Kaiserslautern boys, girls win basketball opener

by Robert Baldwin
contributing writer

For the Kaiserslautern boys and girls basketball teams, playing the game was the easy part. They both won, but it was a road trip they would rather forget.

Because of nasty winter weather and the subsequent traffic slowdown on the autobahn and some transportation issues, a trip to Vilseck that normally takes four hours turned into a nine and a half-hour ordeal, causing the Friday games to be cancelled. They were able to play the Saturday contests as scheduled and despite the delay and Friday cancelation, they gathered their composure and both gutted out close victories.

It was the season opener for both. The girls had to figure out how to check Vilseck’s strong post play in Rebekah Heckert and Tedega Marshall. Vilseck started out strong by hitting a few jumpers from the wings and dominating the boards. With outstanding post players Heckert and Marshall having their way inside, Coach Scalise made a defensive change and went box and one, putting defensive sparkplug Dezi Joihnson on Marshall. It worked as the Raiders, spearheaded by leaders  Emanjanae Hawkins and LaJhanique Brown, who scored 18 and 17 respectively, clawed their way to take a three- point lead at halftime and held on to win by that margin, 43-40. Heckert finished with 16 points and Marshall with a double-double posting 15 points and 17 rebounds.

For the Raiders, Brown had 21 points and teammate Hawkins added 14.  Coach Scalise cited Brown’s overall court awareness and solid floor game as the difference.

The Raiders play undefeated Ramstein tonight. Ramstein defeated Wiesbaden 63-21 in it’s opener.

The Kaiserslautern boys also came out on the winning end 51-46, but struggled early before finally finding their stride. Vilseck had everything their way in the first quarter and started with a 21-5 lead.

“It appeared that everything we had practiced in the last three weeks was thrown out the door,” veteran Raiders coach Corey Sullivan said. “Their 20 point scorer was very good. He did not force things. He made shots when he was open. We tried to make sure we knew where he was when it came to crunch time in the fourth quarter.”

So, faced with the travel ordeal, the cancelled game, and the fact that this was their first game, how would the Raiders react to the adversity? It was gut check time. They made up their minds to toughen up and go to work. Even though they were down, they remained calm and patient and slowly started their comeback.

“What we did to get out of that 16 point hole was simply go back to what we’ve done.  We switched defenses, but the kids started to execute so much better,” Sullivan said. The defense tightened the screws and, led by Eric Santiago, Bryan Lunn and Brandon Morris, started to shut down the potent Vilseck offense.

The Kaiserslautern offense was led by Tre Dotson and Isaak Pacheco who both registered double figures.

Their next contest is the long awaited rematch with Ramstein tonight. The boys will host the four-time defending champion Royals while the girls will play Ramstein.