STUTTGART, Germany — The DODDS-Europe basketball season is in hibernation — the quest for a European championship won’t resume for another two weeks. But not all of the league’s teams are at rest.
Eight DODDS-Europe schools and four local German entries comprise the field for this weekend’s Stuttgart Winter Basketball Tournament, the annual holiday-break event played at Patch Barracks.
The tournament, which started Thursday and decides its champion Saturday, has its share of quirks. Some of the teams are short a vacationing player or two, quarters are shrunk to six minutes and the games don’t count in the DODDS-Europe standings.
But for the participating teams, the benefits are considerable.
“The more basketball you give to the kids, the better it is,” said AFNORTH head coach Rawn Jones. “The competition is pretty good out here today. It’s always a benefit to get more games in.”
AFNORTH won both of its pool-play games Thursday, including a gritty 40-37 overtime win over host Patch, and earned a bye into the quarterfinals. The Lions outlasted a persistent but overmatched Heidelberg team 41-26 Friday to move into Saturday’s semifinal round.
“It’s a good opportunity to show everybody what we’ve got,” said Oguzhan Yabici, who led AFNORTH with 16 points against Heidelberg. “I’m happy to be here.”
Their opponent? Patch, again. The Panthers shook off their pool-play loss with a 55-26 rout of Bitburg early Friday, and moved into the final four with a 47-36 win over non-DODDS opponent Böblingen.
The Panthers are eager to avenge their loss to AFNORTH.
“This is the game we were looking for,” Patch coach Brad Rehwaldt said. “We wanted another shot at AFNORTH.”
Saturday’s other semifinal offers a marquee matchup between Division I contenders Ramstein and Lakenheath.
Ramstein, one of the few teams to bring its full regular-season roster to Stuttgart, rolled through pool play Thursday and cruised to a 57-17 win over non-DODDS foe Vaihingen-Sachsenheim in Friday’s quarterfinal.
The performance is a positive step for a promising young Royals team, said head coach Len Tarnowski.
“What I want to get out of this is that the kids start playing together as a team,” Tarnowski said. “That’s what I hope. That they’ll know where they need to be and play more as a unit.”
The Lancers, meanwhile, have dominated each of their games even without a handful of key contributors. Lakenheath followed a perfect Thursday with a methodical 34-19 dismantling of Baumholder in Friday’s quarterfinals.
Lancers coach Alan Campbell jumped at the opportunity to get his team some extra games as they gird for a run at the DODDS-Europe championship. The United Kingdom-based team has played just two regular-season games so far in 2012-13.
“We came here last year and had a good experience, so we wanted to bring the kids back this year and get those extra games,” said Campbell. “They need reps and minutes.”
Saturday’s semifinals will be played concurrently at 11:30 a.m. at the Patch High School gymnasium and Patch Fitness Center.
The third-place game follows at approximately 2:30 p.m., followed by the championship game at about 4 p.m., depending on the pace of earlier games.