HEIDELBERG, Germany — In this longest of military basketball seasons, the Mannheim Mustangs saved the best for last.

Needing to win Sunday’s final two games of the 2003 U.S.Forces-Europe double-elimination tournament to claim a fourth straight title, the Mustangs rode 6-foot-7 center Eloi Perry to an 84-53 rout of Army-Europe champion Heidelberg, then cranked up the defense to put the Generals away in the nightcap, 75-69.

The Heidelberg community didn’t go home without a trophy, however. The Lady Generals completed an unbeaten season by claiming a championship-game forfeit from Mannheim’s Lady Mustangs, who had only four players available on Sunday.

In the first men’s game, Perry produced 24 points, 13 rebounds, four blocks and an assist in a relentless 38-minute effort.

He then pronounced himself ready to play again, but fatigue got him into foul trouble. That left the championship game in the hands of the Mannheim defense.

“We turned it up in the second half,” said veteran DeAnthony Rosser, who led the team with 17 points and helped rally the Mustangs from a 38-31 deficit.

“As I said at the Army tournament, there ain’t anything broke, we just needed to work on lapses. That’s what we did.”

What Rosser and captain Tiwan Jarrett did was take the game onto their shoulders in the final 10 minutes.

Jarrett, who finished with 14 points, pulled off three steals in that span and hit three of four free throws. Rosser added a three-pointer, a put-back basket, two free throws and a pair of huge defensive rebounds.

In the first game, Perry scored 12 points, blocked three shots and pulled off a steal as the Mustangs took an eight-point halftime lead.

But the three-time defending champions were taking nothing for granted. They had led by 12 at halftime of Friday night’s winners-bracket final, only to fall 70-65.

The indication that Sunday wasn’t to be a replay of Friday came early in the second half, when Mannheim coach Charles Solomon inserted burly 6-7 Paul Riley into the lineup with Perry.

The “twin towers” baffled Heidelberg and produced a 13-0 five-minute run midway through the second half that put the game away.

Carlos Sanford, who finished with 15 points, also played a big role, going 4-for-4 from behind the arc.

“This was a victory of heart and character,” Solomon said of Sunday’s sweep. “We stuck with and stuck with it and stuck with it.”

Jarrett was pleased with the way his team dug deep after dropping its last three games against the Generals by a total of 10 points.

“Heidelberg’s been tough all year,” he said, “but these last three games we’ve been letting down at the end. We didn’t do that today.”

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