WIESBADEN, Germany – Welcome your new basketball overlords.
Patch ended six years of combined Ramstein and Heidelberg supremacy Saturday in DODDS-Europe Division I boys basketball with a 60-48 championship-game win over the Royals.
The Patch boys win their first Division I title and first DODDS title since a 2001 Division II crown.
The disparate group of junior varsity call-ups like John Robinson, new arrivals like Brendan Jones and lone returning starter Kris German coalesced for coach Brad Rehwaldt, himself graduating from the JV level.
When those puzzle pieces were gathered in the fall, there was no indication they’d form the image of the champion they became Saturday.
“We had no idea,” Jones said. “We knew we had all the pieces. We didn’t know how we were going to put them together.”
In a word, seamlessly.
Both teams played with fevered intensity from the opening tip. Loose balls were bobbled and deflected, rebounds slapped and swiped at and driving players shoved and bumped. At times, the end-to-end urgency fueling both squads pushed the game over the brink of chaos.
It was the top-seeded Panthers who derived method from madness.
Slashing junior guard Robinson floated in a difficult fast-break runner high off the glass three minutes into the game for a 7-2 Patch lead.
Another of a never-ending string of dispossessed balls fell into the hands of sharpshooter Jones, who coolly stroked a three-pointer for a six-point Patch lead with 3:15 to play in the first half. The Panthers carried that margin into halftime.
Not even the relative stillness of the halftime locker room could quell the game’s fury. The frantic pace and attendant turnovers resumed from the first possession, which saw Ramstein harass Patch into an errant pass.
Jones again had the salve for the sizzling action, pushing Patch’s lead to 11 with a three-pointer late in the third quarter. Ramstein chipped two points off that lead entering the final eight minutes and trailed by six with three minutes to play, but couldn’t extend the Saturday trend of nail-biting title-game finishes.
Rehwaldt listed the obstacles presented by the Royals.
“They were bigger than us. They shoot well. They’re quick,” he said.
Then the smiling coach summarized how his Panthers persevered.
“These guys have got massive heart and dedication and drive.” Rehwaldt said.
The ascension of a new large-school champion was foretold when two-time defending champion Heidelberg lost a chunk of its student body and talent base as a result of its impending closure. Ramstein, runner-up two years running after its own two-year reign as champion, returned just three seniors and figured to take a year to rebuild.
But the Royals did no such thing, quickly finding and implementing new talent and remaining squarely in championship contention as the fourth seed entering Europeans. A stirring overtime win over host Wiesbaden in Friday’s semifinal round put the program into its seventh consecutive Division I title game.
On Saturday, Ramstein head coach Len Tarnowski said his team was “impatient” and fell into the trap sprung by the fleet-footed Panthers.
“When we were good, we were real good,” he said. “When we were bad, we kind of ran into roadblocks.
“This is one of those days where we just couldn’t get enough good plays in a row.”
Jones scored a game-high 20, while Robinson added 16. Christian Gunia and Jesse Gray scored 16 points apiece for Ramstein.