SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --
The 4th Space Operations Squadron and U.S. Air Force Warfare Center will meet to determine the Schriever intramural basketball champions for the second straight year following their respective semi-final victories Tuesday.
Both teams held off late-game rallies to secure spots in Thursday’s championship rematch. 4 SOPS defeated the top-seeded 3rd Space Operations Squadron, 48-43, while the USAFWC narrowly escaped the No. 2 seed, Joint Functional Component Command for Integrated Missile Defense, 53-51.
The USAFWC rolled to a 55-37 victory in the 2016 championship game, though both teams will have different looks this year.
“We had some key players missing last year,” said Robert Shaw, 4 SOPS coach. “We’ll be at full strength this year.”
While it hasn’t slowed them to this point, the USAFWC will be without two key contributors from last year’s championship team.
“We don’t have our 6’4” guy and we don’t have our shooter/point guard,” said Mark Engesser, USAFWC. “We also have some guys we didn’t have last year. (Thomas) King didn’t play; (Caleb) McComas didn’t play. We’re going to give it all we have.”
Shaw said 4 SOPS will have to play smart if it wants to defeat the bigger USAFWC team.
“We’re going to have to use our basketball IQ,” he said. “It’s going to be a battle.”
Engesser said he knows 4 SOPS will be playing with a little extra motivation.
“They are a good team,” he said. “I’m sure they’ll want revenge for last year.”
Tip-off for Thursday’s championship game is set for 11:30 a.m.
Semi-final: 4 SOPS 48, 3 SOPS 43
3 SOPS nearly earned its fifth trip to the championship in six years with a late rally, but 4 SOPS held on to secure the 48-43 victory in the first semi-final game.
4 SOPS went up 41-36 with four minutes left to play, but 3 SOPS answered with 7-1 run to take a 43-42 lead with 57 seconds left.
Franklin Eason and James Franklin went a combined 6-6 from the free throw line in the final minute to close out the game.
“We wanted this win,” Shaw said.
Eason led all scorers with 23 points.
Semi-final: USAFWC 53, JFCC IMD 51
The USAFWC looked like it poised for a double-digit win early in the second half of the second semi-final before the JFCC IMD staged a late-game rally.
The USAFWC held on for a 53-51 win to earn its second-straight trip to the championship game.
“They’re a bigger team and we had to battle,” Engesser said. “AJ Cotton hit some big shots for us. King played well inside.”
After only leading 27-26 at the half, USAFWC connected on four 3-pointers to start the second half and build a 39-30 lead. JFCC IMD didn’t go quietly, pulling to within 47-44 with five minutes to go. A minute later the lead was down to one, but Engesser calmly sank two free throws to give USAFWC a 53-48 lead.
Calvin Johnson hit a 3-pointer with 10 seconds left, but JFCC IMD missed a jump shot at the buzzer.
King led all scorers with 20 points.