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Many D-I boys games are tossups so far

Stuttgart's Wade Cooper defends against Naples' Ashton Jeanty in the Wildcats' 46-44 victory on Friday, Dec. 7, 2018.

NORMAN LLAMAS/STARS AND STRIPES

By KENT HARRIS | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 7, 2018

VICENZA, Italy – The DODEA-Europe Division I boys basketball championship game is still 11 weeks away.

But Friday’s two matchups featuring Vilseck taking on Vicenza and Stuttgart playing Naples certainly had large stretches of playoff-like intensity.

“Lots of heart,” Naples coach Craig Lord said after his team – which features three sophomore and two freshmen starters – held off the Panthers 46-44 when a buzzer-beater bounced high off the rim. Not that he’s really a fan of such games.

“I don’t like close ones,” he said. “It’s good for the team, but not for me,” he said, smiling.

Since it was early in the season, Stuttgart coach John Bowman was smiling as well. At least on the outside.

“It doesn’t feel good,” he said. “And if we don’t learn from it, there’s a lot more of that coming.”

That’s because many of the D-I matchups so far this season have been fairly even. That includes both games played by four-time defending champion Ramstein, which improved to 2-0 with a victory over Kaiserslautern on Friday in Germany.

The Royals visit Vicenza in January after a long winter break. That’ll be more than a month after the hosts faced Vilseck and Stuttgart in the two-day event that concludes Saturday.

Vicenza coach Jesse Woods hopes Ramstein sees a different team than defeated Vilseck 49-44 on Friday.

Woods wasn’t happy with his offense or his defense.

“Maybe I’m too much of a perfectionist,” he said. “It was a good win.”

In fact, it was the first time Vicenza has defeated Vilseck under his tenure. It came despite the Falcons leading for much of the first half. Vicenza didn’t hit a two-point field goal until more than two minutes had passed in the second quarter. All 10 of its points at the time came via three-point shots or free throws.

“We probably took too many of them,” Woods said of the long-range shots. “I told them, if they’re not falling, you’ve got to get to the basket.”

Senior Kay’re Grant heeded those words, finishing with 18 points, most coming on drives into the key that ended in short shots. He helped the Cougars take the lead in the second half and they held on for the victory.

Joshua Valembrun (13 points), Christopher Graveley-Rosado (10), Jonas Matthews (10) and Xxavier Bynes led a balanced attack for the Falcons.

The Naples-Stuttgart game was even closer, coming down to Wade Cooper’s desperation heave that would have won it for the Panthers. Unfortunately for Stuttgart, the ball bounced so high off the rim that it didn’t come down in time enough for anyone to grab it or tip it in.

That left the Wildcats with a 3-0 record against D-I teams following a sweep of Lakenheath. Tye Thompson was all over the court, scoring a team-high 22 points, grabbing five rebounds and blocking seven shots – many of them Stuttgart layup attempts.

Girls

The girls games weren’t as competitive, though Naples and Vicenza did appear to fight until the end. Tedeja Marshall scored 26 points in a 44-21 Vilseck win over Vicenza. Stuttgart’s Skye DeSilva-Mathis had 20 points and 15 rebounds in a 40-27 Stuttgart victory against Naples.

Marshall, a 6-foot senior who came to Germany from Kentucky last year, is averaging more than 20 points a game during the young season.

She and Rebekah Heckert were the only two Falcons to score until about four minutes left to play. But by then, Vilseck had more than a comfortable lead.

Marshall, who aspires to play in college next year, is the team’s leading rebounder. And she scored most of her points on drives that put her close to the basket. But she knows that she’ll likely to have to shift to the backcourt to play in college.

“I know I have to work more on [ball handling] and outside shooting,” she said.

Until then, she’s willing to take any role her team needs her to. And she’ll probably carry much of the scoring burden, though she doesn’t look at it that way.

“I’m able to score points because of my teammates,” she said. “We all work together.”

That last phrase could have been the mantra for the Panthers the last several years, with a string of DODEA championships or near misses as a result.

And that appears to be true this season as well, evidenced by the victory over an undermanned Wildcat squad.

“We pretty much win as a team,” coach Robin Hess said.

DeSilva-Mathis was the star Friday, but was set up for several easy baskets by her teammates.

Sophomore Roxanne Sasse played valiantly in the defeat for Naples, with 16 points, five rebounds and four steals.

harris.kent@stripes.com

Vicenza's Brealin Redecker puts up a shot in the Cougars' 44-21 loss to Vilseck on Friday.
NORMAN LLAMAS/STARS AND STRIPES

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