Backcourt Leads 690th Cos To Championship

Story and photos by Randy Dela Cruz Sports Editor, Ho‘okele

Entering the playoffs as the No. 4 seed from the Blue Division, the 690th Cyberspace Operations Squadron (690 COS) faced a huge mountain to climb during the three-day post-season tournament.

Instead of succumbing to the pressure, the team proved itself to all doubters. It walked away with the Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hawaii intramural basketball championship hardware with a stunning 56-54 win over Pacific Command/Joint Intelligence Operation Center (PACOM/JIOC) on May 1 at Hickam Fitness Center.

Airman 1st Class Carlos Rodriguez fi ghts off a defender for a basket.

Against all odds, the 690 COS took down Navy Health Clinic Hawaii in the first round and then went on to eliminate Naval Submarine Support Command (NSSC), the No.1 seed from the Blue Division and Navy Information Operations Command (NIOC) Hawaii, the No. 2 seed from the Red Division, before wrapping it all up with the nail-biting victory over PACOM/ JIOC.

The 690 COS put forth a fantastic team effort to gain the win, but it was the team’s backcourt tandem of Senior Airman Nathaniel Robinson and Airman 1st Class Carlos Rodriguez that provided the spark from baseline to baseline.

Robinson was the team’s catalyst in the second half. He took his game to another level to score a dozen points after halftime and finished with 18.

Meanwhile, Rodriguez torched the PACOM/JIOC defense for four three-point shots and totaled 22 for the game. Rodriguez received the game ball as the MVP.

Sgt. Mario Wright, PACOM/JIOC, prepares for a throw-down on the rim.

“All season long we’ve been the underdogs,” Rodriguez said. “Everybody put in a lot of hard work. People don’t give us the credit we deserve. We just play as a team with a big heart.”

The team’s desire to prevail was evident from the start, as the 690 COS fought off deficits of five and six points.

A trey by Lt. Col. Craig Palmer gave PACOM/ JIOC their largest lead of the game at 23-17, but back came the 690.

Rodriguez cut the lead in half with a trey of his own, and later with only 43 seconds on clock before halftime, Robinson connected on his second trey of the half to cut the lead down to two points, 25-23, at intermission.

“I owe my teammates. I was only like two-for-six in the first half,” Robinson said. “It was a big shot that I had to step into. If we could take it point-by-point, we can climb that hill.”

Senior Airman Nathaniel Robinson goes up to for a lay-up.

Robinson sank the first basket of the second half to tie the score at 25-25. Then, on the next trip downcourt, Robinson pushed the ball on a fast break that ended with a pass to Rodriguez, who kissed it off the glass for a 27-25 lead.

PACOM/JIOC stormed back with back-to-back treys by Sgt. Michael Sibley and Palmer to take a 31-27 lead, but Robinson kept the game close by finishing off a basket-andone to cut the deficit down to a point.

Later, still trailing with only 4:48 remaining in the game, Rodriguez nailed an open shot from beyond the arc to give the lead back to the 690 COS at 41-40.

“It gave us momentum,” Rodriguez said. “As soon as I hit that shot, I knew this game was ours.”

As time wound down and with PACOM/JIOC still trailing, the team was forced to foul to try and get the ball back.

However, the plan backfired. Rodriguez hit two free throws in a row and Robinson sank four from the charity stripe to put the game away for good.

Robinson, who provided the steady spark for the 690 COS in the second half, said that when the game was on the line, he wanted the ball.

“At the time, I wanted that moment. I wanted to step into it,” he said. “Anybody on this team could have done it, but they had faith in me. So, I had no choice but to capitalize on it.”

When asked if it was too early to think about a repeat, Robinson gave a huge smile, but indicated that the night wasn’t about the future. It was reserved to celebrate their title.

“It’s amazing,” Robinson said. “Like Carlos said at the beginning of the season, we’re going to win it all. We didn’t really buy into it as a team, but he believed in us. Even though it’s a Joint Base, we put Air Force back on the map.”

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Category: Life & Leisure