The last time the Patch High School men’s basketball team won a European championship, Panthers starting small forward John Robinson hadn’t even started kindergarten.
In 2001, the Panthers took top honors when the school was in Division II, but since becoming a Division I school in 2007, the team had been unable to bring home the gold. That was until Feb. 23, when the Panthers defeated the Ramstein Royals 60-50 at the Department of Defense Dependent Schools European Basketball Championships in Wiesbaden.
“It seems like in every sport we play Ramstein in the final,” said Robinson, who was named most valuable player of. “It’s a rivalry, and it’s always fun to beat a rival.”
The Panthers, who finished their season 18-1, including a 5-0 run in the playoffs, came into the tournament as the number one seed in Division I, and glided through the competition on strong performances from Robinson and teammate Brendan Jones. Both players averaged 14 points and six rebounds per game.
“I knew we were going to be a threat, but there’s always a worry of an upset.” said Jones, starting point guard for the Panthers.
Robinson, on the other hand wasn’t as concerned.
“We’re a cocky team,” he said. “We goof around a lot, but we were sure we had it.”
Patch’s road to the finals entry pool wins over Heidelberg, Ramstein and the International School of Brussels, and a 70-44 semi-final win against Kaiserslautern. This season was a bit of a surprise to everyone, according to Panthers head coach Brad Rehwaldt, who before the season started thought this would be a “rebuilding” year. He wasn’t quite sure what to make of the group, especially since the tallest starter is only six feet tall. What they lacked in height, the team made up with speed, Rehwaldt added.
“We didn’t really know how the year was going to go,” said Rehwaldt. “In the first two games of the season we beat Ramstein and Kaiserslautern pretty soundly, and at that point, I knew we had some real potential.”
Coach Rehwaldt was a junior varsity coach from 2010 to 2012, but hadn’t coached varsity ball since 1997. His return was sparked by his son Dylan, who was one of only two JV players that moved up to varsity this season. His other son Devin played on the JV team this year, and may make the move to varsity next season.
“I came back because my kids were involved,” said Rehwaldt. “I really enjoy coaching, so it’s possible I’ll keep coaching after my kids are gone. I’ll keep going as long as I have the energy.”
Though the season is now over for the Panthers, they’re already thinking about next year.
“We want to keep up the intensity and win it again next year,” said Jones, who aspires to play college ball at Stanford. “We don’t want to be ‘one and done’.”