Many Boston Celtic fans will remember the date May 22nd 1988 probably not as much as February 5th, 2017 like New England Patriots fans, but for AJ English senior who had finished his sophomore season at Virginia Union might have caught the legendary playoff game between the Boston Celtics and Atlanta Hawks where Boston won 118-116. Fans witnessed the fourth quarter sniper attack between legends Larry Bird and Dominque Wilkins who combined for 34 points. It was a display of scoring magic and abilities that would never be repeated again between two players in such an important setting, but amazing individual scoring masterpieces have been on the menu currently in the NBA as Isaiah Thomas can soon warrant a patent on fourth quarter magic while guys like Lebron James and Steph Curry do it on a regular basis. These feats do happen in European basketball, but not as frequently, but last weekend it happened in Munich as AJ English´s potent scoring was lost in the aftermath of an embarrassing 95-70 Fraport Skyliners loss. English eclipsed the 20 points of Bird form 1988 and scored all of his teams 22 points in the fourth quarter like a slithering snake waiting to bite every time he got the ball and the only thing missing was having an opponent who also shot out the lights on a regular basis like he did. This shooting performance probably won´t be remembered very long simply because it wasn´t a close game, but English surely won´t forget that he got his first loss in a Fraport Skyliners jersey as he had been perfect 8-0 going into the contest. However, English was able to go into the Champions League playoffs against Pinar Karsiyaka with confidence as he was still perfect in this competition at 4-0 and had scored in double figures in each game averaging 17,3ppg, 4,0rpg and 2,5apg. English was looking to have his slithering snake instincts again for the basket and stayed perfect in the competition and scored in double figures again with 10 points, but this night belonged to a player that isn´t known for his scoring power, but Mike Morrison exploded owning the paint and scored a career high 35 points eclipsing his two other best marks of 28 points in Finland and Cyprus leading the Fraport Skyliners to an important 90-80 win over Pinar Karsiyaka. The big man always plays with a lot of energy, but on this night, he was a man playing against boys in the paint as it was his own domain. After the big win, Morrison was surrounded by a swarm of journalists, but the big man from St Petersburg, Florida handled the hoopla with grace and as always had an eloquent tongue while describing his unexpected burst of scoring. “My teammates did a good job on the pick and roll finding me a lot. I am focused on being consistent and not getting caught up with the highs and the lows”, smiled ex George Mason center Mike Morrison. Morrison finished with 35 points, seven rebounds, three assists and shot at a very high rate at 88% going 15/17. For his teammates of many years like Quantez Robertson, having a big game like this wasn´t surprising. “Mike had a very good week of practice and he is always very motivated to play. Tonight we got him going early and it carried all the way until the end. He got some easy put back dunks and moved well on the blocks to get into good position to score”, added ex Auburn guard Quantez Robertson. For new Skyliner scoring sensation from Iona AJ English seeing the big man own the paint all night long also wasn´t surprising as he has seen in a short time what he can do on the floor. “Mike is more than capable to have nights like this. I think that they were focusing more on our guards, so coach told us to go inside to Mike more. I think that he belongs in the NBA”, smiled AJ English. Even his ex teammates were thinking about him and had to get their two cents worth of jokes in. “Mike was a beast tonight. Aaron Doornekamp called me two minutes after the game was over and asked me if Mike Morrison´s stats were correct”, added Fraport Skyliners head coach Gordon Herbert.
The Fraport Skyliners will return back to Turkey in two weeks and try to wrap up the playoffs series not allowing Pinar Karsiyaka of scoring more than ten points. The Fraport Skyliners played a solid first half, but had their problems with keeping the Turkish team under wraps as they were able to get too many easy baskets and bitter turnovers also didn´t help their game. However in the second half, they picked up their defense and got more support on the offensive end keeping up their consistency despite Pinar Karsiyaka getting a potent effort from American guard J´ Covan Brown dropping 29 points.
