EuropeDivision I basketball
Naples, Kaiserslautern advance to semifinals
February 24, 2016
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany – The first games of the 2016 DODDS-European basketball finals are in the books, and as far as Division I is concerned, things are shaping up much as expected.
Top-seeded Naples and fifth-seeded Kaiserslautern each won two games and already clinched spots in Friday’s semifinals in the smaller of the two boys’ pools. They’ll play each other Thursday to see who gets the better draw.
The girls’ opener between the Stuttgart Panthers and SHAPE Spartans was a blowout Wednesday, with the Panthers coming on top 42-14. The Panthers controlled the court from tipoff to the final buzzer.
“This morning we just came in ready to play,” said Stuttgart’s Abby Zipperer.
Morgan Whitten led the way for the Panthers with 14 points and four rebounds. Zipperer, a junior, added 11 points of her own and nabbed eight rebounds.
The Panthers’ defense kept SHAPE’s Begona Rodriguez outside of her comfort zone. Rodriguez, clearly the backbone of the team, was able to make a few plays out of nothing, but was kept scoreless after the half.
Part of that was due to some great defensive vision on the part of Autumn Kearny who, together with Whitten and Zipperer, formed a fantastic defensive front.
“It felt great being able to win and get off to a good start,” Zipperer said. “The excitement, the adrenaline just pumped me up.”
The Panthers, 2-0 on the day in their pool along with second-seeded Vicenza, weren’t the only ones ready to play.
Ramstein isn’t exactly known for playing lackadaisical basketball. But Wednesday’s full-press performance against the Naples Wildcats had to surprise even the Royals.
Ramstein crushed the Wildcats 52-13, with the game all but ending in the first quarter. The Royals held their opponents to four points in the first half, while dropping in 31 of their own.
Lindsey Breton was the main offensive weapon for the Royals, scoring 14 points. Desiree Palacios and Ashley Mateo added 10 points apiece and Bella Rodriguez chalked up nine.
It was the quintessential team win. Nearly every player scored, and those that didn’t were racking up defensive stats.
“Compared to last year, I feel like this team has built a lot more chemistry than last year,” Mateo said. “We never give up in anything we do.”
BoysThe games on the boys’ side were much tighter. The Stuttgart boys finished their game against the Vilseck Falcons with a decisive 59-44 win, but until the fourth quarter either team could have walked away with the victory.
Tristen Phelps, one of the top shooters for the Panthers, said that while his team took a while to warm up, he’s excited about their chances moving forward.
“We’re not a strong first-quarter team, but we had a few sparks, some early blocks, some early points and we just came back strong,” he said.
While Phelps had 14 points and teammate Noah Layton had 18 of his own, the real X factor in that game was one sure to drive Vilseck’s head coach John Sabala up a wall.
Fouls, fouls and even more fouls. The Falcons sent the Panthers to the free throw line 26 times. The Panthers shooters took full advantage, too, hitting 73 percent.
The 19 points Stuttgart made off the back of fouls were literally the difference between victory and defeat in that game.
The Panthers’ good fortune didn’t hold. They fell to No. 2 seed Ramstein 55-27 in the night’s final game. The Royals are 2-0 along with SHAPE in the second boys pool.
Kaiserslautern edged out the Wiesbaden Warriors, 46-38, in an earlier game that – coupled with a 61-41 victory over Vicenza – helped the Raiders advance.
Ja’Markus Myles had 21 points and Jayden Jones added 16 – together almost as many points as the Warriors’ entire squad.
Myles started the game off slowly, scoring only four in the first half.
He’s a veteran player though, who said he knows how dangerous close games can be. That gave him a little extra motivation to keep pushing through that rough beginning.
“The last time we played these two teams – Wiesbaden and Ramstein – we were up by so much, but we let them come back,” he said. “So this time we had to stay focused and keep our heads in the game.”
Stuttgart needs victories over SHAPE and Lakenheath on Thursday to stay alive. Vilseck and Lakenheath need two wins and help from other teams.
But as one Stuttgart player noted, the tournament is still young.
“This is basically our March Madness,” Phelps said. “so anything can happen.”