Antonio Graves Has Ice In His Veins Powering The Fraport Skyliners Past The MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg With Buzzer Beater 65-63

It seems like it was yesterday, but the last time that MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg head coach John Patrick departed the Fraport arena with a victory was almost three years ago as the last two times, he had to witness a 13 point creaming and last season a tough four point loss. But going back to that 90-78 win almost three years ago, it seemed like that game was going to be one that would forever be remembered as a new star  being born on to the BBL stage with Kevin Bright. Despite the Frankfurt loss, he dropped 23 points netting six three pointers which in a way was overshadowed by the Keaton Grant and CJ Harris sniper attack combining for 48 points. Despite having a brilliant game, the German who had just returned back to Germany after having completed only his freshman year at Vanderbilt(NCAA) where he still led the team in rebounding, the Bright Ludwigsburg masterpiece would remain one of two as the other occurred at the end of the season as he dropped 23 points and seven trey´s in a road win at Vechta where he won the game with a buzzer beater as Kevin the light is Bright. Bright would play for Frankfurt for two seasons before moving on to Nurnberg where he played in the Pro A last season. Three years later only two players remained on the Frankfurt roster from that game with Quantez Robertson and Max Merz. Merz is one of the rare Frankfurt German role players that has carved his special own kind of niche with the 2016 Fiba Europe Cup winner as he  currently has the greatest longevity on the team as he has been with the team since 2011 and has outlived many of the other German players who have come and gone. After the game, both Max Merz and John Patrick were asked about that Kevin Bright performance almost three years ago. Patrick made it more than clear after the Antonio Graves 65-63 buzzer beating win, that since Gordon Herbert has been on board as coach, he has always had very tight affairs against the Fraport Skyliners. “There was a buzzer beater in Wurzburg by Frankfurt and three years ago the buzzer beater by CJ Harris to send the game here into OT. I have had most games in Frankfurt that have been decided in the last 30 seconds”, stated John Patrick. After the victory, Max Merz was stretching and was between captain Quantez Robertson and game top scorer Shavon Shields and was just thankful for getting another opportunity to start, but also reflected on some old time history against Ludwigsburg. “I don´t remember that game against Ludwigsburg that much from three years ago, but remember more that Kevin Bright was shooting out the lights. I remember more the game four years ago when we were battling Ludwigsburg on the last game day to remain in the league. I had the advantage today  that we had some injuries, but I always try to give the team energy every minute I play”, stressed Max Merz. After the big win, game hero Antonio Graves was surrounded by the Frankfurt press and was just thankful that the team was able to rebound after their lousy first quarter. “I have to give the team credit that we stuck together. We should have been down 30 at halftime, but we had this confidence to come back. Shavon Shields carried us in many moments and I am grateful that it came down to that last shot where it meant either the win or OT”, warned ex Artland Dragon Antonio Graves. After the heartbreaking loss Ludwigsburg head coach John Patrick stayed diplomatic as best he could. “You can look at this loss in two ways. We could of done things differently after the big lead running or plays differently and playing team basketball or you can say that Frankfurt deserved to win. Frankfurt played very well scratching and clawing their way back and never giving up”, stated John Patrick.

