WIESBADEN, Germany - Despite squandering a 16-point halftime lead, the Brussels Brigands were able to hold on for a 31-29 victory over the Bamberg Barons in the Division-III girls basketball championship Saturday.
A pair of free throws by Brussels junior guard Ali DeFazio with 12.8 on the clock gave the Brigands a four-point lead and sealed the victory.
“I just envisioned the ball going in,” DeFazio said about her clutch free throws, adding that she was able to tune out the crowd by pretending it was just like practice.
DeFazio’s dribbling skills and sharp shooting - she scored a team-high 10 points - were also a big reason the Brigands were able to knock off last year’s champs and reclaim the title they last won in 2010.
Brussels came out hot and was able to jump out to a 15-2 lead on the third-seeded Barons heading into the second quarter
It was a tale of two halves, though, as the Barons roared back from their halftime deficit and brought the game within two points by applying a full-court press, forcing Brussels into mistakes - and holding the Brigands to just nine points in the second half.
Breaking the press has been a problem for Brussels most of the year, but an even bigger obstacle was trying to stop Bamberg sophomore Damonique Lamons on the inside. Lamons finished with a game-high 25 points.
“She’s a trooper,” DeFazio said about Lamons.
That may be the understatement of the D-III season.
In the first half, the Brigands largely kept Lamons from getting the ball close to the basket. But despite pressure in the second half, Lamons was able to provide clutch rebounding and drew fouls in the paint. She converted 11 of 15 free throw attempts.
The Barons weren’t able to convert on outside shots all afternoon, though, and the only other Bamberg points were provided by sophomore forward Nia Thomas.
Also scoring for Brussels were Crystal Javier with seven points and Aleeza Vitale and Anya Shelton, who each scored six.
Brussels players were quick to credit coach Timothy Como, who took over the Brigands program halfway through the year.
“It made us come together as a team and rely on each other more,” DeFazio said about the coaching change.