By Russell Sellers, Army Flier StaffApril 29, 2011
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- It took two games, but in the end the Advanced Individual Training students of A Company, 1st Battalion, 13th Aviation Regiment, took home the intramural basketball championship April 26.
The AIT Soldiers fought through the winners' bracket during the tournament and faced off against the U.S. Army Aeromedical Center in what became a two-game final. In the end, AIT prevailed, 65-57 in Game 2.
USAAMC forced a two-game final by winning the first round, 68-65.
Constant lineup changes throughout the season made AIT's journey to the championship a rocky one, but it was the team's stamina and commitment to a strategy that allowed it to take down USAAMC, said Roderick Massey, AIT coach.
"The guys really stepped up for us," he said. "The guys on the other team were about my age, so I could tell they were tired by Game 2. The secret to winning for us was pressure. We kept the pressure on them to move back to defense just as soon as they would score and they couldn't keep up with us after a while."
While AIT struggled through the first game due to an aggressive passing strategy from USAAMC that also relied heavily on defensive plays, one player managed to put a rally together in Game 2.
Leonard McKellar, AIT player, was the championship player of the night as he showed quick feet and accurate shooting from the free-throw and three-point lines. His ability to navigate around and through the USAAMC defense pushed his team to a 10-point lead in Game 2 that it managed to carry to the end.
"We came from the bottom, starting with new people just about every game, and here we are," McKellar said. "In game one, it wasn't 'win or go home.' It was in Game 2 and I didn't want to go home."
McKellar did run into a small problem in the final quarter of Game 2 when he started to experience cramps in his legs. Still, he managed to power through and put up a few more points to help his team keep a comfortable lead to the end.
"It really started to worry me, but you have to play through it and drive on," he said. "I'm in the Army, we're built for that."
L.V. Miller, USAAMC coach, said it was a good season for his team, and while he wanted to do well, making it to the championship game was a victory in itself.
"In Game 1, we had plenty of defense going," he said. "We got a couple of good runs going that stopped them on offense and then we'd get the easy buckets."
By the time Game 2 rolled around, the fast and aggressive playing of the first game caught up to both teams, but USAAMC felt it more.
"(AIT's) rebounding ability is what killed us in Game 2," he said. "Our rebounding just wasn't there in Game 2 and we couldn't get those good runs going again. They're a young team and they played a great couple of games."
Miller said he plans to get his team back to form for next season and that USAAMC will be back to play again.