Defending champs should get another early test
By GREGORY BROOME | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 7, 2017
The Stuttgart Panthers powered through an undefeated girls basketball season last year, culminating in a DODEA-Europe Division I championship. Their road to repeating that feat has already proven challenging, and will continue to be this weekend.
Stuttgart, which won all of its regular-season and postseason games by double-digit margins last winter, survived reigning Division II champion Black Forest Academy 31-30 in its Dec. 1 season-opener. Now the Panthers encounter another foe capable of ending their multiple-season win streak.
The defending large-school champs will face the Naples Wildcats this weekend as part of a four-team girls and boys Division I gathering at Vicenza that also includes the Vilseck Falcons and host Cougars. The event is one of two such divisional meets set for this weekend, alongside the Division III set featuring Baumholder, Brussels and Hohenfels at Ansbach.
While those collections of squads will produce several intriguing matchups, it’s the Stuttgart-Naples girls pairing that is most compelling.
While they remain top contenders in the division, Stuttgart lost three starters from its championship roster and might be vulnerable as it figures out its new rotation.
If that’s the case, Naples is uniquely qualified to take advantage. The Wildcats have four starters back from last year’s third-place finisher, and they exhibited their potential in the season’s opening weekend with 53-30 and 46-29 routs of fellow tournament 2016-17 semifinalist Lakenheath.
On the boys side, the Division III games at Ansbach will go a long way towards determining the hierarchy among DODEA-Europe’s small schools. Ansbach, Baumholder and Brussels all made strong tournament runs last year before giving way to champion Sigonella.
The two divisional gatherings highlight a busy final weekend before DODEA-Europe athletics adjourns for the holidays. A full schedule resumes the weekend of Jan. 12.