WIESBADEN, Germany --- Saturday’s girls Division-III championship game will be a battle of the 'B's, as the Brussels Brigands and the Bamberg Barons both survived their semifinal matchups to earn the right to play for the title.
The third-seeded Barons, last year’s champions, were tested to the wire by the upstart Incirlik squad, the No. 5 seed. Bamberg went on to win, 31-30, but it wasn't easy.
With less than a minute left and only four players on the court for Bamberg, due to a pair of injuries and the fouling out of two Barons, the lead started to dwindle.
The Hodjas strung together a rally at the end with multiple chances to secure the come from behind victory.
All of them fell just short, however, despite the efforts of Incirlik sophomore Jailynn Jones, who scored 19 points, including nine in the final quarter. Among them a three-pointer with 36 seconds left on the clock to draw her team within a point.
For the Barons, the sense of relief was visible as they welcomed the sound that couldn’t come fast enough for them: the final buzzer.
Damonique Lamons grabbed a rebound and held on as time ran down.
“It feels great, really great,” Lamons, a transfer from El Paso, Texas, said after the game. “I was just thinking that I had to hold it with all my might.”
Lamons' physical play and inside presence disrupted the Hodjas all afternoon, as Incirlik couldn’t match her size in the paint. Her 18 points, 10 from the charity stripe, led all Bamberg scorers, followed by the athletic Nia Thomas, who notched 10 points.
“I’m glad to be a Lady Baron,” Thomas said, adding that her team will celebrate the rest of the day and worry about the championship game on Saturday.
The team they’ll face on Saturday, the top-seeded Brussels Brigands, faced a tough and determined Alconbury squad.
Alconbury, the tournament’s No. 2 seed, came out of the gates blazing and jumped out to a quick 6-0 lead. Brussels was able to tame the Dragons for the rest of the first half, though, as the Brigands defense forced a lot of turnovers and held Alconbury to just five points the rest of the half.
It took a while for the girls from Brussels to warm up. They took their first lead of the game with just 15 seconds left in the half on a jumper by Anya Shelton.
The Dragons couldn’t find their rhythm in the second half to stage a comeback as Alconbury often rushed into low-percentage shots.
The Brigands relied on point guard Ali DeFazio’s unfaltering eye for developing plays and open teammates as well as her precision. DeFazio was Brussels. leading scorer with 12 points, while Shelton pitched in eight.
The Brigands, no stranger to championship games, will make their return after finishing third last season.
Saturday’s championship game is slated for a noon tip-off at the Fitness Center on Clay Kaserne in Wiesbaden, Germany.