BAUMHOLDER, Germany – Odds are the Brussels and Baumholder girls basketball teams won’t be meeting up in the title game Saturday in the DODEA-Europe Division III championships.
But there was all kinds of room for optimism Thursday night. After all, the Brigands – the event’s eighth seed – and the Bucs – No. 7 of nine teams coming in – were heavy underdogs before advancing to Friday’s semifinals earlier in the day.
“During the season, we tell the girls, ‘It’s all about the championships and the regular season is a learning experience,'” Brussels coach Chris Vahrenhorst said in a phone interview. “And this kind of thing will happen sometimes.”
Baumholder coach Phillip Loyd was in complete agreement.
“We used the regular season to prepare the players,” he said after watching his team win as many games in the tournament (two) as it did during a 14-game regular season.
Brussels topped Baumholder in that regard, also winning twice after finishing the regular season 1-13.
Both teams won tight games over favored foes to advance.
The key game for Brussels was a 15-14 victory over fifth-seeded Ansbach late Wednesday. Patricia Rullan banked in a pair of free throws with 1.4 seconds left to lift the Brigands.
“They’ve come a long way,” Vahrenhorst said of his team. “It’s a young group. But they get off the floor every time they fall down and just learn from it.”
Baumholder’s 19-15 win over third-seeded Spangdahlem on Thursday paved the way for the Bucs to move on. Loyd credited the defensive play of senior forward Adrianna Lopez along with Janiyah Spriull and Ashanti Santiago.
“We’re not a good offensive team, but we’re a very good defensive team,” he said.
Now comes the hard part for both teams.
Brussels takes on AFNORTH – which won all three meetings between the teams during the season – in the semifinals.
“Matt Wise is a good coach,” Vahrenhorst said. “I’m sure he’ll have a game plan for us. And we’ll have a game plan for them. We’ll see.”
Baumholder faces top-seeded Sigonella, which hasn’t lost in divisional play this season, including a victory over Baumholder.
“Going in, I said they were the best team in Division III and I don’t think that’s changed,” Loyd said. “But we’re there.”
Unlike the girls tournament, the boys side went pretty much according to form.
No. 1 seed Baumholder and No. 2 Spangdahlem, which split during the regular season, have been perfect in tournament play. The Sentinels’ closest game was their final one Thursday, a 51-45 victory over No. 3 seed AFNORTH. The Lions will play the Bucs in one semifinal. Spangdahlem takes on Sigonella, which lost two of its three games in the tournament but advanced on point differential after tying with Hohenfels and Brussels behind Baumholder in Pool A play.
The Jaguars entered the tournament as the fourth seed but hadn’t won a game before routing Brussels 38-12 Thursday afternoon.