Saints, Wildcats are no longer unbeaten
Stars and Stripes January 7, 2023
AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy – A lopsided loss sometimes can demoralize a team. But other times it can create some motivation.
The latter appeared the case Saturday when the Aviano boys basketball team bounced back from a humbling Friday defeat to top Naples 56-50, handing the Wildcats their first defeat of the season.
“We all definitely had chips on our shoulders,” said Saints senior Aidan Haas of his team’s attitude following a 73-47 rout on Friday. “And it’s been a while since we had beaten Naples in basketball.”
It was arguably the best game of the season for three of Aviano’s four seniors. Haas had 13 points and 13 rebounds. Gabe Fabbro had 19 points, eight rebounds and five assists. And Arion Johnson, inserted into the starting lineup for the first time, had 10 points and 10 rebounds.
“It was a good win,” Fabbro said.
It also could end up being a good loss for the Wildcats (5-1), who had handed the Saints (4-1) their first defeat of the season Friday.
“We learned more today than we did in those five wins,” Naples coach Craig Lord said. “Give (Aviano) the credit. They made adjustments. We kept playing the way we did (Friday) night.”
The obvious change was putting Johnson, a transfer who normally comes off the bench while Haas rests, into the game. The 6-foot-2 left-hander has long arms and an unorthodox shooting motion. But he was in the right place time and time again on Saturday, grabbing key rebounds and scoring off a few of them.
The Saints often play with a lineup essentially featuring four guards and Haas. But Johnson’s extended presence helped Aviano win the rebounding battle. Saints coach Keith Adams said he decided to make the change a few hours after midnight while thinking of Friday’s loss. But he said the intensity shown by all his players was just as important.
“It lit a fire under us. They were ready to play today. They were embarrassed last night. They didn’t want to be embarrassed on their home court again.”
The game was tied at 38-38 entering the final period. The playoff-like intensity was demonstrated by the opening seconds of the quarter, when six players dove on the floor at various times during a series of scrambles for a loose ball.
Naples went up by four before Fabbro, who largely had been held in check in the first half, cut into the lead with a drive to the basket that drew the fifth foul of Naples’ Patrick Fraim (team-high 17 points) with 5 minutes, 41 seconds left. He then hit a three-point shot to put the Saints ahead.
Aviano hit four of six free throws and Naples missed several shots until the buzzer sounded.
Cameron Collins had 12 points and eight rebounds for the Wildcats, while Chris White added 11 points and five rebounds.
Naples 35, Aviano 20: The Wildcats were in charge from the start as Aviano struggled to score through the first three quarters.
Naples (4-2) led 13-4 after one quarter and 21-8 at halftime, while Aviano (2-3) only broke into double digits right at the end of the third period.
“We limited our mistakes and capitalized on their mistakes,” Naples coach Jim Davis said.
“We were just totally off kilter in the first half,” Aviano coach Enid Derricott said.
The Saints doubled the total of their first three quarters late in the game against Wildcats reserves, but the deficit was too much to overcome.
Naples’ Jewelina Martinez and Anais Navida were only players in double figures with 10 points each. Martinez also had a game-high 10 rebounds.