D-II boys final
BFA the most competitive in a tough bracket
By GREGORY BROOME | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 23, 2019
WIESBADEN, Germany -- The setup for the 2018-19 DODEA-Europe Division II boys basketball championship game was a classic one, pitting a proud two-time defending champion against a feisty first-time finalist eager to make its mark.
The game itself more than lived up to that billing.
The Black Forest Academy Falcons won their third consecutive Division II boys hoops title Saturday at Clay Kaserne Fitness Center, pulling ahead late in the fourth quarter to outlast the upstart Bahrain Falcons 47-40.
Jacob Fortune hit six free throws in the final two minutes and Gabriel Kruse, whose semifinal buzzer-beater sent BFA back to the finals in the first place, knocked down four free throws over the final 17 seconds to break open a close game and extend the BFA dynasty.
The win was the latest in a season of intense games against tough opponents, including regular-season matchups against the likes of Division I elimination-round participants Kaiserslautern, Stuttgart and Wiesbaden and Division III finalists Baumholder and Ansbach. The challenges continued in the tournament as BFA won its three postseason games before Saturday by a combined nine points.
“We’ve had such a great schedule all year. We’ve had games that have helped us get better all year,” BFA coach David Kruse said. “They’ve all been tough. It’s been great.”
Fortune, who finished with 16 points, attributed his and his team’s success to faith. BFA is a Christian international school based in Kandern, Germany, and a longtime competitor in DODEA-Europe athletics.
“God has gotten us through it,” Fortune said.
That includes Fortune’s clutch performance under the quiet pressure applied by fourth-quarter free throws.
“Walking up to the free-throw line I’m talking to myself and what I’m saying is, ‘God, you are with me. God, you are good,’” Fortune said. “It helps me to not focus on all the people around me but focus on the one who’s giving me the gifts to play basketball.”
BFA built a six-point halftime lead on the strength of crafty drives to the hoop by Fortune and a long stretch of pinball passing, including a string of vintage give-and-go plays. But the champs couldn’t put Bahrain any further behind as they struggled through a four-point third quarter, and the challengers got all the way back when star guard Derrick Lee drew a foul on a buzzer-beating three-point attempt and swished all three free throws to tie the game entering the fourth quarter.
Kruse, the tournament’s most outstanding player, matched Fortune with 16 points for BFA. Lee totaled a game-high 21 in defeat.
The hard-fought final settled a competitive bracket that was perhaps the most eventful of any of DODEA-Europe’s six concurrent postseason hoops tournaments.
Reigning champion Black Forest won its two pool games by a total of seven points, including a 45-40 defeat of Bahrain on Thursday, while Bahrain claimed the pool’s second seed. The opposite pool produced a three-way tie for its two semifinal berths, the second of which went to Rota ahead of Aviano immediately after Aviano beat Rota in a preliminary matchup. BFA edged Rota in a twisty 49-47 semifinal reminiscent of BFA’s 48-47 defeat of Rota in last year’s European title game.
Bahrain’s ongoing quest for a championship fell painfully short on Saturday, but head coach Emiliano Herrera was thrilled at what this year’s team accomplished for the program.
“It’s great for our program, great for our school,” Herrera said of his team’s first boys basketball final appearance. “We’re making history tonight.”