Royals' rugged win over Wiesbaden marks a starting point for both squads
By GREGORY BROOME | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 4, 2018
RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany -- The Ramstein Royals have history on their minds this season. On Tuesday, they took their first small step in its direction.
Ramstein, the reigning four-time DODEA-Europe Division I boys basketball champion, beat the visiting Wiesbaden Warriors 67-61 in a back-and-forth game that was the season opener for each team. While the Royals got the win, their postgame dissatisfaction was evidence of the high expectations they hold for this winter.
“We didn’t play as well as we wanted to, but it will get better soon,” said Ramstein junior Luis Figeroua, who totaled 13 points and eight rebounds. “I feel like we need to get better at defense. Defense is key to winning games. That’s a big part of basketball.”
Royals coach Andrew O’Connor is in agreement with all of the above. While he said it’s “good to pull through” with a “gritty” win against a Division I rival, that was about the only thing on the scoreboard he appreciated.
“Big picture in mind, 61 points for a Ramstein defense is not getting it done,” O’Connor said. “A lot to work on defensively if we want to win another championship.”
And Ramstein certainly does want that. Should they get it, the Royals will match Heidelberg’s DODEA-Europe record with a fifth consecutive boys basketball title.
Naser Eaves and Gabe Fraley, two four-year seniors who have known nothing but championships in their Royals hoops careers, led the way Tuesday. Eaves scored 18 points, including a fourth-quarter slam that served as both a crowd-pleasing highlight and a key two-point basket, and grabbed a matching set of 18 rebounds. Fraley totaled 15 points and nine rebounds.
While Ramstein’s ongoing dynasty looms over every Royals game, it also influences its opponents’ perceptions. Despite the loss, Warriors coach David Brown was pleased to see his new-look team perform admirably on the home turf of DODEA-Europe’s current standard for excellence.
“We’ve got a long way to go, but we’re on track,” Brown said. “This is the best place to start the season.”
The Warriors gave Brown plenty of reasons for optimism, absorbing Ramstein runs that threatened to put the visitors away and responding with momentum-swinging defensive stops and timely shotmaking.
“I’m encouraged by the fact that I’ve got new guys that are stepping up to play. I’m encouraged by the fact that our kids never quit. And I’m encouraged by the fact that I have a leader - an undisputed leader - on the team,” Brown said.
That last item refers to senior point guard Tyrese Harris, who finished with a game-high 24 points, both orchestrating and headlining a Wiesbaden attack that had a lot to do with Ramstein’s frustrations on defense.
Both teams are busy this weekend as the DODEA-Europe schedule winds down for the holiday break. Ramstein visits archrival Kaiserslautern on Friday, while Wiesbaden visits Lakenheath for a Friday-Saturday set.
Ramstein and Wiesbaden are scheduled to meet again Feb. 12 at Wiesbaden.