EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --
In a second-half thriller, the Armament Directorate vanquished the 53rd
Wing 53 – 42 March 6 to win their first intramural basketball championship title here.
EB, only a .500 team last year, finished this year’s regular season atop the league standings at 6-1. They edged the 96th Operations Support Squadron and the 96th Force Support Squadron teams in down-to-the-wire playoff games, to reach the title match.
After a 5-2 regular season run, the 53rd Wing earned a second consecutive trip to the finals outgunning the 96th Communications Squadron, who beat them for the trophy last year; and the 96th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, in playoff contention.
The 53rd team controlled the opening tip and struck first at the 19:35 mark with a three-pointer from Terrell Mosley. The basket ignited an 8-0 run, while EB was cold more than five minutes until Stephan Atrice finally drained a three-point jumper from the top of the key at 14:35, to make the score 8-3.
From there, EB picked up their defensive pace and held the 53rd scoreless for more than two minutes. The Directorate fought its way back to 8-all with Brian Dailey’s three from the right court at 12:00.
Following a 10-all tie at 9:08, Atrice’s second three-pointer gave EB its first lead of the game, 13-10. Increased offensive and defensive pressure from both teams froze the scoreboard at 17-13 for six minutes, before the 53rd Wing’s Santos Padilla slashed through EB defenders in the right lane for a lay-up, closing the space to 17-15.
Scott Adler scored the final points of the first half with a lay-up with 38 seconds left. The halftime score was 19-15.
Dailey, the EB coach, spoke during the break with the same relaxed, confident demeanor he and his teammates displayed in their winning attitude throughout the regular season.
“We need to cut down on turnovers,” he said. “If we keep playing smart and take good shots, things will take care of themselves.”
At the opposite end, Michael Stanton, the 53rd Wing’s coach, noted EB’s defensive strategy as he outlined his team’s second-half game plan.
“Their team played good zone defense,” he said. “We should have passed more and swung the ball around their zone. We didn’t do enough of that. We need to shut down Adler and Zachary Millander in the second half, shoot more and stop dribbling so much.”
Though both teams ramped up the intensity in the second half, EB put on a clinic in mental toughness, patience and clock management.
Among the 53rd Wing’s highlights, Adam Brakeville made a reverse lay-up at 14:40 and Omel Roberts buried a three two minutes later, tightening the deficit to 27-25.
The fight was on as EB tried repeatedly to push on offense over the next six minutes and the 53rd stayed within striking distance. Padilla’s three-point bucket at 7:55 brought the 53rd Wing to 32-31, only one point from catching EB.
The 53rd briefly took the lead back with seven minutes left, on a three from Padilla, making the score 34-32.
Adler’s three-point response at 6:37 put EB back on top, 35-34. The Directorate then took control with precision three pointers and clutch free throws from Adler, and never looked back.
The 53rd closed to within four and then two points of the lead, but couldn’t overcome.
EB dominated in the final five minutes to seal the victory and capture the championship title, 53-42.
Padilla, the 53rd’s high scorer with 18 points, said his team never found their flow on offense.
“Normally, we come out here, light it up with threes and get a rhythm going,” he said. “We couldn’t get anything going the entire game. We were chasing. When we finally did get some rhythm, it was too late.”
Adler led all scorers with 20 points. He praised his team for uniting late in the season.
“The season was up and down,” Adler said. “We had some growing moments in all of our work. This championship game showed how we all came together on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball, and we were able to pull it out in the end.”