STUTTGART, Germany — One shot changed everything.
Host team Patch was cruising to victory in the championship game of the 2012 Stuttgart Winter Basketball Tournament. Lakenheath hung around and chipped away, but a comeback seemed unlikely.
Until it happened.
Their lead reduced to two points in the final seconds, the Panthers were forced to inbound under their own basket. Lakenheath’s Albert Jones III deflected the pass with a long, waving arm and directed the loose ball to teammate Chris Cedarstaff. The guard whirled around, squared up and released the shot over three Patch defenders.
The three-pointer nestled into the net as the buzzer sounded on a stunning 41-40 Lakenheath victory.
Lakenheath brought just seven players to the event, a 12-team tournament not sanctioned by DODDS-Europe but featuring eight DODDS-Europe teams alongside four local German entries. The undermanned Lancers appeared destined for a respectable second-place showing as their deficit grew to double digits in the third quarter.
But Lakenheath subtly crept back into range. A pair of A.J. Ransom three-pointers cut the lead to seven entering the final quarter. Cedarstaff hit a three-pointer with under a minute to play in the game to pull the Lancers within three points, and added a free throw seconds later.
That set up Cedarstaff’s dramatic game-winner, a shot made possible by Jones’ astute defensive reading of the Patch inbound attempt.
“I kind of read his eyes, and I saw him throw it my way and I tipped it, and then I just passed it right to (Cedarstaff),” Jones described. “And my boy came through.”
With the ball unexpectedly in his hands and no time to get his bearings, the Lancers shooting guard simply did what comes naturally.
“I just had to put it up,” Cedarstaff said. “I knew what the clock said.”
The Lancers withstood an impossibly hot start from Patch guards John Robinson and Brendan Jones to earn that final opportunity.
Robinson and Jones combined for all 12 of the Panthers’ first-quarter points as Patch built an eight-point lead. Robinson followed with a remarkable series to open the second quarter.
The recent Stars and Stripes boys athlete of the week tipped in a teammate’s miss and drew a foul. He missed the free throw, but adroitly stepped into the lane for his own rebound and deposited it for another two points.
But no amount of Patch highlights could stave off the determined Lancers.
“We showed up with seven kids, and they played with a lot of heart,” said Lakenheath head coach Alan Campbell. “And we found a way there at the end.”
Host Patch earned its place in the final Saturday morning with a 51-35 victory over AFNORTH, successfully avenging its Thursday pool-play loss to the Lions. Lakenheath advanced with a convincing 38-19 win over Division I rival Ramstein in Saturday’s other semifinal.
AFNORTH, an emerging contender for the DODDS-Europe Division II crown, completed a strong showing with a 42-37 win over Ramstein in the tournament’s third-place game Saturday.