Two noticeable things to start the game was that John Patrick looked extremely dapper in his standard black suit and yellow tie and his top player Alex Ruoff wasn´t on the floor. Where was Alex Rouff? Coming as the sixth man from the bench? Wait a minute did he fall asleep in the locker room? He wasn´t on the bench either. Half way through the game, the MHP Riesen released a statement that he and the club had come to terms to terminate the contract. After the loss, a somewhat baffled Patrick gave a short statement to what had happened. “Alex  wasn´t comfortable in his role and I respect that”, added John Patrick. Frankfurt also released a press statement in the first quarter with the arrival of new point guard Kwame Vaughn who will run the show on Sunday against ratiopharm Ulm. When the game started the Fraport Skyliners had Max Merz and Stefan Ilzhoefer in the starting lineup, but quickly fell behind as their two big man German Johannes Thiemann nailed free throws and ex Montana(NCAA) player Martin Breunig made a lay in for the quick 4-0 advantage. Ludwigsburg continued to want to establish their postgame banging the ball inside as ex Bamberg center Thiemann scored in bunches, but ex Auburn (NCAA) standout Robertson made a trey and offensive rebound and put back as Ludwigsburg led 8-5. Ludwigsburg continued to keep their offensive rhythm going on a 6-0 run to extend their lead to 14-5 as ex Wichita St. (NCAA) guard Tekele Cotton made a pull up jumper and coast to coast lay in and ex NBA player Jack Cooley drained a 20 footer. Fraport Skyliner rookie Shavon Shields was the only real bright spot as he made a three pointer to halt the Ludwigsburg run, but the guests then kept on steam rolling by Frankfurt ending the first quarter with an overpowering 14-5 run to lead 28-13. In the run, Ludwigsburg got valuable versatility as four guys scored. Cooley made a pretty old school hook shot over Mahir Agva and free throws, Dennis Schroeder buddy Bazu Kone made a runner, ex MLP Academics Heidelberg forward Kelvin Martin made a hammering two hand dunk past Niklas KIel and ex N.Mexico (NCAA) swing man Chad Toppert displayed his bread and butter with his trey nailing two including one on the last shot of the quarter. s.Oliver Wurzburg assistant coach Stephan Voelkl was on hand scouting the game as his team play Frankfurt next week and commented on the first quarter. “Ludwigsbug was dominating Frankfurt with their press play and took advantage of it getting easy baskets”, stressed Stephan Voelkl. The MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg were shooting 85% from the field and 100% from outside while the Fraport Skyliners were shooting 24% from the field and 25% from outside. Ludwigsburg had the 8-7 rebound edge and one turnover while Frankfurt had two turnovers.

In the second quarter, the Fraport Skyliners were able to step up their defense, but their offense was still faulty in that they were unable to make much ground as Ludwigsburg could still waltz into halftime with a comfortable lead. The MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg offense got into a serious rut as they were unable to get a bucket in the first 5 minutes as Frankfurt stopped their first six possession. In this phase, Frankfurt did rattle off eight points cutting the Ludwigsburg lead to 28-21, but it could have been even a slimmer lead had Frankfurt not missed a few free throws. In the run, the club got good production from Niklas Kiel and a trey from co captain Max Merz. The only negative point in this run was that Niklas Kiel hurt himself and had to exit the game and never returned. Ludwigsburg then finally got on the board going on a 6-2 run as ex Utah Jazz center Jack Cooley made a put back and then executed the pick and roll perfectly with ex Hamburg Tower Bazu Kone who then proceeded to go coast to coast with a lay in while Shields continued to carry Frankfurt with a finger tip roll lay in, but Ludwigsburg led 35-23. Down the stretch, both teams executed ok as Cooley continued to be an annoying menace inside while Frankfurt got a sweet three from Shields and Merz took Frankfurt into the break with a floater. “Frankfurt played more aggressive defense and Ludwigsburg was unable to hit open shots. Frankfurt played with more self confidence helping them get back into the game”, added Stephan Voelkl. The MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg were shooting 56% from the field and 57% from the three point line while the Fraport Skyliners were shooting 31% from the field and 33% from the three point line. Both teams had 17 rebounds a piece while Frankfurt had six turnovers and Ludwigsburg had three turnovers.

