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Though there are no 2003 USAFE basketball champions, the Air Force will send four teams to play the Army’s best teams in the U.S. Forces-Europe Final Four.

The tournament will be held May 8-11 in Heidelberg, Germany, USAFE sports chief Tom Burkett announced Tuesday.

USAFE canceled its annual tournament last month because of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

So Burkett and his staff had to select the Air Force representatives. “Right now, we’re going to send the Ramstein men and women, the Aviano men and Spangdahlem women,” he said.

The teams were chosen because of their proximity to the site of the tournament, Heidelberg’s Patton Barracks gym.

“We selected teams from the immediate area, although Ramstein’s men are the defending [USAFE] champions,” Burkett said. “The Spangdahlem men couldn’t play, so Aviano was the next choice. They can drive up here, and I understand they have a pretty good team.”

The Army will be represented by the Heidelberg men and women, who won their respective tournaments last weekend, and Mannheim, the runner-up in both tournaments.

Heidelberg’s women and Mannheim’s men are the defending U.S. Forces champions. Mannheim’s Mustangs, who saw their three-year reign as Army champions end in a 76-75 loss to Heidelberg last Sunday, will be seeking a record fourth-straight European title.

The Army originally wanted to play this weekend, but the Air Force, whose teams haven’t played in more than a month, sought the later date.

“We just found out about this on Monday,” Burkett said. “The later date gives our teams more time to prepare.”


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