K-Town commits new energy to rivalry

Story and photo by Thomas Warner
contributing writer
Coach Corey Sullivan and players just missed getting a victory in the title game.

What becomes of Kaiserslautern’s basketball program following their heartbreaking loss in the DODEA Division I finals depends largely on the commitment the players make to next season and beyond.
The Raiders fell to Ramstein by a single point after dominating their area rivals the entire first half. They had leads on the Royals in each of the five games they met this season. Corey Sullivan has taught math and coached both the girls and boys teams at Kaiserslautern during the past 18 years. He’s seen the Raider program pull close to even with Ramstein but isn’t lost on the outcomes.
“Four years ago we faced Ramstein in the finals and it was the first title game for the boys program, I think, in 15 years.” Sullivan said. “We got blown out then, but the next year we played a lot better. Now, it’s not ‘if we can beat them’ but rather ‘will we.’ All the games you see now between these schools are competitive.”
Aside from any players who might PCS, the Raiders’ most accomplished returnees will be guard Ervin Johnson and forward Tre Dotson. There will be a need for more players to step up from this roster and the junior varsity that posted a 12-2 record under coach Justin Bates. Kaiserslautern graduates three of its best players in Santo Starkey, Isiah Washington and Marlon Robbins.
“We played hard every day, every practice,” Starkey, a guard, said after closing his career with good shooting in the semifinals and title game. “I’ve been in this school for four years and I’ve been in this championship two years. My sophomore year we worked hard but we didn’t finish (in a 54-46 loss to Ramstein).”
Ramstein has actually beaten Kaiserslautern in three of the past four Europeans title games. Work and improvement must continue if K-Town is to get over the hump and secure a new title banner for its own trophy case. In the latest matchup, Kaiserslautern did not convert on a late free throw but sophomore forward Dotson got a big offensive rebound. Still, the team eventually turned the ball over with less than a minute to play and the Royals sank a 3-pointer to win.
“It’s heartbreaking, I mean, we are always up by 15 or 16 points on them and we get too confident or too comfortable,” Dotson said. “It shouldn’t happen but a lot of times it does.”
Ramstein coach Andrew O’Connor has matched up with Sullivan’s teams many times in the past decade during the regular season and in tournaments. He described Sullivan as a basketball genius and said it’s a mental battle more than anything else when the schools face off.
“He put them in great spots to win and the game was close, with both teams giving really good effort,” O’Connor said. “Those were two really good teams out there. We know we are going to have to work really hard when we play K-Town.”
Sullivan and assistant coach Chris Clark had no choice but to accept the latest loss to the school’s biggest rival. Sullivan praised his team’s effort as well as Ramstein’s. “They fought hard and all the credit to Ramstein,” Sullivan said. “At some point you have to give them a lot of credit. They fought to the end. I’ve watched that (winning shot by Ramstein’s Joshua Gedeon) about 150 times. The kid hit a big shot.”
Senior power forward Marlon Robbins said the championship game effort could be motivation that fuels another successful run next season. “I mean, every time Ramstein and K-Town get together it’s always a battle. But, it was different in this one … a lot more physical and everybody seemed to want it really bad. My boys played so hard but we couldn’t pull through. It was still great.