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American Overseas School of Rome's Renato Boccanelli tries to score Thursday, March 3, 2022, at the DODEA-Europe Division II basketball championships at Vicenza, Italy.

American Overseas School of Rome's Renato Boccanelli tries to score Thursday, March 3, 2022, at the DODEA-Europe Division II basketball championships at Vicenza, Italy. (Kent Harris/Stars and Stripes)

VICENZA, Italy – Half the field at the DODEA-Europe Division II basketball championships has only officially been playing basketball for a month due to coronavirus protocols.

But it’s been an eventful period, with multiple schools gathering to play game after game at every opportunity. So it wasn’t that much of a stretch for every team to play three times Thursday at the opening of the six-school, season-ending event.

The boys portion went pretty much according to seeding heading into the final games Thursday evening, with top seeds Rota and Naples looking like solid bets to advance to at least Friday’s semifinals. Both were 2-0 in morning and early afternoon play – each rallying to defeat American Overseas School of Rome in the process.

Aviano's Makinley Carroll fights to keep the ball against a host of American Overseas School of Rome defenders Thursday, March 3, 2022, at the DODEA-Europe Division II basketball championships.

Aviano's Makinley Carroll fights to keep the ball against a host of American Overseas School of Rome defenders Thursday, March 3, 2022, at the DODEA-Europe Division II basketball championships. (Kent Harris/Stars and Stripes)

Naples' Keith Rascoe scored on this play - in the nearest basket - to help the Wildcats down Sigonella on Thursday, March 4, 2022, at the DODEA-Europe Division II basketball championships.

Naples' Keith Rascoe scored on this play - in the nearest basket - to help the Wildcats down Sigonella on Thursday, March 4, 2022, at the DODEA-Europe Division II basketball championships. (Kent Harris/Stars and Stripes)

Sigonella's Alessandro Montero looks to score while guarded by Naples' Corbin Gustafson on Thursday, March 3, 2022 at the DODEA-Europe Division II basketball championships.

Sigonella's Alessandro Montero looks to score while guarded by Naples' Corbin Gustafson on Thursday, March 3, 2022 at the DODEA-Europe Division II basketball championships. (Kent Harris/Stars and Stripes)

The girls side was a bit different, though, with No. 4 Naples upending top-seeded AOSR and then squeaking by No. 5 Aviano to be in good shape heading into the final pool games Friday morning.

It’s been an uncharacteristically rough season for the perennially strong Wildcats, who entered the tournament with a 3-3 record.

“The coronavirus really got the team down,” first-year coach Eris Pitts said. “Practice is on, practice is off, the season is on, the season is off.”

Sigonella's Fabiola Mercardo-Rodriguez takes a shot Thursday, March 3, 2022, while guarded by Vicenza's Makenzie Blue during the DODEA-Europe Division II basketball championships.

Sigonella's Fabiola Mercardo-Rodriguez takes a shot Thursday, March 3, 2022, while guarded by Vicenza's Makenzie Blue during the DODEA-Europe Division II basketball championships. (Kent Harris/Stars and Stripes)

Vicenza's Tyler Suber puts up a shot against Aviano on Thursday, March 3, 2022, at the DODEA-Europe Division II basketball championships.

Vicenza's Tyler Suber puts up a shot against Aviano on Thursday, March 3, 2022, at the DODEA-Europe Division II basketball championships. (Kent Harris/Stars and Stripes)

Rota's Ella Scrivener goes up for a shot Thursday, March 3, 2022, at the DODEA-Europe Division II basketball championships.

Rota's Ella Scrivener goes up for a shot Thursday, March 3, 2022, at the DODEA-Europe Division II basketball championships. (Kent Harris/Stars and Stripes)

But with the prize in sight, the Wildcats appear to be a different team.

“I told them we’re coming (to Vicenza) to win it,” Pitts said.

They’ll have to get past the host Wildcats to do that. The second-seeded Cougars face Naples at 8:30 a.m. Friday, with both teams likely to advance to the semifinals regardless of the outcome.

In boys play, top seeds Rota – unbeaten on the season – and Naples – 3-3 with a pair of losses to the Admirals – started the day strongly with respective wins over Aviano (55-25) and Vicenza (55-42). But then came along the Falcons from AOSR, who led both the Admirals and Wildcats in subsequent contests before eventually falling.

Naples' Shardaisa Greely successfully uses a screen in a game against the American Overseas School of Rome on Thursday, March 3, 2022, at the DODEA-Europe Division II basketball championships.

Naples' Shardaisa Greely successfully uses a screen in a game against the American Overseas School of Rome on Thursday, March 3, 2022, at the DODEA-Europe Division II basketball championships. (Kent Harris/Stars and Stripes)

Vicenza's Addie Kropp concentrates on making a free throw Thursday, March 3, 2022, at the DODEA-Europe Divisoin II basketball championships.

Vicenza's Addie Kropp concentrates on making a free throw Thursday, March 3, 2022, at the DODEA-Europe Divisoin II basketball championships. (Kent Harris/Stars and Stripes)

Vicenza's Gabriela Sanchez successfully makes a pass while sitting on the court during the DODEA-Europe Divisoin II basketball championships on Thursday, March 3, 2022.

Vicenza's Gabriela Sanchez successfully makes a pass while sitting on the court during the DODEA-Europe Divisoin II basketball championships on Thursday, March 3, 2022. (Kent Harris/Stars and Stripes)

AOSR was up nine points on Rota in the third quarter before the Admirals combined a series of turnovers and three-point shots into a victory going away. The Wildcats-Falcons contest was close throughout before a late Naples run.

“Every game we played we’ve been ahead,” longtime Falcons coach Phil Davis said. “We just couldn’t hold onto it twice.” AOSR did get a 40-37 win over Aviano.

After six pool play games finish up preliminary play on Friday, four semifinal games end it starting at 1:30 p.m. Saturday sees battles for fifth, third and first with the girls championship at 2 p.m., followed by the boys.

Aviano's Aidan Haas drives toward the basket while guarded by Rota's Emory Butler during the opening day of the DODEA-Europe Division II basketball championships in Vicenza, Italy, on Thursday, March 3, 2022.

Aviano's Aidan Haas drives toward the basket while guarded by Rota's Emory Butler during the opening day of the DODEA-Europe Division II basketball championships in Vicenza, Italy, on Thursday, March 3, 2022. (Kent Harris/Stars and Stripes)

Aviano's Deon Walker attempts a shot as Rota's Noah White, right, and Emory Butler defend Thursday, March 3, 2022 at the first day of the DODEA-Europe Division II basketball championships.

Aviano's Deon Walker attempts a shot as Rota's Noah White, right, and Emory Butler defend Thursday, March 3, 2022 at the first day of the DODEA-Europe Division II basketball championships. (Kent Harris/Stars and Stripes)

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Kent has filled numerous roles at Stars and Stripes including: copy editor, news editor, desk editor, reporter/photographer, web editor and overseas sports editor. Based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, he’s been TDY to countries such as Afghanistan Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia. Born in California, he’s a 1988 graduate of Humboldt State University and has been a journalist for almost 38 years.
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