play is still unnoticed. Herbert made a huge steal with Scrubb and could be the biggest steal since Dashaun Wood when all is said and done this season, Scrubb could very well be instrumental in the success that the Fraport Skyliners have.
Alba Berlin last won the Beko BBL league title in 2008, but the cup weekend could be a good omen for them as they have won two of the last three in 2013 and 2014 and lost last season to eventual champion EWE Baskets Oldenburg. Alba Berlin has had a tale of two seasons broken down to the Beko BBL and Euro Cup. In the Beko BBL they started out red hot winning their first 8 games blowing away their competition and registering big wins against ratiopharm ulm and FC Bayern Munich. However since then they are 6-6 as their skid started with a bitter 79-76 loss to Oldenburg which they should never have lost. The club has lost four of their last six games and are in a second half slump currently in sixth place, but the standings are so tight only one win less than second place FC Bayern Munich. A little side note, but the perfect million dollar question for game show “Who wants to be a millionaire for any non basketball fan would be how many times did Alba Berlin lose to the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg this season. Ludwigsburg head coach John Patrick will always say his biggest coaching achievement was winning the 2010 Eurochallenge, but beating Alba Berlin 4 times in a season has to rank up high on his list. In Euro Cup the club has had major success reaching the last 16 and after winning the Korac Cup in 1995 with then player Sasa Obradovic and reaching the Euro Cup final in 2010 have every chance to go far in this competition if they play focused for 40 minutes and can get around the compact and aggressive Frankfurt defense. Alba Berlin are a scoring team averaging 81 points in the Beko BBL and are a very good defensive team as they give up 72 points per contest. They are an athletic team that like to play quick and physical and out work their opponents. They are very well set at every position, but they haven´t been able to compensate the injuries as well as Frankfurt has. The club has been without German national player Nils Giffey for some months as his shooting and defense has been missing and also American Jordan Taylor. Since his injury, Alba Berlin has been in a slump in the Beko BBL as ex NBA player Will Cherry hasn´t been able to handle the total load at the guard position. Taylor however is fit again and came back earlier than expected and will be back at the side of Will Cherry in Munich. Besides Cherry and Taylor who serve up 23 points per game combined, the club is led by three Baltic players with Bosnian Elmedin Kikanovic, Serb Dragan Milosavljevic and Croatian Kresimir Loncar. The club has a very solid big man in Mitchell Watt and solid Germans with captain Alex King, defense specialist Akeem Vargas, big man Jonas Wolfarth-Bottermann and big German talent Ismet Akpinar that is currently celebrating his real break-through. The club brought in American Rob Lowery as insurance for the injured Taylor and has been an impact scoring 20 points in a win against MBC and 24 points in the Euro cup win against Neptunas.
The two clubs faced off once before this season as Alba Berlin left the living room of the Fraport Skyliners hammering home 95 points in their startled faces as they gave up only 82 points. It was one of those games where Frankfurt had to observe Alba Berlin hitting shots on a very consistent rate something they hadn´t seen too much up to that point. They also had the misfortune to have to encounter the best overall play of combo guards Joran Taylor and Will Cherry in the season as they combined for 41 points. It also didn´t hurt that big men Elmedin Kikanovic and Kresimir Loncar cleaned up down low winning the physicality battle. After the loss, ex Seton Hall guard Jordan Theodore explained why Frankfurt lost. “We couldn´t score at all at the start of the fourth quarter. We fought until the end as our spirt never dies. However we have to be able to pull together better down the stretch. We did a good job cutting down the lead to six points, but then they increased back to ten points and more. Their guards Taylor and Cherry hit tough shots and made plays. We just didn´t play defense the way we are accustomed to”, stressed New York native Jordan Theodore. This will be a very interesting game as a team on a high with the Fraport Skyliners meet a semi struggling team in the Beko BBL who lost at home to the rising s.Oliver Baskets Wurzburg a few days ago. The Fraport Skyliners won´t only remember the loss in Frankfurt, but also the game that then ended their 13 game losing streak. One could even go as far to say that the Fraport Skyliners go in as the favorite, but also have the luxury of having a type of underdog role. Alba Berlin haven´t defended badly in the last six Beko BBL games, but just not been cleverer enough in crunch time. Key to the win will be who is more physical inside. Frankfurt will have to step up down low and play a smart defensive game and get on transition as often as possible and beat Alba Berlin with their game. The duel of the day will be the two point guards with Theodore vs Cherry and Taylor. The two Alba Berlin guards very well might be the two best 1-2 punches in the Beko BBL and both know how to separate scoring and setting up teammates while Theodore has done a great job separating the two this season depending what his team needed and what the defense gave him. The Fraport Skyliners will reach the final if their ball movement is great instead of good and their X-factor Philip Scrubb can be the pride and joy of Canadian basketball on the court for the Fraport Skyliners. And not to forget the huge motivational factor that head coach Gordon Herbert has going against his ex team in a do or die setting and not to forget the second X-factor for Frankfurt the all so trusty scouting of the 1984 Olympian.