By Brandon BieltzMarch 29, 2012
FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. -- Basketball season began with a hitch for the Surface Force Logistics Center, so it was only fitting that the road to the intramural post championship would get bumpy at the end.
Inheriting another team's 0-3 record, SFLC didn't lose until Game 1 of its championship series against Naval Recruiting Station Glen Burnie. Despite its lone loss coming earlier in the night, SFLC took home the post championship title after defeating NRS, 62-51, in Game 2.
"It feels great; it's a championship," Llewellyn Smalley said. "It was tough. That NRS team is a very good team. They have great players over there. We made it hard because we lost the first one, but we got the second one -- that's all that matters."
The championship round in the intramural basketball leagues, played March 21 at Murphy Field House, featured the top teams from both divisions. The double-elimination tournament tipped off March 12 with all teams competing for the title of post champions.
In between the Division I games, the U.S. Army Signal School Detachment Division defeated Navy Information Operations Command Maryland Heat, 37-30, in the Division II championship, with Sam Turner leading USASSD with 12 points.
USASSD entered the championship round undefeated in the tournament after finishing the regular season in fourth place. The 12-4 USASSD moved through the tournament with narrow victories.
NIOC Heat finished the regular season with a 14-4 record, including two wins over USASSD. But when the two teams met in the semifinals, USASSD won 46-41.
Due to the double elimination format of the tournament, NIOC Heat had to defeat USASSD twice to earn the championship title. This allowed USASSD players to take a less aggressive strategy, Turner said.
"We didn't want to let go of our offensive tempo, so we kept everything strong but we played conservative," he said.
Both teams were plagued with early-game miscues, resulting in a 2-2 tie throughout the first five minutes of the championship game. Midway through the first half, USASSD found its rhythm long enough to pull away on a 6-0 run for an 8-4 lead.
USASSD carried a 15-9 lead into halftime. Troy Belton led the USASSD offense with 9 points, while Joseph Vieke's 4 points kept NIOC Heat in the game.
NIOC Heat came out of the half with a more aggressive game plan that involved driving to the basket and playing a tight man-on-man defense. Ronald Mim's 3-pointer pulled NIOC into an 18-17 lead at 14:30.
The teams battled back and forth until USASSD took a 32-28 lead with six minutes remaining. USASSD held the lead until the buzzer to win 37-30.
Turner led USASSD's victory with 12 points, but NIOC Heat's Mim scored a game-high 13.
"It's a real big accomplishment for us," Turner said. "It feels real good to go all this way to win and bring it home."
The Division I championship was more closely contested as NRS forced a second, winner-take-all game following a 56-52 win over the undefeated SFLC.
Trevor McDade and Andre Hawkins each scored 14 points for NRS in the underdog win, while Smalley's 23 points weren't enough to overcome the high-tempo NRS offense.
SFLC's Derek Bailey said the loss was due to a conservative approach and players trying to be "fancy" with the ball.
"We didn't play together," he said. "We forgot to have fun."
Both teams opened the second game sluggishly, with the score see-sawing until midway in the first half when SFLC sped up the tempo.
Using fast breaks, in addition to strong perimeter shooting, SFLC extended its lead to 18-13. NRS chipped away at the deficit, tying the game at 23 with one minute left. But a late-half layup by DeSazeo Johnson and Bailey's buzzer-beating shot gave SFLC a 27-23 lead heading into halftime.
The rivals opened the second half matching points, until Smalley found his rhythm outside the arc. Hitting three consecutive 3-pointers, Smalley extended SFLC's lead to 42-34 with 10 minutes remaining in the game.
NRS was unable to overcome its deficit, as SFLC held onto the lead for the remainder of the contest to pull out a 62-51 win for the championship.
NRS' Eric Boone scored a team-high 14 points in the loss. Smalley's offensive success led to a game-high 23 points.
After inheriting a 0-3 record to start the season and stumbling at the finish line, Smalley attributed SFLC's success to a strong team effort and chemistry between players.
"It just shows the beautiful game of basketball of how things can change and turn around in a blink of an eye," Smalley said. "That's why they call it March Madness."