By Scott Prater
Maurice Gale, Jerome Wesley and 11th Space Warning Squadron will get a chance to avenge their mid-season loss to 50th Operations Group Standardization and Evaluation Division after both teams advanced to Feb. 5’s Schriever Intramural Basketball League Championship game.
Orlando Vasquez, Brian Koch and Matt Pincus all scored in double figures as 50 OGV knocked off 50th Comptroller Squadron 65-54 in Feb. 2’s first semifinal, while Gale and Joe Johnson both scored 16 points to lead 11 SWS past 3rd Space Operations Squadron 45-31 in the second half of a double header at the fitness center here.
Karl Seppa ignited 50 CPTS’ effort by hitting two 3-pointers in the first game’s first minute, but Brian Koch answered each time for 50 OGV and kept his hot hand throughout the first half, when he scored 13 of his 15 points.
“I think that was important for us,” said 50 OGV shooting guard Matt Pincus. “He came out today and hit those threes, which opened things up for us inside.”
Koch wasn’t the only OGV player with a hot shooting hand. Orlando Vasquez scored a game-high 20 points and hit two 3-pointers in the first half while Pincus carded 14 points and post player Kelly McCarthy finished with eight. All eight players scored for 50 OGV.
Behind such balanced scoring, 50 OGV led by as many as 15 points in the first half.
“They’ve got a bunch of players who can score… it’s hard to guard that,” Seppa said. “They moved the ball well, they found the open man and they penetrated. They were better than us. That’s all there is to say.”
Seppa also scored 20 points and led 50 CPTS on several comebacks throughout the game. He hit his fifth 3-pointer early in the second half to pull 50 CPTS within three points, but
Vasquez followed with his own long jumper. After scrambling to corral a loose ball, Pincus drained a 3-pointer, then drove the lane and buried a floater from the free throw line on 50 OGV’s next possession. Just like that, the lead was back up to 10 points.
It was a reoccurring theme for 50 CPTS, and one that carried over to 3 SOPS in the day’s second semifinal.
Behind center Johnson and shooting guard Gale, 11 SWS built an 11-point halftime lead. But, showing the grit that helped them amass eight wins during the regular season, defending champion 3 SOPS opened the second half on an 8-0 run.
The offensive outburst proved unsustainable, however, as Gale and Johnson took over the game from there. Gale drove the middle of the lane then stopped and popped in a jump shot from the free-throw line. He hit two free throws his next time down court then fed Johnson who sunk a pretty turnaround jumper from the left side.
Both players finished with 16 points, while team captain Jerome Wesley added eight.
“I don’t think we played with much intensity,” Gale said following the game. “But, we played enough defense to pull it out and I was happy that we managed to keep our composure after their come back. We didn’t start arguing with each other; we just played better defense.”
11 SWS enters Feb. 5’s championship game with an 11-2 record. One of its two losses came at the hands of 50 OGV, a 34-32 loss on Dec. 7.
“This is the team I wanted to play,” Gale said of 50 OGV. “They beat us earlier, but we didn’t have all of our players. I can’t wait.”
The title game will pit 11 SWS’s big men and balanced attack against 50 OGV’s run-and-gun style.
Johnson will be a formidable opponent in the low post along with Wesley, while Gale has the ability to take over a game. Meanwhile, eight different players scored for 50 OGV in its win over 50 CPTS.
“Like I said at the beginning of the season, we can play with anybody,” 50 OGV team captain Teo Williams said. “They (11 SWS) have a good team, but I think we present matchup problems for them.”
The title game is set for 10:30 a.m, Feb. 5 at the Fitness Center.