Hoop summit gets off to sluggish start
By KENT HARRIS | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 8, 2017
VICENZA, Italy – Whether it was the long bus rides, chilly temperatures outside or just early season struggles, there wasn’t a lot of material generated for season highlight films Friday night in what’s become an annual basketball tilt between four teams north and south of the Alps.
Even a few of the winning coaches were grumbling a bit after watching the first day of a two-day basketball festival featuring Stuttgart and Vilseck from Germany, as well as Naples and the host Cougars.
“We played pretty ugly,” Naples coach Tim Smith said, moments after his team downed Vilseck 26-15. “We didn’t play well offensively — and we didn’t play well defensively, either. Tomorrow, if we play like that, we’ll be in some serious trouble.”
Naples, 3-0 in the season, takes on Stuttgart on Saturday. The Panthers, who didn’t lose last season while cruising to the DODEA European D-I championship, are 3-0 this year as well. That record includes a 42-16 victory over Vicenza on Friday. Stuttgart was in control of the game from the start, but had some trouble controlling the ball – turning it over 29 times.
“That bothers me,” coach Robin Hess said. “It’s something we have to work on: Don’t give up the ball.”
Each of the eight teams participating did have a few highlights — and one of the games ended up being a thriller.
Stuttgart 53, Vicenza 52: The Panthers were 17 points down in the third quarter after a barrage of three-point field goals by the hosts.
But, Jesse Woods’ Cougars have been running hot and cold this season — and they went ice cold in the final quarter, getting outscored 21-5.
With his team trailing by three with 31 seconds left, Ahmad Johnson, who finished with a game-high 26 points missed, the front end of a one-and-one. Vicenza’s Abreim Brown, who had a team-high 20 points, nailed two free throws.
But, Johnson responded with a three-pointer and Vicenza missed a free throw. With 7 seconds left on the clock, Gavin Abney got the ball and drove three quarters of the court, getting fouled while performing a layup.
He had missed all four of his free throw attempts prior to the one he took with 2 seconds on the clock — but his final attempt hit the front rim and bounced in, giving the Panthers the victory.
“We never give up,” first-year coach Anthony Bassett said. “We fight until the final horn sounds.”
The loss left a bitter taste in the mouths of the hosts, who had originally looked to be in control for much of the contest.
“I think we played the first three quarters as well as we can right now,” Woods said. “We need to execute better down the stretch. This will help us with that down the road.”
Vilseck 59, Naples 52: In a battle of two teams that bear little resemblance to last year’s squads, the Falcons took a large lead and – unlike the Cougars – held off their foes.
Coming off a pair of season-opening losses to Kaiserslautern, coach Kelly Frappier said her team is starting to communicate and play better together — which is important, considering she lost 10 players from last year’s team. The team has only one returner, who sees a lot of time on the court.
All five of Vilseck’s starters scored, with four scoring in the double digits, led by 17 each from Terron Sizemore and Xavier Bynes. Not a single substitute scored — but Frappier, who said she rarely starts the same lineup twice, isn’t worried about that.
“Every player on my bench can score,” she said.
Naples dug itself a hole by getting outscored 35-19 over the middle two quarters and finds itself 0-3.
“We made some freshman mistakes we shouldn’t have made and we made them continuously throughout the game,” coach Craig Lord said.
Stuttgart 42, Vicenza 16: The game was tied at 4-4 and then the wheels fell off for the Cougars. The Panthers scored 23 straight points over the next 10 minutes and the game was effectively over.
Ten different Panthers scored, topped by Skye DeSilva-Mathis’ seven points, and 11 Stuttgart players grabbed at least one rebound.
Stuttgart has been known for emphasizing team play and unselfishness in recent years. Hess said that’s going to continue.
“I’ve told them that we win as a team, we lose as a team, we play as a team,” she said. “Basketball is not a one-player sport.”
Vicenza coach Greg DeJardin said the Panthers look poised to, once again, be Europe’s best team.
“We’re still figuring out who we are,” he said. “This shows us what the standard is in D-1.”
Naples 26, Vilseck 15: The Falcons were missing their starting point guard, Ashley Huezo, due to academic testing — and that certainly had something to do with the team’s 38 turnovers.
Naples didn’t exactly burn the nets, leading only 11-6 at halftime and failing to secure a comfortable lead until the final quarter. No Wildcat scored more than four points.