Skyliners through to Top 16 in a thriller!
Fraport Frankfort Skyliners celebrated their 7DAYS EuroCup debut by qualifying for the Top 16 early thanks to a thrilling 65-63 comeback home win over Rytas Vilnius on Wednesday in Group D. Skyliners upped their record to 6-3 and held onto third place in the group. Rytas dropped to 4-4 in fourth place. Undersized due to injuries, Skyliners fell behind by 17 points early in the second quarter, but came all the way back and used a five-minute spell of stopping Rytas cold in the fourth quarter to survive. Trae Bell-Haynes and Jason Clark led the winners with 14 points each, while Quantez Robertson had 12 and 9 rebounds. Eimantas Bendzius had 14 points and forged a late 63-63 tie for Rytas, while Mindaugas Girdziunas followed him with 13 points.
Martynas Echodas pushed Rytas ahead early and Girdziunas made it 9-14 from downtown. The visitors held on 13-16 after one quarter, but their best was yet to come. Rytas blew up with a 0-14 run to open the second quarter as Bendzius had 5 of those points and the visitors jumped ahead 13-30. Skyliners responded with 9 unanswered points to get within 22-30 before Rytas got its defense back in order and restored a 26-35 halftime lead. Skyliners started getting more and more scoring from the perimeter as Bell-Haynes got hot and Clark followed him until splashing in a go-ahead triple at 44-43 on the way to a 47-47 scoreboard after 30 minutes. Points kept coming hard early in the fourth, but Brady Heslip's 5 in a row gave Skyliners an edge. When he returned for another triple, Skyliners were up 57-49 after holding Rytas to 2 points in 5 minutes, but the visitors soon were back within 57-55 on a triple by Bendzius. After Murphy copied him, Bendzius would come back to nail another triple to make it 62-60 in the final minute. Clark's first missed free throw of the season meant a 63-60 score with 40 seconds left, then Bendzius did it again from deep, forging a 63-63 tie. Bell-Haynes got to the free throw line and buried both shots with 3.6 seconds left before a layup try by Evaldas Kairys missed, sending Skyliners to the Top 16.
Rytas erupted for the first 14 points of the second quarter to take the game's biggest lead, 13-30. Skyliners had to steady themselves then and returned from a timeout to score the next 9 points, 7 of them by Bell-Haynes. That started a 31-13 run bridging halftime until the Skyliners finally re-took a lead at 44-43.
Leon Kratzer, signed by Skyliners on Tuesday, had only a foul to show for his trouble by the time he entered the game again in the middle of that key second quarter. This time, he made a steal and a tip-in within a minute, helping a 9-0 Skyliners run and marking himself as a hustler in his EuroCup debut. He finished with 4 rebounds and 2 steals as Skyliners outrebounded their bigger guests by 31 to 23, although the littlest man on the floor, Quantez Robertson, was the key to that effort with a game-high 9 boards.
Flipping the script
After scoring just 13 points in each of the first two quarters and trailing 26-35 at halftime, Skyliners turned the defensive tables on their guests. Rytas scored only 28 after the break, but the key for Skyliners was a five-minute stretch holding the visitors to just 2 points after the entered the fourth quarter tied 47-47. The visitors did not lead again.
Skyliners visit Mornar Bar when 7DAYS EuroCup action returns in Round 9 on December 11. Rytas also hits the road, to play eliminated Fiat Turin.
Wednesday, November 21, 2018