Ho'okele Staff | Mar 02, 2013
The 15th Medical Group (15 MDG) took a 10-point lead midway through the second half and then held on to beat Joint Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Accounting Command (JPAC), 35-33, in a battle of the top two teams in the Blue Division held Feb. 26 at Hickam Fitness Center, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.
Two free throws and a basket by military spouse Benjamin Briggs gave the 15 MDG a 27-17 lead with 12:08 remaining in the game, but saw their advantage slowly disappear behind the strong frontline play of JPAC’s Yeoman 2nd Class Sammell Humphries and Operations Specialist 2nd Class Byron Jones.
Clinging to a 33-31 lead, Medical Group’s Staff Sgt. C.J. Lejeune calmly sank two free throws with 33 seconds on the clock to give his team just enough to gain the win.
Both teams entered the matchup at the top of the Gold Division with identical 6-1 records.
With the victory, the 15 MDG sits all alone in first place, a position that Briggs hopes will continue throughout the season.
“Hopefully, a championship this year,” Briggs said. “We didn’t have a great season last year. We hope to make it up this year.”
In the showdown of the division leaders, both teams started off cold until the 15 MDG went on a short run to take a 17-9 advantage at halftime.
The teams traded baskets to open the second half before four straight points by Briggs seemed to give the 15 MDG some breathing room.
However, rallying behind Humphries and Jones, JPAC slowly chipped away at the lead. And when Humphries raised the roof with a two-handed jam at the 6:24 mark, JPAC trailed by only five at 29-24.
After 15 MDG center Yeoman 3rd Class Erieck Ausbey scored to make it 31-26, JPAC came right back to pull to within two points with only 3:18 left on the clock when Jones pounded the inside for a basket-and-one.
JPAC had one final chance to tie the score after the free throws by Lejeune, but a three-point shot at the buzzer fell short.
“We got a little bit comfortable, but at the end, it came down to defense,” Briggs said. “We had to get tougher. They were going pretty hard to the basket, so we had to man up and keep them out of the paint.”
Briggs led the 15 MDG with 11 points and was followed by Ausbey and Staff Sgt. Uriah Seui with six and Lejeune with five.
For JPAC, Humphries recorded all of his seven points in the second half, but teammate Jones led all scorers with 17 points.
“They (JPAC) had a beast (Jones) over there and he was doing some work,” said 15 MDG head coach Tech. Sgt. Givon Denning about JPAC’s strong comeback. “We called a timeout, got our composure back and went back to doing what was winning.”
Even though JPAC ate up a 10-point deficit, Denning said that he was still happy to walk off the court with a win.
“We’re never disappointed,” he admitted. “At the end of the day, we’re just trying to get better as a team. It was a good, grinding win. We’re going to have to put these types of games away.”
Like Briggs, Denning said that if the team continues to improve its game, winning a championship isn’t out of the question.
“We’re definitely capable,” he stated. “We’ve been working on our communication, passing, moving without the ball and making sure everyone is focused and disciplined to stay in their spot. That’s what going to get us there.”