WIESBADEN — After beating Brussels three times already in 2018, Baumholder had to work extra hard to do it again and win the Division III boys’ basketball crown at the Department of Defense Education Activity Europeans championships.
The Buccaneers’ defense was steady early, when senior most valuable player Nate Horton rejected two Brussels shots and fired up an immense group of fans that traveled to support the team. Just hours after Baumholder’s cheerleaders finished second overall at Euros, the basketball team was stalling away the final minutes for a 35-28 overtime win against the Brigands.
Behind the play of Horton and his mates, Baumholder (19-1) made 13-of-15 free throws in the first three quarters before eating up key late minutes. Daryon Jones, Kwameer Gindraw, Andrew Carter, Chandler Piggé, and Solo Turgeon were also part of an ironclad lineup as BHS secured the big prize.
“This roster is better than any of the other lineups I’ve been with,” said Horton, who played four years and was as a freshman on a BHS team that lost in the 2015 Euro finals. “We are best friends off the court and that makes it all the better to win the title. We are a close group.”
Carter and Turgeon did their best work on defense, diving for loose balls and securing rebounds en route to rewarding their coach with his long-awaited championship. Both players are juniors and will be counted on next season to try and help Baumholder contend again.
“To win it for Coach Piggé means so much,” Carter said. “He has put so much into the program and given so much energy for his players. It was a physical game but we knew there would be bumps and bruises afterwards. There always is when we play Brussels and they gave a ton of effort. I really congratulate them.”
It was a huge reward for the Baumholder community, which packed their section of the Clay Kaserne Gymnasium and kept things loud the entire contest. Baumholder’s last title came in 2009 but that was before Piggé arrived. Raised in Texas, he coached in Japan at Kadena and at MC Perry High in Iwakuni for several seasons but never won a DODEA championship.
“The determination and the defensive effort by these guys, carrying out our plan, makes for a great ending to the tournament,” Piggé said. “When you come in undefeated like we did, then lose one, I think it can make you realize that nothing is for sure until you actually do it.”
Horton’s fancy dribbling was part of all-around ball control throughout the title contest and Baumholder showed no depression after seeing their undefeated season altered in a 31-30 loss to Ansbach two nights earlier. The Buccaneers swept Brussels in the regular season and had beaten them once more in the round-robin play during this tournament, so both teams knew what to expect.
“It wasn’t much of a guessing game,” Brussels senior center Callum Proulx said afterward. “They had some really good guys that can play inside and it was physical. There were a couple of balls that just didn’t go our way.”
Gindraw scored all nine of his points on free throws and the 6-foot-3 freshman Chandler Piggé scored a basket plus two free throws in the overtime, when BHS outscored Brussels 9-2.
Horton had a steal and a score, plus two free throws to help establish a 13-4 lead after one period. Baumholder also got a pair of baskets from Carter and Gindraw while staying on top by 20-14 at halftime.
Dominick DeFazio enabled Brussels to stick around with excellent decision-making and 11 points, but none in the fourth quarter or the OT session. Baumholder did not often stall the ball this season, but in a one-possession game it turned out to be the right move.
“We held our own pretty much during the tournament but when it got down to crunch time in this one, we had to focus on possession,” senior forward Daryon Jones said. “It was nerve-wracking at first but we got through it and we also played great defense and executed.”
Baumholder led the entire game except for a few seconds after Brussels’ Shahzod Niyazov converted a run-out basket off a steal. Moments later, BHS pulled back in front for good on a pair of free throws by Jones. Niyazov finished with 12 points and DeFazio had 11 in the title game loss.
Baumholder led 20-14 at halftime but was in close quarters due to scoring just six total points in the third and fourth quarters against the veteran-based Brigands. Clinging to a slim lead, BHS chose to rotate the ball from player to player for most of the final three minutes instead of attacking offensively. The Bucs got an open look but missed a late shot, then a long heave by Brussels was off the mark to set up the four-minute overtime.
After Horton scored underneath, he and Chandler Piggé combined to make a steal and earn free throws. When Brussels chose to foul late, BHS got four key free shots from Gindraw and Piggé. Coaches and his teammates said Gindraw stepped up his game late in the year and became a key player. Against Brussels, Gindraw defended inbound plays and rebounded with regularity but the key intangible was the team’s ability to carry out the four corners stall and not give Brussels chances to score.