In the third quarter, the Fraport Skyliner continued to claw their way back closer and closer as their defense continued to give the MHP Riesen Ludwigbsurg night mares as they trailed only by two points after 30 minutes. In the first few minutes, both teams were able to execute well as Frankfurt couldn´t make much ground on Ludwigsburg. Merz and Toppert exchanged three pointers and Shields and Thiemann traded lay ins, but Ludwigsburg still led 47-37. Then at the 6.42 minute mark came an important turning point as Frankfurt head coach Klaus Perwas inserted 16 year old rare diamond Isaac Bonga who would play 15 straight minutes. He may have only scored three points, but his defense was instrumental for Frankfurt keeping their intensity and aggressiveness up to par. “Bonga was huge. He had an important tap in and he played great defense. His 203cm frame disrupted our guard play”, added John Patrick. The Fraport Skyliners kept their defensive pressure alive and closed out the third quarter strong with a 13-5 run to trail only 52-50. Graves was vital at the start scoring in bunches and six unanswered points as he was always in attack mode scoring with a lay in and draining a trey to cut the Ludwigsburg lead to 47-43. Thiemann continued to be a beast inside getting a put back as Cotton also scored, but Frankfurt countered with a Shields three pointer and Bonga tap in as Ludwigsburg led 51-48. Bonga and Merz made free throws in the last minute to cut the Ludwigsburg lead down to 52-50. “Shields carried Frankfurt. He did a good job exploiting the mismatches and we did get frustrated with his play. He is a good player”, stated 2010 Eurochallenge winner Jason Boone. The MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg were shooting 43% from the field and 43% from the parking lot while the Fraport Skyliners were shooing 38% from the field and 46% from the parking lot. Frankfurt had the 27-23 rebound edge, but 15 turnovers while Ludwigsburg had nine turnovers.

The fourth quarter was as tight as a Christmas present that was personally wrapped by Santa Claus as the Fraport Skyliners continued to demonstrate the ultimate team spirit and fighting mentality while it seemed to be only a question of time when they would earn their first lead of the game. That lead had to wait until the latter part of the fourth quarter as they hardly had their nose ahead of Frankfurt as Cooley kept Ludwigsburg ahead with an offensive rebound and put back, but Frankfurt answered with a Graves lay in and Shields powering two hand dunk as Florida native Mike Morrison supplied a rare dime as Frankfurt trailed only 56-54. After a Ludwigsburg turnover, the work horse Shields tied up the game at 56-56 with a runner off the glass. Thiemann and Shields traded free throws as the game remained tied at 58-58. Morrison has never been known as a pure free throw shooter as he came in to the contest shooting 52%, but when it counted most, he came up big nailing both free throws giving the Fraport Skyliners their first lead of the game at 60-58. But that was short lived as sniper Toppert scored form downtown giving Ludwigsburg the 61-60 advantage. Shields erased that lead with a 20 footer giving Frankfurt the 62-61 lead. “Shields played very well. He took it to us scoring the three, two and drawing fouls. He carried Frankfurt”, stressed John Patrick. Ex Wofford (NCAA) guard Brad Loesing then made a difficult clutch shot falling to his left while connecting off the glass in the paint as Ludwigsburg led again 63-62. Shields then tied the game at 63-63 with a free throw. After Kone coughed up the ball, it was time for Antonio Graves to enter the stage. Frankfurt had the last play and for some reason every single human being in the Fraport arena knew that the Ohio native Graves would get the ball. “I just wanted to make a play. I live for these type of moments. For me it was redemption time. There was no doubt that I would take the shot. I believed in myself and accepted the challenge. This buzzer beater was sweeter than the Artland one. In Ohio we would call this shot ice in the veins”, smiled Antonio Graves. “We knew Graves would get the shot. We had watched the Alba Berlin game and knew what he was capable of. We had him in check in the first half, but he still had a lot of confidence from the Alba Berlin game. We missed a hedge and he dribbled left and hit a pull up jumper. That is why he gets a pay check”, added New York native Jason Boone. Fraport Skyliner captain Quantez Robertson has confidence in every player on his team, but was extra sure that Graves would make it. “Antonio had ice in his veins. He always practices that shot in warmups. That is his shot. He is one of our best shooters off the dribble. I knew it would go”, smiled Quantez Robertson. The Fraport Skylines were led by Shavon shields with 26 points and seven boards. Antonio Graves added 15 points. The MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg were led by Jack Cooley with 17 points and five rebounds. Johannes Thiemann and Chad Toppert chipped in with 12 points a piece. The Fraport Skyliners shot 40% from the field and 40% from outside while the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg shot 39% from the field and 29% from outside. Frankfurt won the rebound battle 34-33, but they coughed up the ball 19 times while Ludwigsburg only had 14 turnovers.

 

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