By Scott Prater
Rickie Bannister had no trouble explaining his game plan heading into the Schriever intramural basketball semifinals March 21. The 1st Space Operations Squadron player-coach repeated it so often that some of his teammates could recite it word-for-word.
“Our game plan was my before-the-game speech,” he said. “It was my halftime speech too. I even remember discussing it over breakfast with team point guard Brad Shirley this morning, and over the phone to someone else inside the squadron”
The game plan he drilled into the 1 SOPS players’ minds was simple: push the ball and wear down the 11th Space Warning Squadron starters. His teammates followed it exactly and came away with a 42-31 victory.
“They didn’t have enough people to substitute off the bench,” Bannister said. “I knew the last 10 minutes was going to be the difference in the game for us.”
Considering 1 SOPS trailed 10-4 in the game’s first 10 minutes and 21-14 early in the second half, the team worked Bannister’s game plan to perfection. 1 SOPS outscored 11 SWS 24-10 after intermission, and as a result, will play 50th Comptroller Squadron/50th Force Support Squadron in the championship game.
“Yeah, we were down early and who knows what might have happened if Z hadn’t hit those threes,” Bannister said.
He was referring to the pair of 3-pointers Bill Zahoranski hit to even the game midway through the first half, which proved important as they kept the game plan viable.
Willie Jenkins opened the second half with a long 3-pointer from the right wing and point guard Wade McGrew gave 1 SOPS the lead for good two minutes later when he snared a rebound off the defensive glass and went coast-to-coast for a layup on the other end.
Lamont Hicks and team captain Maurice Gale made valiant efforts for defending-league-champion 11 SWS. Hicks displayed a two-way talent has he battled inside for rebounds and hit three long-range bombs to lead all scorers with 17 points.
The pair couldn’t stop 1 SOPS from pulling away, however, as Jenkins scored all eight of his points in the second half, McGrew added seven more and Shirley went 4-for-4 from the foul line to seal the win.
“We’re looking forward to facing CPTS/FSS in the final,” McGrew said. “We want to be the base champs and we have to go through them to get there. Defense will be key because they have a lot of shooters.”
Spectators can expect to witness a track meet as two of the league’s quickest and most athletic will meet up in the final.
CPTS/FSS advanced thanks to its 50-37 win over 50th Space Communications Squadron in the day’s first semifinal.
Aaron Kirchoff, CPTS/FSS coach, has made no effort to hide his team’s game plan. They like to run, which they did successfully to earn the win against 50 SCS. Though the game may have seemed lopsided judging by the final score, 50 SCS gave the tournament’s top seed everything it could handle for 35 minutes.
Thanks to a run-and-gun style, Kirchoff scored 12 of his game-high 22 points in the first half and CPTS/FSS led by 16 points early in the second.
“After half time we concentrated more on execution,” said player-coach Rafael Meneses. “We came with a game plan of playing solid defense and we just didn’t have our offense to start the game.”
Bernard Baum scored eight of his 10 points during a 21-3 50 SCS run midway through the second half.
Clearly shaken, CPTS/FSS somehow managed to gain its composure as Kirchoff scored all of his 10 second-half points from the foul line.
“We lapsed on the offensive boards,” Kirchoff said. “They got a lot of second chances, and that’s what got them back in the game. We’ve got to focus on rebounding the ball instead of getting out so fast. What we like to do is get out and run so sometimes we don’t crash the boards as much as we should.”
Despite a bout of cold shooting, CPTS/FSS effectively held on in the closing minutes. Karl Seppa ended with 10 points and Cody Marion added nine for the team which hopes to complete an undefeated season with a win in the championship game.