Stuttgart topples Ramstein in double OT classic
Stars and Stripes February 19, 2023
RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — Saturday evening’s Division I DODEA European boys basketball final between Stuttgart and Ramstein may not become legend like “The Thrilla in Manila,” “The Immaculate Reception” or other sporting events of lore.
But it will be etched in the memories of those who witnessed it at Ramstein High School.
The game had it all: One team came back from a 14-point deficit late in the third quarter to force overtime. The other celebrated prematurely what turned out to be the end of the first extra frame, as debate swirled over whether a late shot was a two- or three-pointer. In both overtimes, the two teams threw (figurative) haymakers at each other. And both responded to every blow.
In the end, the Panthers found themselves on top, surviving the double-overtime thriller 62-60 to dethrone the defending champs. It marked the program’s first European title since it was known as the Patch Panthers in 2013.
“I’ve been a part of a lot of basketball games in my life that have gone my way and haven’t. I have never been a part of something like this, nor seen something like this,” said Stuttgart senior Trenton Jackson, who recorded game highs of 18 points and 12 rebounds. “I’m so proud of every single one of guys on the team. I don’t know how we did it, but we did it.”
Even the losing side, while admitting it stung, couldn’t help but notice the game’s high-level drama.
“If there’s a game to lose, that’s the one,” Ramstein coach Brendan Rouse said. “If there’s a game to win, that’s the one. Both teams fought real hard.”
For almost three quarters, it looked as though the Panthers (22-1) were running away with it.
With 53 seconds remaining in the period, Stuttgart’s Alex Guthrie scored two of his 12 points off a pass from Jackson, giving the Panthers a 37-23 lead.
That’s when the Royals (19-4) woke up. They went on an 8-0 run through the first few minutes of the fourth quarter to trim the deficit to six. Then over the final 3:48 of regulation, Ramstein produced a 10-2 run to tie the game with 18 seconds remaining when Timar Dix scored on a drive. Jaden Guerra played a big role in the comeback, dropping five of his team-high 12 points during the fourth period.
“I already knew my guys were going to fight,” Rouse said. “It was just a matter of when it was going to happen. It happened right on time if you asked me.”
Stuttgart looked to be in trouble midway through the first overtime, as the Royals’ Samuel Udoaka scored on a pass from Israel Rouse (11 points and 11 rebounds) to make it 49-45.
The Panthers managed to respond, though, tying the game up with 1:00 remaining after Jackson scored off a pass from Ismael Anglada-Paz.
Stuttgart celebrated as if it had won the game after the clock expired on the first overtime, as the scoreboard showed the Panthers leading 52-51 thanks to Tyler Jackson’s three-pointer with 14 seconds left.
After a discussion between the referees and the scorer’s table, though, they ruled Jayvian Jennings’ shot on the Ramstein possession prior to Tyler Jackson’s shot was also a three-pointer, sending the game to another extra frame.
It was an emotional blow for the Panthers, but coach Christopher Jackson said his team was resilient all year.
“We were up big, we lost the lead, they got their home crowd, they got their home court,” Christopher Jackson said. “We have nothing working in our favor but just us, which is what we say every day at practice. We were so resilient that we just found a way to get it done.”
Stuttgart accomplished the task in the second extra period, taking the lead for good when Anglada-Paz scored on a drive and was fouled, only to miss the free throw. Trenton Jackson grabbed the rebound, though and Anglada-Paz (13 points) eventually got the ball back and drove to the basket to score again, giving the Panthers a 58-54 at the 2:04 mark.
The Stuttgart coach said Anglada-Paz’s performance in the overtime showed the belief his players have in each other. Anglada-Paz errantly heaved a half-court shot with 12 seconds left in overtime and the game tied, giving the Royals one last shot to win before the buzzer, only for Ramstein to miss out.
“They just believe in each other, even when they screw up, man,” Christopher Jackson said. “That’s not normal. Even when people mess up, they still believe and give it right back to them again. I don’t think I’ll ever have another group like this.”
The last minutes weren’t a cake walk, though, and Israel Rouse connected on the first free throw of two with 2.8 seconds left to make it a two-point game. The senior missed the next shot on purpose to give Ramstein a chance to get the rebound and a basket, but Trenton Jackson grabbed the ball again to seal the win.
Despite the collapse at the end of regulation, Trenton Jackson said he wasn’t too worried about the Panthers taking care of business in the end.
“Forgive me for being cocky, but we’re different,” Trenton Jackson said. “Every team I’ve been on at Stuttgart, we give up a 14-point lead, we end up being down 14 because our heads are down.
“I looked up and we saw we gave up the lead, and I said in my head, ‘OK, we’re just going to win it later.’ It was scary, but I’m just mind blown.”
His coach (and father) struggled to put into words what the win and European championship means to the team.
“It’s everything because it’s about the memories,” Christopher Jackson said.