By Scott Prater
Tyrone Palmer jumped to avoid a defender and let a short jump shot fly from the top of the key. The ball bounced off the front of the rim, but his teammate, Eric Kellum, fielded the rebound. Kellum quickly put up another shot only to watch that one bounce away as well.
What followed seemed almost comical to spectators, but proved agonizing for the 4th Space Operations Squadron during the first half of its Schriever Intramural Basketball League game here Jan. 10. Kentrel Brooks grabbed a rebound off the miss and put up another shot that dribbled off the rim, but this time, Missile Defense Integration and Operations Center’s B.J. Hunt grabbed the rebound and heaved a pass the length of the court to Kelly McCarthy, who caught it and calmly scored at the other end.
Brooks and 4 SOPS out rebounded their MDIOC opponents nearly two-to-one, but still fell as MDIOC pulled off a 52-24 win.
“It was frustrating that’s for sure,” 4 SOPS team captain A.J. Berger said. “We had our chances, but couldn’t seem to get them to drop.”
McCarthy poured in 28 points to lead MDIOC, which won its third straight game and improved to 5-3 with the victory.
“I think the fact that they couldn’t buy a basket early changed the complexion of the game,” McCarthy said. “If they get a few of those to drop then maybe they get up by 10, build some momentum and force us to play catch up. They have some big, strong players inside who can really rebound. It was tough playing inside against them, but we managed to get ahead and kept building from there.”
Playing after a nearly 4-week break, the MDIOC players worried they might not be able to shake off their rust. Fittingly, more than four minutes passed before either team scored.
Hunt and MDIOC team captain Adrian Zamora then proceeded to put on a passing clinic as they repeatedly found McCarthy and Tim Cooper on easy scoring plays.
“We were finding the open seams,” McCarthy said. “It’s a lot of fun playing when you have teammates making NBA-style passes and you’re able to get up and down the floor.”
Despite trailing 25-10 at halftime, 4 SOPS refused to surrender. Berger continually switched defensive schemes in an effort to disrupt the MDIOC machine. The tactic worked early in the second half and Javon Carter began to find his range. He finished with nine points, all coming after intermission.
“They forced us to make some adjustments by changing back and forth between man-to-man and zone defenses, but they didn’t have much depth today and eventually I think we managed to wear them down,” Zamora said.
Berger hinted that participation has been problematic for 4 SOPS (2-5) most of the season, thanks to the nature of operations work and conflicting schedules.
“I think we need to get some more practice in and try to get a consistent group of guys to play. That said, we showed there is no quit in us and that we were going to stay motivated, play hard and play smart,” Berger said. “We’ll continue doing that the rest of the season. We have eight games left and hopefully we’ll come out with more wins than losses.”
Intramural basketball play continues through January with playoffs expected to start during mid- February. Games are scheduled most Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 10 a.m., 11 a.m. and noon. Schedules are available at the fitness center.