D-II girls final
Black Forest breezes to third straight championship
By GREGORY BROOME | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 24, 2018
WIESBADEN, Germany -- The Black Forest Academy Falcons completed one of the most dominant postseason runs in DODEA-Europe girls basketball history Saturday, routing the Spangdahlem Sentinels 36-10 for their third straight Division II championship.
The title game, a mismatch so extreme as to border on the predetermined, presented a challenge not just for the underdog Sentinels but the competition-starved Falcons as well. Coach Cindy Kennedy said she strove to keep her players focused in the face of a victory that was all but assured.
“We’re going to come into this game with humility, and we’re going to respect the team, and we’re going to just try to play our ball,” Kennedy said.
The Falcons’ projected dominance kicked in eventually, but for a time the previously impervious squad was reduced to the same offensive misadventures that plagued every other team in its bracket. BFA didn’t manage a field goal until the final minute of the first quarter. But a jumper by Becca Losey, followed quickly by a three-pointer from Katie Greathouse, broke the seal on the BFA hoop and gave the defending champs a 7-0 lead by quarter’s end. The Falcons then settled into an offensive rhythm and kept the beat for the duration.
Spangdahlem went scoreless in the first half, but finally broke its 16-minute dry spell on an Amadi Bradshaw free throw in the opening minute of the third quarter that mercifully dismissed the looming spectre of a championship-game shutout. Bradshaw, the team’s only senior, also delivered her team’s first field goal, a hard-earned putback layup with under four minutes to play in the third quarter.
The Spangdahlem program, known until this season as the Bitburg Barons and still adorned in jerseys labeled “Lady Barons,” made its fourth consecutive championship game appearance on Saturday. But this edition of the Sentinels lacked the overall talent or experience of the accomplished Baron teams that beat BFA for 2015 title and pushed the Falcons in 2016 and 2017 title games.
Rather, the seventh-seeded Sentinels, by their own admission, were quite literally happy just to be there Saturday, and even surprised by their own achievement in advancing so far after a 3-8 regular season. On Friday, following Spangdahlem’s 23-18 semifinal defeat of Marymount, coach Chris Howard coined the term “rebuild to remarkable” to describe the young Sentinels’ growth at the tournament.
That growth spurt sputtered out Saturday against a Falcon team optimized for tournament success.
This BFA roster featured sophisticated playmakers, knockdown shooters and lockdown defenders. It carried valuable experience, both from previous championship runs and an arduous regular-season schedule packed with Division I competition. And it had unrivalled size - four of the Falcons’ five starters stood at least 5-foot-10, leading the team to be nicknamed the “Black Forest Trees” by opponents.
“It’s any coach’s dream team,” Kennedy said.
Perhaps of equal importance, the Falcons had what their coach called a “really sweet chemistry,” nurtured primarily by senior captains Grace Wettstone and Greathouse, that allowed the group of talented individuals to coalesce into a historically successful team.
“We get along really well together on and off the court,” Greathouse said, while Wettstone called the Falcons “a really amazing group of girls.”
The Falcons were a heavy favorite entering the tournament. They packed on more pounds throughout it as they chewed through three hapless preliminary opponents, feisty but overmatched semifinalist Bahrain and finally a lesser version of its old rival. In sum, the Falcons won their five tournament games by a combined 163 points.
Kennedy Wilbanks headlined the BFA offense Saturday with 10 points, while Losey added seven. Wettstone and Greathouse added six points apiece.