D-II girls semifinals
AFNORTH knocks off BFA to reach finals against AOSR
By GREGORY BROOME | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 22, 2019
WIESBADEN, Germany -- A new DODEA-Europe Division II girls basketball champion will be crowned on Saturday after the upstart AFNORTH Lions ended Black Forest Academy’s three-year reign in a thrilling Friday semifinal at Clay Kaserne Fitness Center.
Second-seeded AFNORTH will take on third-seeded American Overseas School of Rome in a fresh title-game matchup Saturday.
AFNORTH 34, Black Forest 32: A pair of fearless freshmen brought a sudden end to the Falcons’ dynasty.
AFNORTH guard Tori Morris drove to the hoop for a game-tying layup with one minute and 17 seconds to play and fellow ninth-grader Stella Gage knocked down the game-winning jumper with 27 seconds remaining to oust the top-seeded defending champions.
The game-winner was the only basket of the game for Gage, who is competing on her first high-school sports team. Her prep career is certainly off to a memorable start.
“I took a deep breath right before I did it and I didn’t know if I was going to make it,” Gage said. “But I made it.”
The decisive final rally wasn’t the only one AFNORTH had to mount to finally eliminate the stubborn Falcons. BFA scored the first six points of the second half to extend a one-point halftime lead, a classic out-of-the-locker-room technique reigning champions have long used to subdue plucky challengers.
But these Lions couldn’t be subdued.
Morris said she maintained “full confidence” in her team even as BFA repeatedly reasserted its lead. In the end, the Lions held the lead that mattered, thanks in large part to a defense that held BFA to four fourth-quarter points.
“It feels amazing,” Morris said. “We’re so happy to be here.”
Morris herself was the catalyst for the victory with a 16-point performance that matched BFA’s Becca Losey for game-high honors.
Morris repeatedly weaved her way to the hoop and consistently finished shots or drew fouls when she got there.
“Just open lanes,” Morris said. “Getting around the people instead of going through them.”
The loss brings an end to BFA’s five-year streak of championship-game appearances, a run that includes the last three European titles. Falcons coach Lisa Ebenroth was disappointed in the result but couldn’t fault her team’s effort.
“I’m happy with the way that they played, I’m happy with the intensity that they played with and the heart that they’ve played with this whole tournament,” Ebenroth said. “It’s going to have to end sometime. You want it to last as long as it can.”
AOSR 35, Bahrain 27: Third-seeded AOSR advanced to its first-ever DODEA-Europe girls basketball championship game by dominating the first and fourth quarters.
AOSR scored all 12 of the game’s first-quarter points to claim a significant early advantage, but Bahrain pushed back with a 12-2 second-quarter run and played AOSR largely even in the third quarter.
AOSR’s similarly overwhelming 15-5 fourth-quarter surge was enough to put Bahrain away to stay.
“Every time they scored a basket, we didn’t stop trying,” AOSR guard Amaya Vaquerizo said. “We tried even harder.”
That persistence echoed the team’s steady development over the course of the season as it incorporated some new players into its rotation.
“Seeing us practice every day, every game, how we improved every weekend ... gave us hope,” said Vaquerizo, who scored six of her 10 points in the first-quarter shutout. “And now we made it to the finals.”
While AOSR earned its long-sought breakthrough, the game continued Bahrain’s frustrating streak of semifinal setbacks. The school will play Saturday in its fourth consecutive third-place game, its long-awaited championship breakthrough deferred for at least another year. Bahrain faced AOSR in the first two of those four third-place games.
Bahrain coach Brant Tryon described his team’s season as a “rollercoaster ride” of highs and lows, a trend that continued in the postseason. Bahrain won its three preliminary games by a total of nine points before struggling Friday.
“When we’re on, we do well and when we’re off, we don’t,” Tryon said. “That’s kind how the tournament went for us as well.”