BiE’s editor headed to Frankfurt to catch a supposedly nothing game between Fraport Skyliners and medi Bayreuth on Sunday. It was 11th vs 15th, the atmosphere was like a playoff spot was at stake.
The stakes could hardly have been lower. Fraport Skyliners were all but eliminated from the playoffs and medi Bayreuth only faced a relegation threat in the mathematical sense. A few hundred miles away Bamberg and Bayern were going to duke it out in the battle for home court advantage but the fans in Frankfurt didn’t care for the bigger picture. They had one foe, one goal, help their team get the W by being as loud as humanly possible. No-one is going to confuse the Fraport Arena with the OAKA any time soon but when you head to a mid-table game, you don’t really expect this:
That 30 second sequence was the norm for the game. Bayreuth were attacking towards their own fans, away from the drums, and the Skyliners faithful are on their feet roaring. The offence comes up short and back comes the home side, followed by bedlam when they score. A couple of hours from then and across some water the Newcastle Eagles would seal the other BBL title in front of a few hundred souls. Soccer may be the ruling game in England and Germany but basketball has managed to draw from the obsessive nature of German fans in a way it can’t with the similarly devoted English.
There are lots of socio-economic arguments as to why several thousand Frankfurters headed to the edge of town last Sunday but I prefer to narrow it down to one: Quantez Robertson believes he is Superman. Robertson’s the classic guard who can look like he was the game even when he puts up a modest enough stat-line. With 8 points on 2 of 11 shooting, 3 assists, 5 steals, and 3 turnovers, Robertson wasn’t so much trying to do everything as much as to make everything possible. In the middle if the second quarter, Robertson went after a steal he had no right going for. He made it but started falling in the process, never short of ideas Robertson just slammed the ball as hard as be could and a somewhat bemused Jacob Burtschi stepped in to take the pass.
That sequence also highlighted why FC Bayern push such a hard pace in Euroleague. The standard in Bundesliga is lower but the pace is nuts. The play was often raw as sushi but the intense style is bound to deliver a steady supply of highlight reel plays per game. Robertson eventually got the ball back on that offence but came up short, only for Max Merz to immediately force a turnover and put Johannes Voigtmann in for the lay-up.
The stats, while not telling the whole story, never lie and the faults in this approach from a purists perspective were obvious. Too often Robertson went for the blind pass or the coast-to-coast drive. Where a conventional mind screamed caution, Robertson’s brain told him to go all the way. Not that it seemed like it was going to matter. At the half Skyliners led 39-31 and looked in much healthier shape offensively thanks to 15 first half points from Danilo Barthel. After the break they unloaded their secret weapon to limited effect.
That was the sight facing every Bayreuth player stepping up to the charity stripe, with the band right behind these young ladies making sure a shooter’s ears and eyes had plenty to put them off. Considering Bayreuth went 14 of 19 from the line while facing the cheerleaders, I’d say this game was a win for the statistically minded argument that distractions do little to deter free throw shooters.
Bayreuth’s offence was more balanced, with Kyle Weems on the outside complimenting the brute strength of Brian Qvale. Lots of guys look angry making dunks, many more look like they’ve got their toilet face one, Qvale’s was more of frustration at having to fill out tax returns. Still it worked and by the end of the third it was a one point game.
Barthel had fallen off a cliff but Ramon Galloway’s offence and Aziz N’Diaye’s sudden realisation that big men are meant to spend more time on their feet than kissing the court meant the home side looked likely to hang on. Bayreuth however had other intentions and after a tit-for-tat few minutes they shut down the up tempo Frankfurt offence. Skyliners were still running hard but they couldn’t land anything in the final few minutes. Once it became a two-possession game, the result looked inevitable yet the band played on.
6 points down with 14 on the clock? No problem let’s get louder. 8 down with 9 ticks remaining? More noise people! Not that the 100 or so Bayreuth fans were silent little lambs, they were going hard for the full 40 but they were on enemy territory and the home side’s support weren’t going to be silenced until the buzzer.
Check out all of our photos from Skyliners vs Bayreuth on Facebook.
Then it came and pop. The air went out of the arena. A few players went over to the fans before the call of “Danilo, Danilo” from one of the coaching staff hurried them back into the locker room. Bayreuth took the win 72-64 and shared the moment with those that made the trip.
But of course, this game didn’t really matter. Bayern would beat Bamberg, Wurzburg would lose at Oldenburg to ensure Bayreuth’s breathing room, and this stadium on the edge of Europe’s business capital fell silent. Until next Monday when the place will go mad again for the visit of Alba.