Wiesbaden’s McKinley Vines, right, and Ramstein’s Alysha Edwards fight for the ball on the baseline during the first quarter of a game earlier this month at Wiesbaden High School in Wiesbaden, Germany.

Wiesbaden’s McKinley Vines, right, and Ramstein’s Alysha Edwards fight for the ball on the baseline during the first quarter of a game earlier this month at Wiesbaden High School in Wiesbaden, Germany. (Matt Wagner/Stars and Stripes)

Wiesbaden’s Kristin Kachmar couldn’t celebrate much on Feb. 7 when the Warriors clinched the top spot in Division I after beating Ramstein.

The first-year coach hadn’t experienced it yet, but she knew the DODEA European Basketball Championships in the Kaiserslautern Military Community were starting on Wednesday. Four days with two games per until the final, Kachmar already was preparing the Warriors to stay atop the pile come the end of Saturday for the program’s first crown since 2015.

“We play half a season in four days,” Kachmar said. “There’s still a lot of season left. So, I’m happy we’re on top – I hope we stay there.”

One team looking to unseat the Warriors (16-1, 10-1) in the tournament is their opponent in the last division game – Ramstein.

The Royals finished 14-2 and 11-2 on the season, with both losses coming against Wiesbaden. One loss came right before the winter break, 55-45 on Dec. 15 at Ramstein High School, the gym where all Division I games will be played. The other on Feb. 7 ended 48-46 on Wiesbaden’s home floor.

The improvement in the two games’ scorelines has the Royals feeling upbeat about their chances, but coach Andrew Short has emphasized they won’t overlook anyone.

“I want them to No. 1 respect all our opponents,” Short said. “It’s crazy how anything can happen in the tournament. Whoever we play first or second or third, whatever – we need to be ready to play them, whether it’s Wiesbaden or whoever.”

The Warriors boast a balanced attack, with senior 6-foot-5 center Lyndsey Urick complementing a backcourt of senior McKinley Viers and freshman Brandi Stanford. The latter two can set the tone on defense with their aggressiveness - attacking passing lanes and harassing ballhandlers.

Kachmar has held high hopes for Stanford from even before the season began, and the coach said the freshman has lived up to those expectations.

“All season, I’ve talked to her about being a freshman and learning from her mistakes and this is a huge growing year,” Kachmar said. “She’s just continuing to improve and to step up to the plate. She is fearless, and she has the heart of a warrior, honestly.”

Ramstein, meanwhile, has depth that other teams might lack.

Short said his team rotates eight players in every game, assuming all are healthy and available. The combo of (Jasmine) Jones, (Aliya) Jones and (Bralyn) Jones sounds like a law firm, but plays a key role, as does guard Katya von Eicken. Parker Ingram and Solymar Brown offer options off the bench, while Alysha Edwards adds a presence in the low block.

“I like our depth,” Short said. “I do think having a solid eight-man rotation is good, and when we start to get up a little more, we can open up to nine or 10 girls and get them in to play and to rest, if we’re lucky enough to have that happen.”

Defending champion Stuttgart (11-5) lost all five of its games to the top two schools. SHAPE (5-4) is the only other team with a winning record in divisional play.

Division II

Vicenza holds a distinct advantage over the rest of the teams heading into the basketball championships this weekend, and not just because the Cougars enter with the best regular season record.

Considering Division II consists mostly of teams south of the Alps, Black Forest Academy out of Germany is a team few get a chance to see. Also, Bahrain rarely travels or hosts DODEA squads.

The Cougars, though, can say they’ve beaten both. In fact, they have faced every team playing at Southside Fitness Center on Ramstein Air Base during the first three days of the tournament.

“We’ve played everybody in our division – I think we may be the only team to have had that opportunity,” Vicenza coach Greg DeJardin said. “So, we’ve beaten everybody in our division, but we did split with Naples and BFA.”

Those season splits came at opposite ends of the season. The Cougars defeated Naples 30-29 on Dec. 9 and followed that with a 27-25 loss on Dec. 10, both at Naples. DeJardin said his team didn’t play well in either game and he is excited to see how Vicenza stacks up to the Wildcats now.

“We were very even,” DeJardin said of the Naples games. “They have a rebounder in (JuJu) Martinez who just puts up a ton of boards and can finish pretty well near the basket. They’re athletic. I’m excited to face Naples and see where they are.”

BFA, meanwhile, is a matchup nightmare for the Cougars, as shown during a Feb. 4-5 trip to Kandern, Germany. The Falcons took the first game 40-37, while the Cougars bounced back with a 37-35 win in the second.

DeJardin said BFA’s height poses a major problem.

“(The Falcons) have a couple of bigs that keep the ball high and can finish near the bucket. So they present a tough matchup for us.”

For the Cougars to be successful, they will look to their young but experienced core.

Lone senior Sara Fitch starts, while junior Addie Kropp is the team’s engine, according to DeJardin. Junior Laurel Gill adds some low-block presence for the undersized Cougars. Sophomore Mackenzie Blue also adds offensive firepower from the wing.

For Vicenza to be successful, though, its coach said pressure defense and staying out of foul trouble will be key.

“We’re kind of a small, scrappy, defensive-minded club,” DeJardin said. “We need to be able to put pressure on the ball, put pressure on teams in the full court, and just scrap and not foul.”

Defending champion American Overseas School of Rome (5-5) is the likely candidate to complete the semifinal field Friday.

Division III

The Division III race will be wide open, with three teams entering as favorites for the games to be played in Baumholder until the final.

Sigonella played mostly Division II squads during the regular season, finishing with a 10-5 record overall. The Jaguars won all five Division III matchups, beating Baumholder, Ansbach and Spangdahlem on Jan. 27-28 at Spangdahlem and handling a two-game series at home against Brussels on Feb. 3-4.

Still, the Jaguars haven’t seen AFNORTH, which went 9-2 overall and 9-1 in league play. The Lions’ lone league loss came Jan 14 against Spangdahlem, 35-26. That loss gave the Lions and Sentinels a split of the season series, as AFNORTH won the first game, 28-24.

Spangdahlem, meanwhile, finished the regular season at 9-5 overall and 9-3 in conference. The Sentinels dropped their Jan. 28 matchup with the Jaguars by a 37-25 scoreline, thanks to a 17-3 third quarter in favor of Sigonella.

author picture
Matt is a sports reporter for Stars and Stripes based in Kaiserslautern, Germany. A son of two career Air Force aircraft maintenance technicians, he previously worked at newspapers in northeast Ohio for 10 years and is a graduate of Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now