EuropeDivision I basketball
Big schools down to final eight
February 25, 2016
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany – Two Division I teams kept their unbeaten-season streaks alive Thursday in DODDS-Europe tournament pool play, while one suffered its first defeat of the year at the hands of a late-charging fifth seed.
But season wins and losses don’t count for much now that the tournament’s semifinal matchups are set.
In the girls’ games Friday, Ramstein - last year’s runner-up - faces Stuttgart and Vicenza takes on Kaiserslautern.
On the boys’ side, defending champion Ramstein clashes with Naples, while Kaiserslautern, which defeated the top-seeded Wildcats in a thrilling game Thursday, plays SHAPE.
BoysKaiserslautern 42, Naples 38: After stunning Naples with its first loss of the season, Kaiserslautern suddenly looks poised to avenge its European championship loss last year to Ramstein.
The Raiders hustled, executed and controlled the tempo of the game throughout, putting the tournament’s first seed, Naples, in the unfamiliar role of playing catchup.
In the second period, Kaiserslautern used a relentless offensive attack to keep Naples off balance. Four different Raiders drew fouls, including several on hard-charging layups to the basket.
Naples’ senior Matt Bruhn, however, kept the Wildcats in the game with a couple of clutch shots, including a three-pointer and a layup as the clock ticked down.
After Kaiserslautern built a five-point lead in the third period, the Wildcats tied it up at 35 apiece with just less than four minutes to play.
But Kaiserslautern freshman Jayden Jones answered with a layup to that drew a foul and put the Raiders up by three, a lead they never relinquished.
“I feel like it was a great game,” said Kaiserslautern senior center Markell Johnson. “We pulled together as a team. That’s what we’ve been working on all season.”
Kaiserslautern senior shooting guard Ja’Markus Myles said the team seems to have found its rhythm in the postseason.
The turning point, he said, was a loss to Wiesbaden in the last game of the regular season. A post-game speech by head coach Corey Sullivan “sparked us,” he said.
Vilseck 42, Lakenheath 39: Though Vilseck and Lakenheath didn’t advance to the semifinals, they put on an exciting show for their fans in the first game of the day.
Several times throughout the game, Vilseck would take the lead only to see the scrappy Lancers claw their way back.
In the fourth period, the Falcons were up by as much as six, but Lakenheath junior Kentavious Seawood sunk two back-to-back three pointers to tie the game back up at 36 all with just over four minutes left.
Some missed shots by Lakenheath sealed the deal in Vilseck’s favor.
“It was a hard game,” said Vilseck junior point guard Avery Walker. “We definitely underestimated them.”
Seawood, who scored 12 points, including three 3-pointers, said despite the loss, “it was a great game. We had good ball movement. It was fun.”
Ramstein 52, SHAPE 39: The score in the boys’ final Division I match in pool play Thursday wasn’t much on the minds of the Royals or the Spartans after the game was over.
Some of the players couldn’t even recall the final tally. With both teams securing spots in Friday’s semifinals, their thoughts were already on the next game.
For SHAPE, Kaiserslautern looms large. “If we let them run the floor, we’ll lose,” said freshman center Zackery Reed.
“They’re an athletic team. They can get up and down the court,” added SHAPE junior point guard Cameron Little.
Ramstein sophomore D’Angelo Griggs took a moment, however, to savor the fresh win over SHAPE.
“We came out like a championship team,” he said. “And we were hungry.”
GirlsStuttgart 47, Wiesbaden 7: In its first matchup of the day, Stuttgart had little trouble handling Wiesbaden, the defending European champion.
The Panthers showed their offensive depth, getting baskets from seven players. Junior Abby Zipperer led all scorers with 16 points; junior Meaghan Ambelang and senior Morgan Whitten chipped in eight apiece.
Marissa Encanacion, the team’s point guard, added five.
“I do think we played well,” she said. “I’m hoping we can keep it up for later games.”
Vicenza 41, Stuttgart 35: The Panthers’ second game could not have been more different. They rose to the occasion and fell just short of defeating an undefeated Vicenza team.
Stuttgart early on gave the Cougars trouble, taking a small lead, 20-18 into the half, extending it to 33-25 late into the third period.
But Vicenza buckled down on defense in the fourth, thwarting Stuttgart in the paint and taking control of the game.
The team heaped much of the credit for the turnaround on freshman point guard Jordan Wakefield, who executed a beautiful layup with 5:45 left to tie the score at 34. She got the assist when Adrianna Lovelace put the team up 36-34, after a Stuttgart turnover.
The Cougars never looked back.
The game was “intense,” said Wakefield, who scored 21 points, including three 3-pointers.
“I’m so proud of everyone,” gushed senior Emma Knapp. “Everyone stepped up. We’re so dynamic. Everyone can score. Everyone can play defense. Every game we have a new star. Jordan really stepped up in this game.”
Other contributors for Vicenza included senior Aerial Rouse, who had nine points and 11 rebounds, and DeAsia Fairley, with six points.
Vicenza 45, Lakenheath 28: Lakenheath made Vicenza work for its first win of the day but, in the end, the sixth-seed team from the United Kingdom was overpowered and outmatched by No.2 seed Vicenza.
The Lancers tied up the score at 10 at the start of the second period but by the time the half was over, Vicenza had run away with the game, 27-10.
Knapp had 16 points, Lovelace chipped in 10 and Wakefield added nine. Lilli Estus led Lakenheath with 13 points and Daija Lindquist added eight points, including a three pointer.