EuropeD-II boys semis
Admirals and Wildcats meet again with title at stake
Stars and Stripes February 17, 2023
RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany – Rota’s Hampton Brasfield missed out on the Admirals’ title run last year, having broken his foot.
When the Admirals graduated seven seniors from that squad, the sophomore guard and his inexperienced teammates could be excused for not replicating the success of the previous season.
Yet, at the end of Rota’s 59-51 victory over the American Overseas School of Rome on Friday afternoon at Southside Fitness Center, the Admirals find themselves one step away from matching that feat, advancing to Saturday’s Division II DODEA European Basketball Championship final.
“Losing (those seven players) was a big disadvantage, everyone thought, but we all worked really hard in the offseason,” Brasfield said. “And here we are today.”
Up next for Rota (13-3): A title rematch with Naples. The Wildcats defeated Aviano 65-48 in the last game of the afternoon to punch their ticket to the championship game.
Rota came from behind to beat Naples (12-6) last year, something the Wildcats haven’t forgotten.
“I’ve been preparing for this moment since last year’s championship,” Naples’ Patrick Fraim said. “So, I’m glad it can happen.”
For the Admirals, the charity stripe was their friend.
The Falcons (10-7) got into early foul trouble, and Rota entered the bonus at the 1-minute, 31-second mark in the first quarter. The Admirals proceeded to go 23-of-32 from the line, including a 16-of-21 mark in the first half.
Brasfield paced the Admirals, going 15-of-20. In the second period, the 6-foot-3 guard connected on his first six free throws to help his squad jump out to a 37-18 halftime lead.
Brasfield finished with a team-high 19 points, while teammates Anthony Ross and Tyler DeMeritt finish with 15 each.
“We’re a young team,” Rota coach Ben Anderson said. “For the young guys to really play in the big moments, play heady like that and make their free throws, I thought was big.”
Despite having success in the second quarter stopping the Falcons’ Parker Huber with a box-and-1 defense, the Admirals couldn’t contain him forever.
The 6-foot-2 senior guard scored 16 of his game-high 19 points in the second half, as the AOSR clawed back to within six points with 25.9 seconds left in the game.
Rota just managed to hold on, according to its coach.
“He’s one of the best players in DODDS,” Anderson said. “You just knew they were going to make a run, and when you’re trying to balance holding a lead, not being too aggressive but not trying to freeze to the point where you make yourself nervous, it’s a fine line.
“I think we did just enough.”
As for Naples in its matchup with Aviano, the Wildcats and Saints looked to be in a tight matchup through a quarter and a half, with the Saints (15-4) taking a 34-32 lead.
The Wildcats exploded over the final 3:17 of the second, starting with a pair of Cameron Collins free throws from a Aviano bench technical and ending with a Robert Oliver putback bucket with 15 seconds left. That 12-0 run helped give Naples a 45-38 lead heading into the second half.
The Wildcats didn’t let up from there, scoring 11 straight points in the third period to take a 16-point lead. They never looked back.
Playing against Aviano’s 1-3-1 zone, Naples coach Craig Lord said his team success came up from its up-tempo play.
“It was our defense and running the floor and keeping up,” he said. “It was more the motion of the game that opened it up than us picking it apart.”
Three Wildcats reached double figures, including Fraim with a game-high 17 points. Robert Oliver chipped in with 14 points, and Cameron Collins added another 12.
What impressed Lord was Naples’ ball movement. While they turned the ball over too much for his liking (they had 22 in the game), the Wildcats had 12 assists, led by Collin’s seven.
“The guys are really learning how to play with each other,” Lord said. “They’re starting to get used to that quick passing, especially a 1-3-1 or any defense.”
Andrew Walker and Gabe Fabbro led the Saints with 14 points each in the loss.