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Teams try to remove rust after almost a month off

Ramstein's Drew Tevebaugh takes a short jumper against Bitburg in a game at Ramstein, Dec. 06, 2013. Ramstein hosts Black Forest Academy Friday and Saturday while Bitburg travels to Kaiserslautern Friday, as high school basketball action gets under way following the holiday break.

After a hiatus of almost a full month, the DODDS-Europe winter sports season resumes this weekend with a slate of 17 boys and girls basketball games and two marksmanship meets.

The long intermission – this weekend’s schedule marks the first regular-season action since Dec. 14 – carries a substantial risk of a sluggish start for athletes who may or may not have maintained their conditioning and focus.

While some programs strive to schedule frequent practices, scrimmages and occasional games over the holidays, holiday plans and travel invariably siphon off personnel and prevent full-fledged team-building.

“It is very hard to have any kind of productive practices over the winter break,” AFNORTH girls basketball coach D.C. McDonald said. “They call it a break for a reason.”

That means the first few practices, like the first days in the classroom, serve as refresher courses for skills and strategies introduced prior to the break.

“The first couple practices after the break, we review and start adding to what we have,” Patch girls basketball coach Billy Ratcliff said.

In addition to the epic recess, the quirky DODDS-Europe schedule presents its teams with a weird mix of urgency and forgiveness.

DODDS-Europe’s 11 marksmanship programs will have just three Saturdays left in their regular season, including a Jan. 18 arrangement in which all teams will compete and submit scores remotely. But the European championship Feb. 1 at Wiesbaden will supersede the results of those meets.

With only six weeks remaining in the basketball regular season, meanwhile, rusty squads are encouraged to quickly regain their pre-break form. But basketball teams aren’t competing for berths in the European tournament, in which every team participates. Instead, they’ll use the games in January and February to build teamwork, settle on rotations and establish a rhythm entering the grueling four-day tournament running Feb. 19-22 at Wiesbaden.

Only wrestlers, who resume a week later than their peers on Jan. 18 and are quickly confronted with sectional qualifiers Feb. 8, will be required to perform at their best before the European championship arrives Feb. 14-15.

broome.gregory@stripes.com

Twitter: @broomestripes

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