FORT LEE, Va. – The birds of prey could not be denied.
The Joint Base Langley-Eustis Raptors locked in on their targets, swooped in with ferocity and clawed their opponents into submission, capturing the Martin Luther King Basketball Classic title Jan. 16 at MacLaughlin Fitness Center.
JBLE defeated Dover Air Force Base 89-55 Jan. 15 and JB Myer-Henderson Hall 80-72 the next day before notching an 83-72 victory over a depleted Charleston, South Carolina squad in the final game. JBLE Coach Jasmine Greene said her team was focused throughout.
“We saw our biggest competition today in the semifinals and championship game,” she said following the title contest. “I was very proud how we stayed resilient. We had to fight back in both games, and we had to maintain the lead. I’m super proud of us.”
Raptor guard-forward Brandon Goldsmith said the win can be attributed to teamwork.
“We came up with a game plan to just keep working together,” said the tournament’s most valuable player. “Everything we do, we do together, and it’s my job to be the glue. I do a pretty job of that, and that’s what I stick to.”
Goldsmith’s “stick” expression was made without pun, and the Raptors play in the final half was no joke. Although the Charleston tandem of Titus Gary and Raymond Robinson kept the game close – the score was 36-31 at the half -- JBLE used a size and reserve strength to wear down their opponents. The board play of Christian Barrett was critical in those efforts.
“My teammates put me in position to get those rebounds,” said the big man, who scored most of his 10 points on offensive rebounds and put-backs.
The Charleston team – playing with a roster of seven and without two starters – was nevertheless feisty in defeat. It closed the gap to five points several times in the second half before succumbing in the final two minutes. Jaylan Coleman lad the team with 19 points followed by Titus and Robinson with 16 and 14 points, respectively.
Charleston had defeated a 23rd Quartermaster Brigade team 69-37 and the host Fort Lee Travellers 81-70 to reach the final.
The home team, which held only two practices prior to the tourney, nevertheless played well throughout. They ran past Fort Belvoir in the first game, 85-53, but lost against Charleston in the second. Marcus Allen led the Travellers with 29 points in the semifinal. Teammate Curtis Bush had 13.
Following the championship game, Maj. Gen. Mark T. Simerly, CASCOM and Fort Lee commanding general, presented individual and team trophies. He said the tournament was an opportunity to celebrate Kings legacy.
“This is a special day to celebrate and recognize the achievements of (Dr.) Martin Luther King Jr. on his 94th birthday and to see these service members giving a 100 percent was a special honor,” said the general.
Simerly was accompanied by Col. James D. Hoyman and Command Sgt. Maj. Tamisha Love, Fort Lee Garrison commander and CSM, respectively.
The MLK Basketball Classic, held here after a 10-year hiatus, attracted teams as far away as Illinois. It has traditionally hosted teams from the Mid-Atlantic region and those competing in the Washington Area Military Athletic Conference.