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KAISERSERSLAUTERN, Germany — Even the departure of their star player with 10 minutes to go couldn’t stop the Heidelberg Lady Generals from claiming their third straight U.S. Forces Europe championship with a 78-69 victory over Mannheim.

Tiffany Collins, who scored 25 points and collected 19 rebounds in the game’s first 30 minutes, left to fulfill a commitment to play in a league game with a German team. But Heidelberg, leading 63-46 at the time, had enough talent and defensive presence to hold off the Lady Mustangs.

Heidelberg improved to 43-2 with an unbeaten run through this four-day event matching the top two USAREUR teams against their USAFE counterparts.

“At that point in the game, with that margin, you use clock management, defense and rebounding,” Heidelberg coach Joe Souza said.

The Lady Generals did, but that didn’t stop old-foe Mannheim — whom Heidelberg has beaten the last two seasons for the USAREUR crown and the last three for the U.S. Forces Europe title — from making a run.

Laura Morant scored eight of her 17 points in the final 10 minutes, and Tonya Weaver hit a three-pointer with 40 seconds left in the game to get the Lady Mustangs to within 72-65, as close as they’d been since the early going. They’d get no closer.

“I thought we had good spacing on offense to run out the clock,” Souza said, adding that having point guard Vanessa McClendon in control was “just like having me on the court to run the offense.”

McClendon and old pro Rhonda Williams, who was playing her final game for the Lady Generals, kept the game in hand with deliberate, intelligent play. But points were harder to come by than when Collins was dominating the action.

“It was another game, definitely, after she left,” said Heidelberg’s Katina Miles, a three-point specialist who sank three en route to a 14-point outing. “When she’s gone, we’ve got to look for other ways to score.”

Williams (12 points) shot 5-for-8 from the foul line in the final 10 minutes, and McClendon went 4-for-6 from the line and totaled 11 points.

Precious Blackman scored 25 points for Mannheim, but she missed four tries from the floor in the late going — three of them three-point shots — as Mannheim lost to Heidelberg for the seventh time in eight tries this season.


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