By Scott Prater
The 1st Space Operations Squadron and 4th Space Operations Squadron started Feb. 14’s intramural basketball game with the same strategy — run your opponent off the court.
Shooters like Joseph Jenkins and Rickie Bannister traded jump shots for the game’s first 10 minutes. And with both teams looking to run, the game never quite settled down to a half-court, set-up-your-offense style of game.
As is it turned out, the team with greater depth ended up on top. Bannister scored a game-high 20 points while Robb Owens added 10 and Brad Shirley came off the bench for 10 more as 1st SOPS rolled to a 66-49 intramural basketball league victory.
“We’ve got a complete team,” said Bannister, 1 SOPS’s team captain. “We have people who can shoot jumpers, guys who can post up and guys who hustle, but the biggest thing is nobody is greedy. We don’t have that one guy who wants to be a superstar.”
Bannister and Wade McGrew started with hot shooting hands as 1 SOPS built a 10-point lead in the game’s first five minutes. Jenkins and Javon Carter answered by sinking a few long-range bombs of their own, however, as 4 SOPS rallied to tie the score midway through the first half.
At that point, Bannister quickly called time out — and in came the reinforcements.
Almost instantly, 1 SOPS stretched its lead again, thanks to a couple of steals and fast-break buckets from Brad Shirley. William Zahoranski added to the damage with four of his eight points, and 4 SOPS found itself trailing 34-27 at the break.
“We’ve played some up-tempo games this season, but all of them died down at some point, “ Shirley said. “This one, well, the pace kept going the whole game.”
Still, with all of the running and players scoring in double figures, 4 SOPS team captain Steve Whitworth said he was most impressed with 1 SOPS’ passing game, and of course, its depth.
“Shirley was a surprise,” he said. “He came off the bench on fire. We wanted to run, but you need to rebound to do that, and we missed a lot of open shots.”
Bannister chose to stay with his strategy in the second half, and as he rotated fresh players in, 1st SOPS pulled away for good.
“We like to run even though we’re old, and if we can keep the pace quick, then we don’t have to think,” Bannister said. “When we don’t have to think, the game just plays out easier for us. That’s what happened here.”
Led by Willie Jenkins, six different 1 SOPS players scored four or more points in the second half. Robb Owens scored all of his five points in the first, but dominated the boards in the second, rebounding and leading the fast break for 1 SOPS.
Zahoranski came off the bench again late in the half to extend the onslaught. He put the finishing touches on the win with a pair of rebounds and put-backs in the closing minutes.
“We’re a pretty young team, I’m the oldest at 31, and we were missing Andrew Berger, our post player, today,” Whitworth said. “You give them (1 SOPS) second-chance points and you’re not going to win like that.”
With the win, 1 SOPS improved to 5-1, stretched its winning streak to four games and maintained its hold on second place in the league standings, one game behind 50th Comptroller Squadron/Force Support Squadron.
“Comptroller/Force Support handed us our only loss, but we were missing a bunch of our regular key players,” Bannister said. “We’re looking forward to the rematch.”
The teams are scheduled to match up again on March 16 for the final game of the regular season and could meet again during the post-season tournament.