RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany – For exactly 60 minutes Sunday, the Lakenheath Eagles looked to be far and away the best team in U.S. Forces Europe. They spent the first 40 minutes of that time drilling the Ramstein Rams 91-79 to force an if-necessary game in the 2012 U.S. Forces Europe basketball tournament. And at halftime of the winner-take-all if-game, the Eagles were up 49-32 and appeared to be coasting to the title.

As it turned out, however, the second half of the second game was just what the Rams had been waiting for.

“We’re a second-half team,” said Ramstein rocket Cedric Thomas after Ramstein’s 84-78 title-winning victory. “We’ve been that way all year. We come together when our backs are to the wall.”

Ramstein’s backs were part of the wall when the second half began, but the Rams pushed back with a 38-21 run over the first 14:12 of the second half which finally got Ramstein even at 70. Much of the recovery was fueled by the desertion of the Eagles’ three-ball which had been so large a part of their game in Game 1 and the first half of Game 2. Lakenheath hit six treys in the first half of the if-game, but just two in the second half and none in four tries in the game’s final 8:13.

“We stepped up pour transition defense,” Thomas explained. “We hustled back and pressured the shooters.”

Ramstein then took its first lead of the game on Mike Sloan’s bucket off a pinpoint assist from Thomas at 72-70, only to lose the lead again and fall behind by three with 2:55 to go.

Felton Scott got two of those back, however, when he swished a 15-foot fall-away jumper from the right baseline and 1:20 later he converted a one-and-one opportunity that was just as clutch as his jumper had been earlier. It put Ramstein up 79-78, and Thomas followed with a steal and layup that dug the Eagles an 81-78 hole they never exited.

“It’s hard to beat us,” Thomas said, “when we come together as a team.”

Lakenehath managed the feat in Game 1, however, behind 20 points from tourney MVP Vincent White and 18 each by Jacob Butler and Kevin Gilliam.

Ramstein held White to 11, however, in the nightcap.

Sloan led the Ramstein scoring parade in Game 2 with 22; Thomas, who scored a game-high 25 in Game 1, and Aaron Ellis each added 19 in the finale, as the Rams returned to the USFE throne room after a one-year absence.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now