AOSR rallies to top division once again
Stars and Stripes February 19, 2023
RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — An epic clash between Italy-based Division II rivals American Overseas School of Rome and Naples in the 2023 DODEA-Europe basketball championships came down to a foul in the game’s final seconds.
AOSR prevailed, 26-25, when freshman center Natalia DiMatteo sunk one of two free throw attempts Saturday after drawing a foul while rebounding with less than five seconds on the game clock.
With all eyes in the tense Ramstein High School gymnasium on her, DiMatteo rose to the occasion.
“It was a lot of pressure, but I knew I could make it,” she said. “Coach makes us practice those a lot. I just had to breathe. I had to focus.”
After DiMatteo’s free throw, the Wildcats’ JuJu Martinez had a good look at the basket, but the ball bounced off the rim as time expired.
“It was a tough foul at the end,” Naples coach Jim Davis said. “We had the last shot, a good-looking shot. I told the kids, somebody’s got to lose, even when two teams fight that hard.”
Captain Clara Clayton, a junior guard, helped ensure the Falcons defended their 2022 title, putting up 12 points for AOSR and earning Division II tournament Most Valuable Player honors.
She had support from a pair of freshmen, Silvia Goldman and DiMatteo, who scored eight and four points, respectively.
Being part of her first basketball title with the Falcons “feels great,” DiMatteo said. “We worked all year for this.”
AOSR earned a spot in the championships with a close 34-31 semifinal win on Friday against Black Forest Academy.
“In our opinion, that’s a huge upset,” said AOSR coach Lillian Aldred.
Coming off that tough game, the Falcons appeared sluggish against Naples, Aldred said.
“I got nervous in the fourth quarter,” she said. “We knew that we could beat them, but then we kept calling time outs and I would tell them not to do something and they’d turn around and do it.”
AOSR was up by a basket, 8-6, at the end of the first quarter. The Falcons built a 25-19 lead by the end of the third frame but the offense sputtered in the fourth quarter, when the Wildcats’ defense held AOSR to one point.
“To win it after that on the free throw line is amazing,” Aldred said.
Naples lost to AOSR in last year’s semifinals and appeared outmatched in an 25-11 loss to ASOR in tourney play earlier this week.
After that performance, “to come back and be able to almost tie with them means a lot,” an emotional Kennedy Rascoe said after the game.
“We fought to the end,” the senior guard said. “It came down to the last second. There’s nothing else we could have done.”
“I’m just proud of our team that we made it to the championship,” added senior guard Emma Kasparek.
Martinez, a sophomore forward, led all scorers with 14 points. Freshman guard Vanae Filer added eight.
“I was proud of the girls,” Davis said. “The outcome didn’t matter. They fought their way back against a very good team.”