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HEIDELBERG, Germany — Mannheim’s men and women reached the winners-bracket finals of the four-day, double-elimination 2003 U.S. Forces-Europe basketball tournament Thursday.

Both teams defeated rusty-looking Ramstein teams. Mannheim’s women pulled away from a 38-34 halftime lead to beat the Lady Rams 82-73 and the men stifled the Rams in the second half of a 62-45 victory.

Mannheim women 82, Ramstein 73

Precious Bryant led short-handed Mannheim with 26 points as the Army-Europe runners-up dispatched USAFE’s designated top seed to an elimination game against the loser of the Heidelberg-Spangdahlem game, which was to be played late Thursday.

“When you’ve just got five players, you’ve got to play smart, you’ve got to play defense and you’ve got to play with teamwork,” said Mannheim veteran Cathy Holmes, who scored 18 points. “That’s what we did.”

Mannheim got 17 points from Sharon Montgomery, 14 from Tanya Weaver and seven from Renae Whitfield, and held Ramstein star Nicole Howard to six points after halftime. Howard finished with 22.

“We haven’t played a full game since January,” Howard said. “It’s tough to practice, too, when everybody’s not there. With the real-world situation, if was difficult to get people to practice.”

Mannheim men 62, Ramstein 45

Army-Europe runner-up Mannheim, which has won the past three U.S. Forces titles, found itself dominated inside and trailing 14-2 in the early going.

Predictably, the Mustangs responded like champions.

“We knew we had to get better on defense, play tough and get stops on defense,” said Mannheim captain Tiwan Jarrett. “We knew if we got some stops, the offense would take care of itself.”

Led by veteran DeAnthony Rosser off the bench, a monster inside game by 6-foot-7 Eloi Perry, and five straight free throws from Jarret, Mannheim took a 28-27 lead with 42 seconds left in the first half before a Rickey Patton basket gave Ramstein a 29-28 lead at halftime.

That edge lasted just over a minute before a Jarrett three-pointer gave Mannheim the lead for good.

Patton and Austin Layton each had 12 each for Ramstein, which moves into Friday’s 4 p.m. elimination game against the loser of Thursday’s late game between Heidelberg and Aviano.

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