By Mr. Matt Decker (Leonard Wood)April 14, 2016
A stingy defense, multiple turnovers and a strong performance at the free-throw line helped the Sergeants Major achieve a 39-24 win over the Commanders on April 6, as Fort Leonard Wood's senior officers and NCOs played their third annual game at Davidson Fitness Center.
"It was a phenomenal game -- hard fought, from start to finish," said Command Sgt. Maj. Roy Ward, Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and Fort Leonard Wood command sergeant major. "Everybody on both teams gave 100 percent. There's not a person walking off the court who didn't give it their all. We appreciate the high level of competition and good, competitive spirit shown by all the players today. Unfortunately, there can only be one winner, and today it was the professional Noncommissioned Officer Corps."
Ward led the NCOs as they built an early lead, scoring on a jump shot and hitting four of seven free throws in the first half. Command Sgt. Maj, Tyson Goolsby, U.S. Army Garrison Fort Leonard Wood CSM; Command Sgt. Maj. Paul King, 3rd Chemical Brigade CSM; Command Sgt. Maj. Calvin Hall, 1st Battalion, 48th Infantry Regiment, CSM; and Sgt. Maj. Greg Kleinholz, 14th Military Police Brigade, also added points in the first half to give the Sergeants Major an 18-10 lead at halftime.
The Commanders rallied early in the second half, scoring nine unanswered points on baskets by Lt. Col. Chad Goyette, 92nd Military Police Battalion commander; Lt. Col. Mark McNeill, 795th Military Police Battalion commander; and a back-to-back layup and 3-pointer by Maj. Gen. Kent Savre, MSCoE and Fort Leonard Wood commanding general.
Savre, who led the Commanders with 11 points, set a new scoring record for a commanding general playing in the series. He also took some consolation in the fact that he outscored Ward, who finished the game with eight points.
"My job was to guard and out-score Command Sergeant Major (Ward) … I think if you check the box score, you will see that I accomplished the mission," Savre said.
Savre expressed his congratulations to the Sergeants Major for their victory, and thanked all players for their participation.
"Today is really all about camaraderie -- our team of teams," Savre said. "It's a chance for the commanding officers to play ball against our right-hand men, the Command Sergeant Majors. For me, as the commander, I really can't lose, because when any team representing Fort Leonard Wood wins, I'm happy."
The only player to outscore Savre was Kleinholz, who finished with 12 points, including nine in the second half on a pair of 3-pointers and a three-for-four performance at the free-throw line.
Free throws were a priority for the coach of this year's Sergeants Major team, 1st Sgt. Marcus Elliott, who earlier this year coached the 3rd Chem. Bde. team to the Commander's Cup Basketball Tournament championship.
"We shot free throws; we ran, and we run our defense at each practice," Elliott said.
Ward credited Elliott's guidance for giving the NCOs a winning game plan, which also included controlling the pace of the contest.
"We worked hard to meet the coach's vision of getting us focused on our free-throws. It was also about playing our game," Ward said. "We understood our officer counterparts wanted to come in and push-and-run. We wanted to slow down the tempo of the game, get our defense set and let our defense dictate our offense."
Following Kleinholz and Ward in scoring for the Sergeants Major were Goolsby and King, with six points each. Hall added five points, and Command Sgt. Maj. Alton Wright, 35th Engineer Battalion CSM, scored two points.
Following Savre in scoring for the Commanders were Goyette and Lt. Col. Michael Cobb, 84th Chemical Battalion commander, with four points each; Lt. Col. Kevin Gollinghorst, 554th Engineer Battalion commander, who scored three points in the final three minutes of the game; and McNeill, who scored two points.
The series is currently tied at two wins each for the Sergeants Major, who also won in 2014. The Commanders won in 2015 and in the series' inaugural game in 2009. The game was not played from 2011 to 2013.
The annual basketball game is one of only two events Fort Leonard Wood's officers and NCOs compete in each year, the other being the Commanders vs. Sergeants Major Softball Game played at the conclusion of the post's softball season, usually in late August or early September.
When asked, Savre said the loss on the basketball court will provide the Commanders with plenty of motivation to succeed this fall.
"We really have to kind of sit down as the Commanders, take a look at our strategy and think about the future," Savre said. "We've got some young talent coming in this spring, and I think we'll be ready for the softball game."