Unbeaten Naples knocks off Aviano
Stars and Stripes February 4, 2011
AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy – The Aviano Saints are champions of Italy no more.
The two-time defending American Schools in Italy champions – and two-time defending Europe Division II titlists – were eliminated from the race Friday night in a 42-28 loss to Naples.
The Wildcats (11-0) have only a Saturday contest with Aviano before hosting Sigonella next weekend for a two-game set that will determine the new champion. The Jaguars had lost only one game heading into Friday night’s game against winless Florence.
Aviano (7-4) had to sweep its last four games and hope for a split between Naples and Sigonella and an unlikely victory by Florence to have a shot at retaining a share of the title.
“We knew it was going to be a rebuilding year,” said Aviano coach Ken McNeely, who has only one senior on the roster.
McNeely also knew his team didn’t have a chance of beating Naples in a run-and-gun contest.
So Aviano came out in a slowdown offense, trying to limit the number of possessions that Naples had and run time off the clock. Both worked to a degree. But Naples capitalized on the attempts it had and led 26-7 at halftime.
McNeely said his team had to execute almost perfectly for the strategy to work, but it didn’t.
“We turned the ball over 15 times,” he said.
Aviano had no answers for Naples’ 6-foot-3-inch junior center Nigel Alexander, who had 14 of his game-high 16 points in the first half. The Wildcats extended their lead to 38-16 through three quarters with Aviano continuing to run a slow-paced offense.
Virtually assured of a victory, Naples coach Craig Lord decided to institute his own brand of slow-ball in the theory that the team might need to play a different style while competing in the DODDS-Europe championships. He wasn’t happy with the results, though. The Wildcats turned the ball over repeatedly and didn’t score until just over a minute left in the quarter on a layup by Jun Jun Gallardo.
“I’m happy with the win and I’m happy with the first half,” Lord said. “I think we won the first three quarters. Obviously, we were trying to do something in the final quarter and we didn’t …
“Can I just say ‘No comment?’’’ he said, grinning.
Alexander had six rebounds for Naples, while Kyle Smigelski scored 10 points and Ryheam Trahan added six and pulled down a team-high seven rebounds. Sophomore Andrew Bert came off the bench to lead Aviano with 11 points.
Aviano girls 50, Naples girls 39: The Wildcats gave the unbeaten Saints all they wanted in a game that was closer than the final score might indicate.
Naples (2-9) led 13-11 after a quarter and only trailed 25-20 at halftime.
But the balanced attack of Aviano’s starting five was too much. Jasmine Mailoto (12 points, 15 rebounds), Kyerha Smith (13 points, seven steals), AnnMarie McClelland (12 points, five assists and three steals), Katlyn Atchley (seven points, nine rebounds) and Casey Brunetti (four points, five rebounds and four steals) played more than they had all season. Most of the team’s games have been lopsided victories, with reserves seeing plenty of action.
Naples’ depth gave the Saints trouble as substitute after substitute helped the Wildcats maintain a quick pace on both ends of the court. Jessica Edmondson had nine points, while Montana Beider and Kierra Mims each added eight and Mary Beard six points and a team-high six rebounds.
Like the Naples boys, Aviano’s girls can clinch a title next weekend by defeating second-place Vicenza.