Do the Bucs stop here? Or does streak continue?
Stars and Stripes February 14, 2023
With four straight Division III championships under their belts, the Baumholder Buccaneers are comfortable being the hunted.
The perennial powerhouse enters the DODEA European Basketball Championships on Wednesday as the top seed once again, posting an 11-4 overall and a 10-1 league record during the regular season.
Even with a younger squad, the Buccaneers know what to expect, as they had six returners – seniors Jesayah Bogan and Jonathan Kimuli, juniors Caleb Pigge and Muhamed Selimi, and sophomores Dorian Cobb – from last year’s title winners.
“We know that when you are the No. 1 seed, everybody’s trying to bring you down,” Baumholder coach Dwayne Pigge said. “We know that the pressure’s on us. We know we have to stay prepared no matter what. When you’re No. 1, you have to stay balanced and everybody got to stay focused and locked in.”
The Buccaneers also will have the advantage through the semifinals of playing at home. The Hall of Champions in Baumholder will host all Division III boys games on the first two days and the semifinals on Friday. The championship game will be played Saturday at Ramstein High School.
Not that the Buccaneers are penciling themselves into the final. They’ve spent this year rebuilding depth, including giving 6-foot-7 freshman center Damian Jung key minutes.
Baumholder lost in the regular-season finale to Spangdahlem, the second-place team in Division II. The Sentinels bounced back from a Feb. 10 loss by 22 points with a 39-30 win on Feb. 11. The home teams won both of those games.
“Having a young team, defensively, there’s some things we need to work on,” Pigge said. “We kind of cleaned that up these last two days. I think we’ll be OK. A couple of my starters got in foul trouble, and that kind of hit us a little bit hard. But my young players did hold on and recovered well.
“Hopefully when we see them again, we’ll be well prepared.”
Pigge said he plans on having the Buccaneers prepared for everybody – not just Spangdahlem.
As he knows better than anyone, Baumholder will face the best from its opponents this week.
“We’re going to have to be prepared for teams that are going to come at us aggressively,” Pigge said. “We have to make sure that we bring that same aggressiveness defensively to balance out our offense. We’re well prepared for that, and I know that a lot of teams are going to come at us with all they can, and we plan to do the same.”
Five teams enter this week’s tournament at Southside Fitness Center on Ramstein Air Base, Germany, with realistic chances to take home the Division II crown.
The Black Forest Falcons sit atop the regular season standings, but they only faced one league opponent in Vicenza, which has a 4-14 record. BFA went 4-10 in the regular season – much of that against Division I competition.
Four other teams – Aviano, American Overseas School of Rome, Naples and defending champion Rota – posted just three league losses during the regular season, and they all came against each other.
Aviano (12-3, 10-3), swept Rota (9-3, 6-3) 51-40 and 47-38 on Dec. 9-10, split a series against Naples (9-5, 7-3) with a 73-47 loss on Jan. 6 and a 56-50 win on Jan. 7, and lost twice to AOSR (8-5, 7-3) on Feb. 3-4 by scores of 68-56 and 65-61 – the latter in overtime.
Rota, meanwhile, swept AOSR during the season’s opening weekend, 50-25 and 46-34 on Dec. 2-3, and then split a series with Naples, losing 68-60 on Jan. 27 and winning 59-41 on Jan. 28.
Naples, the only team to gain at least one win against the other three squads, lost to AOSR 49-45 on Jan. 20 and followed that with a 62-49 win on Jan. 21.
Stuttgart enters as the heavy favorite to win its first European crown since the school moved from Patch Barracks and changed its name.
Looking to spoil the party will be defending champion Ramstein (13-3, 10-3), whose only blemishes have come against the Panthers – 55-43 at home on Dec. 10, 52-44 in Stuttgart on Jan. 13 and 54-40 in Stuttgart on Jan. 14.
Vilseck (10-5, 7-5) and Wiesbaden (11-6, 5-6) also could make runs.