EuropeD-III girls semis
Sigonella, AFNORTH reach title game
Stars and Stripes February 17, 2023
BAUMHOLDER, Germany – Cinderella came up short twice Friday. But she didn’t go down without a fight.
Top seed Sigonella and No. 2 AFNORTH ended any storybook finishes for Division III upstarts Baumholder and Brussels and advanced into the finals of the DODEA-Europe Basketball Championship game.
AFNORTH 25, Brussels 17: It took an overtime for the Lions to finally put away the Brigands.
“I’m nothing but proud of them,” Brussels coach Chris Vahrenhorst said of his team after the loss. It would have been the Brigands third victory of the tournament after a 1-13 regular season. “That the eighth seeds take the defending champs to overtime is an amazing accomplishment from a bunch of girls who just don’t have much basketball experience, but a lot of heart.”
AFNORTH’s Paula Bohlen had seven of her game-high 13 points in the extra period.
“We just got out of our own heads,” Bohlen said of the Lions’ 8-0 run in overtime. Before the extra period, “we held hands, we sat there, everyone took a breath, then we went out on the court and took care of business.”
Lions coach Matt Wise gave credit to the underdogs.
“I can’t stress how good of a coach Chris Vahrenhorst is at Brussels, his young ladies … what a job he’s done with them. They are great opponents and that’s why we struggled today. It was much more about what they did to us.”
Selah Skariah added eight points for AFNORTH. Haley Mitchell led the Brigands with six points, while Tessa Wedekind had five – including a three-pointer late that sent the game into overtime.
“I think everybody’s proud of themselves,” Wedekind said. “Even though it didn’t go how we wanted, it’s definitely something we should be proud of.”
Sigonella 40, Baumholder 25: The Jaguars, who haven’t lost in Division III play this year after going .500 against Division II competition in Italy, had a 14-3 second-quarter advantage in an otherwise tight game.
“Baumholder brought it from the very beginning,” Sigonella coach Averi Chandler said. “They’ve improved so much from the beginning of the season.”
Bucs coach Philip Loyd said his team tried to bring the Jaguars out from a tight 3-2 zone by scoring from long range. That worked for a while, but then the shots stopped falling for the No. 7 seed, which was 2-12 during the regular season.
“We gave the top-seeded team the hardest fight they could have,” he said.
The Jaguars’ tight zone defense might have given the Bucs problems. But so did Fabiola Mercado-Rodriguez, whose full-court pressure resulted in numerous turnovers and Sigonella points.
“I feel like being annoying on the court,” Mercado-Rodriguez said. “It’s just fun to be annoying.”
She finished with nine points.
“She’s one of the most consistent players and the core of our team,” Chandler said.
Ryleigh Denton was consistent on offense, hitting a three-point field goal in each quarter to finish with a game-high 12 points. Alex Alonso added seven.
Adrianna Lopez finished with nine points to lead Baumholder, with Janiyah Spruill scoring seven and Gabrielle Williams six.
Lopez said she was happy with her team’s effort and run at the end of the season, but said there were some lessons to be learned as well.
“We were tired. But we’ve got to have that mindset of push through it, push through it,” she said.
Sigonella and AFNORTH begin a series of six championship games at Ramstein High School at 11 a.m. Saturday. Brussels and Baumholder play for third at Kaiserslautern High School at 9 a.m.