RAF ALCONBURY, England – After losing two times Friday to see the end of a 35-game win streak, the Rota boys’ basketball team showed Saturday why it’s still very much in the mix for the Division III DODDS European crown.

The Admirals beat Brussels in a squeaker, 37-36, and then later turned in a solid performance with a 48-28 victory against Alconbury on the last day of the three-day Division III winter basketball tournament here.

Against Brussels, Rota shot 50 percent inside and outside the arc, according to Brussels’ coach Chris Vahrenhorst. “That’s impressive. We’ve got some work to do before we see them at Europeans.”

Vahrenhorst thinks Bamberg and Baumholder will be tough to beat. But after seeing the parity on display at this four-team Division III tourney, Alconbury boys’ coach Jake Jacob said, “I think anybody can get it right now. From what I’ve seen, I think it’s open for anybody. I have not seen one dominating factor.”

Perhaps the only dominating team of the tournament was - to the surprise of many - the Alconbury girls, who didn’t drop a game during the contest. The Dragons, who didn’t win a regular season game last year, brought their record for the year so far to 8-4.

Other coaches took notice.

“It’s nice to see some other teams start to get better. Alconbury, especially, is playing really, really well,” said Rota coach Ward DeMeritt, whose girls lost two games to Alconbury during the tourney.

The Dragons this year have a new assistant coach who is taking an active role in helping head coach Ron Behr with the team. Adrienne Maeser, a Navy lieutenant stationed at nearby RAF Molesworth, was seen throughout the tournament yelling encouragement and instruction from the sidelines. Maeser played college basketball at the U.S. Naval Academy and asked Behr if she could help out with the team.

“She truly brings a spark to the girls, which I think is key,” Behr said.

Alconbury senior Nastassia Peters said she’s benefitted by having Maeser on board: “She teaches me my post moves; tells me how to drive to the hoop.”

Behr talked Peters into playing basketball as a sophomore. Prior to that, she had never played the game. On Saturday against Rota, Peters had one of the best games of her short career so far, putting up 17 points.

On the team’s turnaround this year, Peters said: “It’s crazy.” For the first time, Peters, who also runs track and plays soccer, is beginning to feel like a basketball player, she said. “I love this sport.”

The Brussels girls also have a new coach, Tim Como, who took over from Dexter Bohn last month. The team’s goal looking ahead to Europeans is to make at least the semifinal round, Como said. Several teams could stand in the way of that. “Sigonella is good, I hear,” he said. “Alconbury, they gave us a hard time here. We didn’t play that great.”

The Brigands beat Rota on Saturday, 23-18, going 2-1 at the tournament, even without starter Hannah Saunders, who was ill this week. Top scorers for Brussels on Saturday were senior Krystal Javier with eight points and sophomore Anya Shelton with seven. Junior point guard Ali DeFazio also played a key role, Como said, observing that “she dribbled the ball more than anyone I’ve ever seen.”

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.

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