The DODDS-Europe winter sports season resumes this weekend with a full slate of Friday and Saturday basketball alongside Saturday marksmanship and wrestling meets.
Here’s a look back, and ahead, as the season enters its stretch run.
A strong second-place showing at last month’s Stuttgart Winter Basketball Tournament would have been an achievement for an undermanned Lakenheath team. That they won it, defeating host Patch in the title game on a dramatic game-winner by Chris Cedarstaff, says a lot about the team’s mettle and championship potential.
But that unsanctioned tournament, though it successfully predicted last year’s DODDS-Europe Division I title game and champion, is not necessarily a predictor of future results. Patch had the Lancers all but beaten before collapsing late, and the Panthers now carry the loss as added motivation. Wiesbaden has yet to see Division I competition but has handled its schedule with ease.
While Lakenheath established its D-I candidacy at Stuttgart, AFNORTH put its Division II rivals on notice with an impressive effort in the winter event. The Lions enjoyed wins over Division I foes Heidelberg, Ramstein and Patch, and the dynamic wing duo of Nuri Karaca and Oguzhan Yabici presents a near-impossible matchup for defenses.
The departure of Tre’von Owens leaves Division III champs Rota a mystery pending the team’s Jan. 25 DODDS-Europe season debut. Bamberg has asserted itself in the meantime behind senior center Terry Williams.
The approaching Jan. 25 tip between undefeated Ramstein and Kaiserslautern will help establish a Division I favorite as the postseason nears. Both teams are deep, talented and poised for a legitimate run at the title. Count Wiesbaden, Lakenheath and defending champion Heidelberg among the field of dark-horse contenders.
The crowded Division II landscape figures to remain muddled through the European championships. Incumbent champ SHAPE, with its only loss coming in a doubleheader split with D-I Wiesbaden, retains a good shot at a repeat. Stiff competition exists in the form of American Overseas School of Rome and Ansbach, among others.
The overwhelming frontcourt of Tenia Strobridge and Sydney Moore has Sigonella well-placed for a Division III run, but defending champion Bamberg won’t give up its territory easily.
The ongoing Patch dynasty is on track to continue, as the defending champions won all of their three December meets by a wide margin. But the Panthers do have one rival capable of ending their reign.
While Patch has controlled the west, Vilseck has enjoyed similar dominance in the east, winning each of its three meets with scores that compare favorably to those produced by Patch.
Only two Saturdays, including this weekend’s meets at Patch and Bamberg, remain before the European championships Jan. 26 at Baumholder.
Just four weekends of regular-season meets remain before the postseason. As with marksmanship, Patch is the favorite with a dangerous contender trailing closely behind.
Ramstein battled Patch to a near-draw when they shared a mat Dec. 8, falling 247 to 244.5, and the major Division I powerhouses will continue to trade blows until an inevitable final showdown Feb. 15 and 16 at Wiesbaden. The Royals have enjoyed regular-season conquests of Patch in recent years but have failed to prevent a Panthers reign that will reach the five-year mark with a championship this winter.