Ex Fraport Skyliner Jordan Theodore may have gone to Seton Hall just down the street from Iona where AJ English went, but both players speak the same language and both use a term in Frankfurt that continues to live on. “The key to the win was playing defense, getting the key rebounds and just playing Skyliner basketball”, added AJ English. Every time the Fraport Skyliners won last year, Theodore would utter the phrase Skyliner basketball at least once after a win. Pinar Karsiyaka played a superb first round in the competition having a 9-3 record and came into the playoffs as the slight favorite and at the break looked like they had good chances to win, but in the second half, they were unable to keep the Frankfurt offense under wraps and couldn´t execute in explosive style in crunch time to make the game more exciting. “Frankfurt played well and they are very well coached and very disciplined. We were in control in the first half, but had our lapses in the second half. However this series has 80 minutes and we will go back and review the game and come back in two weeks at home”, stressed 28 year old ex Stanford (NCAA) forward Josh Owens. “Both teams played very hard and we gave it our all, but they still scored 80 points, but we also played very well offensively”, added Mike Morrison.
The Fraport Skyliner arena was unexpectedly very loud at an international club game as hundreds of Turkish fans were in the stands supporting their team as it is always amazing to witness just how big that community is in Frankfurt. The Fraport Skyliners didn´t get irritated by the Turkish support and sped off to a lightening start leading 10-2 in the first few minutes. Mike Morrison got on fire quickly scoring eight of Frankfurt´s 10 points making a left handed hook shot, two handed throw down and two tip in dunks. Frankfurt´s zone was causing turmoil for the opponents offense and their strong defense led to easy buckets. However it is only a matter of time before a scoring machine like Pinar Karsiyaka get going as they rebounded going on a 11-4 run to suddenly be trailing Frankfurt only 14-13. In the run, the Turkish side got important support from their Americans as Owens made a lay up, ex Texas (NCAA) guard Brown made a sweet fade away and ex NBA player Dajuan Summers used his rugged body to score easily in traffic. Both teams would battle back and forth until the end of the first quarter, but Frankfurt would have the slight 21-20 lead. Frankfurt got key buckets from English who dropped a trey and made a floater while Morrison finished with 10 points. It would have been difficult to pick which Morrison basket in the first quarter was more prettier as each could have been a winner on ESPN, but his last one might have won as he made a powering alley-oop suff as English made a beautiful flick up to the rim. “It was a great quarter for Morrison. He is a great player. His teammates found him many times and he was always in the right spot”, stressed Fraport Skyliner young German giant Daniel Mayr. The Fraport Skyliners were shooting 53% from the field and 33% from outside while Pinar Karsiyaka was shooting 70% from the field and 100% from outside. Frankfurt had the 8-4 rebound edge and had five turnovers while Pinar Karsiyaka had six turnovers.
The second quarter was a quarter of runs, but Pinar Karsiyaka were able to get into halftime better having the 41-36 advantage after 20 minutes. The Turkish squad came out roaring in the second quarter going on a quick 6-0 run to lead 26-21. In the run, it was Josh Owens who scored three consecutive times as he controlled the offensive glasses making two put backs and making a hard dunk on the pick and roll pass from Brown. Frankfurt came back going on a 7-0 run to grab back the lead 28-26 as Morrison was back to his old self staying aggressive and putting everything away that was near the rim connecting twice and ex Nebraska forward Shavon Shields who had been more of a distributor than finisher up to that point displayed his top one on one skills blowing by the Turkish defense and making an easy lay in. Then there would be three lead changes as Brown nailed a three pointer, Morrison made a difficult tip in after getting a tough pass from English and Owens made a tip in as Frankfurt trailed 31-30. Pinar Karsiyaka would hold the lead until halftime as Brown was a one man wrecking crew scoring eight of their last ten points. He drilled home two three´s and also used his extreme quickness getting to the hole in Dashaun Wood manner back in the day when he was the BBL´s MVP in 2011 with Frankfurt. Frankfurt got production from Shields connecting from the free throw line and making a fade away jumper while English hit a three. Owens closed out the second quarter with a dunk. “We didn´t defend badly. They hit many contested shots and there isn´t too much that you can do when that happens. We let Josh Owens get too many offensive rebounds and put backs”, added ex Science City Jena center Daniel Mayr. The Fraport Skyliners were shooting 48% from the field and 29% from the three point line while Pinar Karsiyaka was shooting 55% from the field and 63% from the three point line. Frankfurt had the 17-14 rebound advantage, but nine turnovers while the guests had eight turnovers.
