By Scott Prater
Still reeling from its first loss of the season, suffered a day earlier, 2nd Space Operations Squadron returned to the court looking like the team that started the season with a five-game win streak, as it set back 50th Comptroller Squadron 49-39 Dec. 1 at the fitness center.
Thanks to some hot shooting from the perimeter and couple of nifty back-door plays from Joshua Gutierrez, 2 SOPS opened on 16-4 run.
Displaying a gritty effort of its own, 50 CPTS managed to pull within five points on a couple of occasions later in the game, but it never led and saw its record drop to 3-3.
“I try to emphasize hustle,” said 2 SOPS team captain Kion Shaw. “We wanted to get out to a strong start and we know a lot of teams have a hard time running with us, so that was our plan early on.”
Shaw hit a pair of 3-pointers within the game’s first two minutes and Gutierrez hit another to begin the onslaught. Rudy Villarreal and Dave Gardner answered by hitting a couple of outside shots, but for the most part, poor shooting hampered 50 CPTS. The team missed on 13 of its first 20 shots as 2 SOPS built a 12-point lead midway through the first half.
“We got ourselves into a big hole at the beginning of the game,” said 50 CPTS captain Steve Gilmore. “From there, we were just trying to figure our way back in.”
Gilmore signaled for a timeout with 6 minutes left in the first half and 50 CPTS walked back onto the court with renewed vigor.
Karl Seppa battled inside for two post-up baskets, Villarreal sank a 3-pointer and Gilmore hit two short jumpers as 50 CPTS climbed back into contention. 2 SOPS led 25-20 at the half.
“This was the first game we’ve played this season when we didn’t lead at halftime,” Seppa said. “We came out and played hard. The effort was there, but we took a lot of ill-advised shots, which you tend to do when you’re behind.”
Seppa caught fire from behind the arc early in the second half, when he scored 12 of his game high 16 points. He cut 2 SOPS’ lead to four points with his third 3-pointer of the game at the 13-minute mark. But, just when it seemed 50 CPTS had everything going its way, Hardy came off the bench to douse all the momentum.
He started by hitting a 3-pointer from the top of the key. On the team’s next possession, he split two defenders, drove the lane and laid in a pretty left hander. Counting the subsequent free throw, Hardy scored all six of his points in less than a minute.
And 2 SOPS led comfortably the rest of the way.
“Yeah he’s got an old-school game about him,” Shaw said of Hardy. “He brings a lot of experience to the team and he showed up when we needed buckets.”
Gutierrez and Brian Mauntel led 2 SOPS with 11 points each and Shaw finished with eight despite missing a majority of the second half after suffering an eye injury.
2 SOPS improved to 5-1 with the victory, which invariably took some of the sting out of its first loss, suffered just a day earlier. Going forward, the team expects to stay the course as far as game plans go.
“We’ll continue to play a run-and-gun game because I think we have more quality players than some of the other teams,” Hardy said. “Normally, the second half is when you see the benefits. You tend to get more easy layups and tip-ins that way.