WIESBADEN, Germany – Though it looked far from certain at times this year, the Ramstein Royals are back in the finals. Again.
But they’ll have to overcome their biggest obstacle of the season Saturday in the top-seeded Patch Panthers, who already beat them once during the Division I boys basketball tournament, 52-49 on Thursday.
The schools with the two largest enrollments in DODDS-Europe will be the last two standing Saturday night when the winter season comes to a close, thanks to a pair of semifinal victories Friday.
Ramstein 50, Wiesbaden 45: Dejected Warrior fans could only watch on and scowl as a blue-and-red mob occupied the center of their home court.
Ramstein reached its seventh consecutive DODDS-Europe Division I boys basketball championship game in stirring fashion, using an acrobatic last-second tying three-pointer and an assertive overtime session to eliminate the host and No. 3 seed Warriors.
Senior guard Will Dorsey delivered the season-saving play of the game with 7 seconds remaining in regulation, pulling up at the top of the key and draining a leaning three-pointer to tie the score and force a four-minute extra session.
Dorsey took possession with a clear mandate in mind.
“When I got down the court, I was going to shoot a three and try to tie the game for my team and send it into overtime,” Dorsey said. “It felt good. I’d been missing all game, but when I released that one it felt good.”
Christian Gunia, one of three seniors on the team, saw the game through to the end. He drew a foul on a fast break and converted both free throws to break a 40-40 tie with 90 seconds to play, then swiped a steal and dropped in a layup for a four-point edge. In all, the forward scored six of his 14 points in overtime.
“We seem to play better when we feel like we have to prove something,” Ramstein head coach Len Tarnowski said. “It was a hard-fought game both ways.”
Wiesbaden’s Tyler Cordoni suffered a traumatic leg injury with 2 minutes, 35 seconds to play in the third quarter, causing the game to be delayed as officials awaited the arrival of a new ambulance and paramedics. Both teams retired to the locker room as the junior center was carried off the court on a stretcher and transported to nearby St. Josefs-Hospital.
Warriors head coach Carl Johnson counseled his team through the stoppage and tried to get them prepared to restart the game. The downtime helped his players process the incident and move on, he said.
“It helped us get over the shock,” Johnson said. “We had time to talk about it and regroup.”
When play resumed after the 30-minute stoppage, the teams traded baskets to enter the fourth quarter still deadlocked.
Free throws by Andrew Murray and Darren Williams gave Wiesbaden a three-point edge, a hard-earned margin suddenly erased by until Dorsey’s game-changer.
Ramstein’s Drew Tevebaugh led all scorers with 19 points. Murray scored 14 to pace the Warriors.
Patch 70, Kaiserslautern 44:The Panthers came into the 2013 DODDS-Europe basketball championships as the No. 1 seed and with their body of work during the tournament, there aren’t many doubters as to why.
Friday’s semifinal matchup against the sixth-seeded Red Raiders gave fans a close matchup… for about a quarter.
From there, it was all a Patch medley of starters and substitutes that maintained a solid lead.
Despite Friday’s thumping, the Red Raiders have no reason to hang their heads, as they exceeded many expectations for the year just by playing on Friday night in Wiesbaden.
Patch’s CeJay Ferguson, who scored 10 points on the night off the bench, said getting the predictably large championship game crowd out of their heads and focusing on the game will be key for his Panthers to claw their way to the throne.
“That’s what we came here to do,” Ferguson said.
Patch’s leading scorer on the day, junior John Robinson, who notched 22 points, said his team’s chemistry is just one of many reasons why his squad has had such success.
The Panthers know they’ll have to stick with their season-long plan of pressuring the ball on defense and recognizing the hot hand during the game.
“I think we’re ready, I’m really excited,” Robinson said. “I don’t want to go home without that championship.”
Patch’s Brendan Jones played a solid game as well. The junior guard contributed 17 points to his team’s effort Friday night.
For Kaiserslautern, senior forward Andrew Stern led Raiders’ scorers with 18. Devin Joseph and Tysean Hendriz added eight and seven, respectively.