USAFWC wins basketball title
By Brian Hagberg, 50th Space Wing Public
/ Published February 29, 2016
SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- The United States Air Force Warfare Center overcame a slow start, missing its first three shots from the field, to roll to a 55-37 victory over the 4th Space Operations Squadron and claim the 2015-2016 Schriever intramural basketball championship Thursday.
A 16-0 run at the midpoint of the first half, coupled with a 14-2 run to open the second half, gave USAFWC all the breathing room it would need to run out the clock and get a victory over a team that had edged out the eventual champs twice in the regular season.
"Both games were close," said Mark Engesser, USAFWC. "Both games [Franklin] Eason hurt us at the end. We had AJ Cotton guard him the whole game and played zone on everyone else."
The strategy worked as Eason, 4 SOPS's leading scorer, was held to 15 points, six of them coming on two 3-pointers late in the game.
"They ran a box-and-one on our primary scorer and our open shots weren't hitting," said Jonathan Atkins, 4 SOPS coach. "It was the first time all season a team ran that [defense] against us, which is surprising."
The game began looking like it would be a 3-point contest as both teams took multiple shots from behind the arc. 4 SOPS was able to connect first, taking an early 7-5 lead. USAFWC took its first lead just over 4-minutes in, but 4 SOPS rallied to gain a 17-11 advantage at the midpoint of the half.
Engesser capped a rally with a 3-pointer to give USAFWC an 18-17 lead, a lead it would not relinquish for the rest of the game.
"Our defense really frustrated them," he said. "We were really patient on offense; we waited until we got an open shot."
About the only mistake USAFWC made from that point actually occurred before the game started. One player incorrectly listed the number on his jersey in the scorebook. A scramble for the ball led to a foul being called on that player, once the officials discovered the error, a technical foul was assessed and 4 SOPS took advantage to pull within eight, 31-23, at the half.
"Our defensive strategy wasn't working," Atkins said. "We wanted to play man-to-man but they kept [using] screens to get the ball to their shooters."
With possession to open the second half, 4 SOPS was able to connect on a jumper to pull within 6, but that was as close as the game would get as USAFWC responded with the 14-2 run, effectively putting the game out of reach.
Engesser said his team knew they could win, even after the slow start, due in part to the experience many of them gained in last year's championship game.
"We knew we could do it," he said. "We just had to tweak a few things and be really patient on offense. We had to make sure we got a good shot every time down the court."
USAFWC's Shawn Green led all scorers with 23 points, 15 coming from 3-pointers. Engesser and Eason both finished with 15 points.