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MANNHEIM, Germany — Even before the first day’s schedule was completed in the three-day European Division I, II and III high school basketball tournaments, several of the favorites were assured of semifinal berths.

The four-time defending European Division I champion Heidelberg boys, the three-time defending European Division I champion Ramstein girls, the two-time defending European Division III champion Bamberg boys and the defending European Division III champion Baumholder Lady Bucs collected impressive pool play victories on Thursday and assured themselves of staying on track for yet another crown.

Heidelberg’s undefeated boys won their three-team pool with a 46-36 victory over Wiesbaden in the morning and a 59-38 triumph over Ramstein in the afternoon.

Center Jamal John, a 6-5 junior, led Heidelberg in both games — with 18 points against Wiesbaden and 17 against Ramstein — but it was the top-seeded Lions’ pressure defense that carried the day in games played at the Benjamin Franklin Village Sports Arena.

“We’ve been working on our defense all week,” said forward Jonathan Williams, who scored 10 points in the first victory and 12 in the later game. “It all starts from there.”

Against Ramstein, the Lions opened with a 10-0 run, and the Royals never got closer than seven points.

“We always try to get up on teams early,” said John, who had 10- and 12-rebound outings and scored all of his points in just three quarters on 8-for-10 shooting from the floor.

Next up for the Lions is a 3 p.m. date Friday against the second-place team from the four-team D-I pool, most likely second-seeded Lakenheath. The Lancers dropped a 57-43 verdict to No. 3 Kaiserslautern in their opener before coming back to down winless Würzburg 68-60 Thursday afternoon.

The Ramstein girls coasted past International School of Brussels, 58-40 and Kaiserslautern 50-27 to move into a 4:30 p.m. semifinal Friday against the runner-up from the four-team pool.

Things were much tighter, at least in the early going, in the Division III girls’ tournament. Ansbach, which hasn’t lost to a Division III team this season, edged London Central 42-39 before coming back with a 60-25 thumping of Aviano.

Nadia Freeman, who was fouled on a three-point try with 21.9 seconds to play and her team trailing 39-37, calmly went to the line and sank all three free throws to give Ansbach the lead for good.

“I wasn’t nervous,” said Freeman, who led Ansbach with 16 points. “I’m an 80 percent free-throw shooter.”

The shots allowed Ansbach to overcome a 31-point outing by All-Europe star Nicole Lassetter of London Central.

Ansbach’s nightcap was a different story. The Cougars, who got 18 points from Brittney Britton, led almost all of the way.

Next up for Ansbach is a 9 a.m semifinal Friday against defending champion Baumholder or Rota.

Baumholder handed Naples its second defeat of the day, 49-39 Thursday. Rota stopped Med Regional champion Naples 42-39 in the first game of the day behind 15 points from Kerry Yidiski and 14 from Samerria Crowder.

Crowder sealed the victory with a steal as Naples point guard Michele Aguila was bringing the ball up court with 24.3 seconds to go and Rota leading 40-39.

Bamberg’s boys nailed down their semifinal slot when they blasted London Central 66-34.

The Division III schools will settle their championship Friday, with the girls title game set for 6 p.m. and the boys championship at 8 p.m. Both games will be at the BFV Sports Arena.

Little was decided in Division II by press time Thursday. The eight-team Division II fields don’t finish pool play until Friday afternoon.

Division II’s biggest news Thursday came when Patch outlasted defending champion SHAPE 60-58.

Friday’s schedule, capped by the Division III title games, begins at 9 a.m. as the tournament shrinks to four sites — BFV Sports Arena, Sullivan and Coleman Barracks in Mannheim and Patton Barracks in Heidelberg.


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