Fort Riley triumphs over Tinker AFB
Fort Riley Basketball Team player Spc. Blake Sims, 1st Maintenance Co., 541st CSSB, 1st Sustainment Bde., goes for the shot during a basketball game against Tinker AFB. Photo by: Maj. Chad Jespersen, TINKER AFB.
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – On Jan. 26, the Fort Riley Basketball Team departed Fort Riley at 4 a.m. to play against the Tinker Air Force Base Basketball Team, Oklahoma City, Okla. Little did the team know upon its arrival, it would take going into overtime and a game-winning shot from Pfc. Robert Johnson, Special Troops Battalion, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, to win the first game, 78-76.
The Fort Riley team is under the coaching helm of Capt. Michael R. Meyers, Intelligence and Sustainment Company, Division Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 1st Inf. Div.
"This team has a purpose. They have been brought together to win for this post, and, this year, they have done so without question," Meyers said.
The game went back and forth for the entire second half, with neither team being able to seize control. After a missed shot by the Tinker AFB Team, the game went into overtime. While many of the players from Tinker AFB were experiencing fatigue, Meyers said, the Fort Riley players were anxious to finish the game.
Meyers attributes this to his assistant coach, Capt. Vanessa Ramirez, physical therapist, Farley Clinic, 1st ABCT, 1st Inf. Div.
"Everything we do centers around her commitment to get these guys, athletically, to a high level," Meyers said.
Overtime came down to a simple play call – "1st Brigade" – with 10.2 seconds left in the game. Meyers named all of the plays in his playbook after the various brigades and previous post commanders at Fort Riley.
Johnson's late game shot with 1.2 seconds left in the game was critical for Fort Riley's win, Meyers said.
Johnson said the play's purpose was to "be aggressive coming off the screen and leave (the opposing team) little or no time on the clock."
Johnson also said he was pleased with the outcome of the play.
"I was pleased (when I saw the shot go in) because it's an area of the game I work on, which is the pull-up jumper," he said. "I was also pleased that I was able to come through for the team in the clutch."
Johnson attributed the longevity of himself and the other Fort Riley players to the conditioning they receive during practices.
"Capt. Ramirez has a wonderful conditioning program, which allows us to play longer than other teams," he said. "Our endurance is at an all-time high under her tutelage."
The second game was played 30 minutes after the first. Tinker AFB opened a 10-point lead on Fort Riley, and Meyers called a timeout and made a few adjustments.
"I noticed that we did look a little frenetic without purpose and a bit lethargic and confused on what we actually wanted to do on defense," Meyers said. "That is why I put them in a 3-2 zone defense, in order to conserve energy. We did that for about two minutes with the guys on the floor, and it really shook up their offense. We still missed a lot of shots. This team is capable of scoring 100 points every night when everyone is playing their best. Today, we just missed shots. Luckily, we were able to create some opportunities with our defense that allowed us to win the second game."
The defense, according to Meyers, was a suffocating half-court trap that generated more than five turnovers within a three-minute span at the end of the game. The defensive effort was led by Spc. Kamal James, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Aviation Regiment, Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Inf. Div.; Spc. Darrius Wilder, Special Troops Battalion, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Inf. Div.; and Spc. Blake Sims, 1st Maintenance Company, 541st Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 1st Sustainment Brigade, 1st Inf. Div.
"These guys fought so hard. Even when they are down, they never give up," Ramirez said. "They just keep going after it."
Fort Riley won the second game, 80-78.
Tinker AFB will have another shot when they travel to Fort Riley March 9 and 10, for the Fort Riley Basketball Team's first official home game of 2013.
"It's going to be a great game. I really look forward to it," Meyers said. "I mean Fort Riley (Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation) has been great, and this program is set up for success thanks to hard work from Ken Roynon, sports director, DFMWR, and Renee Satterlee, sports coordinator, DFMWR.
"We have produced one All-Army (Basketball Team) starter – Spc. Taylor Pratt, HHC, 101st Brigade Support Battalion – for the Armed Forces (Basketball) Tournament, we have played over 20 games, and we are highly competitive to win the Central U.S. Military Basketball Conference."
In addition to competing in the Central U.S. Military Basketball Conference, Meyers said, the team competes in the Manhattan City League, and coaches from the surrounding area have called inquiring about the Fort Riley Basketball Team's athletes, including the head coach from Brown Mackie College, Salina, Kan., who, Meyers said, is very excited about the Fort Riley team and looks forward to adding the team to his schedule during the 2013 to 2014 season. Additionally, Meyers said, the coach has expressed interest in observing the Fort Riley team's practice and players.
"We have the best Soldiers, the best players and the best coaching staff I could ask for," Meyers said. "The players understand this and capitalize on every game they play. The 'Big Red One,' is more than a symbol or patch we wear, it is the number you achieve when your excellence is manifested by your hard work."