In the third quarter came the turning point as the Fraport Skyliners achieved a devastating 14-0 run which carved the way for the club being able to take the needed self confidence and close out the game strong. Shields and ex Butler (NCAA) guard Mike Green traded baskets in the first minute of the third quarter. Then it was time for Morrison to get back to work and score in bunches as one was prettier than the next. On the first basket, Shields led the fast break found Quantez Robertson on the wing and he lofted up the pass to Morrison who could of reserved a bed on the rim on this night making the hard dunk. On the next play he hit a difficult turn around 15 foot bank shot that would of even had ex Boston Celtic legend Kevin Mchale giving a wink to the Florida native as Frankfurt trailed 43-42. Brown then drove baseline and snuck under the hoop kicking out to Green who dropped a trey giving the Turkish squad the 48-42 lead. Then came the turning point of the game as the Fraport Skyliners exploded out on a 14-0 run to take control of the game leading 58-48. In the run, Frankfurt got valuable support from many players as Morrison made a left handed hook shot, Shields scored inside, young German talent Niklas Kiel got a back door pass from Vaughn for the easy lay up and Vaughn also nailed a trey and made a 25 footer crossing over his man and hitting. Frankfurt closed out the third quarter leading 63-54 as Robertson scored inside and Vaughn made a jumper. Vaughn overall was very instrumental in Frankfurt´s turn around and keeping their rhythm on offense and just doing what a floor general should running the offense to near perfection. “We executed a lot better in the third quarter even though we knew that they would be hard to stop if they got going”, added Mike Morrison. “We came out flat. Frankfurt was running pick and roll well and Morrison had a heck of a game”, said Josh Owens. “We wanted to focus on locking down Brown, but he did a good job making shots”, added AJ English. The Fraport Skyliners were shooting 52% from the field and 33% from the parking lot while Pinar Karsiyaka shot 50% from the field and 33% from the parking lot. Frankfurt had the 27-20 rebound edge and 10 turnovers while the guests had 11 turnovers.
In the fourth quarter, the Fraport Skyliners kept their cool continuing to execute well while they did a good job keeping Pinar Karsiyaka at a distance where they were unable to truly threaten Frankfurt. After both teams traded baskets, German captain Max Merz lost the handle and ex Detroit Piston Dajaun Summers retrieved the ball and went coast to coast for the hard dunk cutting the Frankfurt lead to 65-58. Merz didn´t hang his head or mope around, but wasted no time striking back and doing something very unlikely as he scored in bunches making a pretty lay in and then finishing off a fast break play with a nifty floater as Frankfurt led 69-58. Morrison continued to be involved cleaning up the paint area as he scored on a lay-up and finished a dunk, but Frankfurt couldn´t totally run away with the lead as Brown continued to be a thorn in the side of Frankfurt getting to the line and scoring easily inside. Summers nailed a trey and Pinar Karsiyaka continued to be in striking distance trailing only 74-67. However the fine oiled Frankfurt offense continued to operate and score at ease as Morrison drained free throws, Shields did his typical fakes getting opponents in the air and then having an open look for a mid-distance jumper and Robertson nailed a tough contested trey from the corner as Pinar Karsiyaka continued not to be able to make any ground trailing 81-69. Frankfurt got free throws from Shields and Vaughn and another hard dunk from Morrison, but Pinar Karsiyaka threatened one more time as Brown crowned his 29 point evening with back to back three´s to cut the Frankfurt lead to 87-80. However the Turkish squad missed on their last three possessions to carve down the Frankfurt lead to help their chances in the return game, but couldn´t execute and Vaughn put a final exclamation point in the score nailing a trey to give Frankfurt the well deserved 90-80 win. “We continued to be aggressive and play our basketball. We played to win”, warned AJ English. “Frankfurt gained the momentum and confidence in the third quarter. We were on our heels and were trying to close the gap. The difference was that we missed some open shots while they hit shots down the stretch”, warned Josh Owens. The Fraport Skyliners were led by Mike Morrison with 35 points. Kwame Vaughn added 18 points and six assists. Shavon Shields contributed 14 points,seven boards and six assists and AJ English ahd 10 points and six assists. Pinar Karsiyaka were led by J´Covan Brown with 29 points. Josh Owens added 15 points. Muhammed Baygul added 12 points and Dajuan Summers had 10 points. The Fraport Skyliners shot 54% from the field and 33% from outside while Pinar Karsiyaka shot 51% from the field and 38% from outside. Frankfurt won the rebound duel 35-24 and both teams had 13 turnovers apiece.