By Matt Decker (Leonard Wood)March 3, 2016
Since the beginning of the season, 3rd Chemical Brigade's head basketball coach, Marcus Elliott, has stressed the importance of free-throw shooting, requiring each of his players to shoot a minimum of 20 shots at every practice.
All that hard work paid off Feb. 24, when 3rd Chem. Bde. players hit 13 of 16 shots from the charity stripe on their way to a 42-39 victory over the 5th Engineer Battalion in the 2016 Commander's Cup Basketball Tournament championship game.
"That was a big, big, big deal," Elliott said moments after his team claimed the post championship plaque. "That's what we practice every day, and it paid off."
With both teams entering the court with undefeated records, it was a defense-heavy contest from beginning to end, with 31 percent of all points scored coming from the free-throw line.
"It's the hardest game we've played all year, by far," said David Susberry, who was a perfect four-for-four from the charity stripe -- all in the first half.
The 5th Engr. Bn. jumped out to an early lead, sparked by 3-pointers by Marvies Davies and Christopher Davis.
A traditional three-point play by 3rd Chem. Bde. guard Desmond Young tied the game at 13-13, and the two teams traded leads two more times before a basket by Levi Ogundo, free-throws by Susberry and a three-pointer by Young gave the 3rd Chem. Bde a 24-19 lead at the end of the first half.
The 3rd Chem. Bde. extended its lead to nine points early in the second half, but as the game wore on, the 5th Engineers rallied, pulling within two points of the lead with less than 45 seconds remaining. From that point, all scoring was done from the free-throw line, with Ogundo and Deandre Manley extending the 3rd Chem. Bde. lead by sinking three of four attempts while the 5th Engineers' Chris Cheek scored two points on four attempts.
"It got real close at the end. We thought we had a good lead, but then they started to come back -- they played hard the entire game," Susberry said.
Despite the loss, Brittany Burton, 5th Engr. Bn. head coach, said she was "extremely proud" of her players, many of whom were fighting fatigue.
"We weren't playing our game," she said. "I know my players had been in the field, and the other team seemed well rested. So, for us, it was kind of the luck of the draw. Still, I think they did a good job despite them being tired. I feel like we definitely came together at the end."
Earning the championship trophy was, "a good feeling," according to Young, who led all players with 19 points.
"We worked hard for it," Young said. "We practiced every week, and it was well worth it.
Young credited Elliott for the team's success, saying his practice regimen and high standards pushed the team to improve and play as a cohesive unit, especially on defense.
"He has us coming together and practicing all the time -- it's all him," Young said.
For Elliott, winning the tournament was a goal he had been working toward for the past three years, starting as a player for the 3rd Chem. Bde.
"Three years later, me being injured and having to coach -- we finally did it," Elliott said. "I'm very proud of my guys. And I want to thank the 5th Engineer Battalion for playing a great game."
Young was the only player in double figures for either team. He was followed by Susberry and Ogundo, who added six points each for the 3rd Chem. Bde.
Davies led the 5th Engineers with nine points, followed by Davis with eight, Kajuane Freeman with seven, and Joshua Hodges and Cheek with five points each.
CTC wins third-place game
Earlier Feb. 24, Combat Training Company earned a 60-39 win over the 14th Military Police Brigade in the tournament's third-place game.
CTC overcame an early deficit and then jumped out to a 14-point lead by the end of the first half, relying heavily on the long-range shooting of its player/coach Horace Yrojo.
Yrojo led the team with 15 points, followed by Trequan Speller and Deshawn Tyler, who added 10 points each.
Justin Lineback led the 14th MP Bde. with 22 points, while John Clemmer added 10.
"We played good defense, and good offense. It worked out," Yrojo said, adding "I just appreciate MWR for running the league here on Fort Leonard Wood."