By Randy Dela Cruz, Ho'okele Sports Editor
After losing their first three games of this season, the 647th Civil Engineer Squadron (647 CES) Bulls picked up their second win in a row. They upset the previously unbeaten 15th Medical Group (15 MDG), 45-33, in an intramural basketball Red Division game on March 4 at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam Fitness Center.
The Bulls got a huge game from Staff Sgt. Brian Sanders to take a five-point lead at half-time, before finishing off the 15 MDG in the final minutes of the game.
Sanders scored 10 points in the first half and tossed in six more in the second half, while teammates Staff Sgt. Labronze Paden and Airman 1st Class Jurel Burton balanced out the attack with nine and six points each.
With the win, the Bulls have improved their season’s mark to 2-3, while the 15 MDG fell to a record of 3-1.
“We got our chemistry back,” said Burton about the Bulls second win of the season. “Last year, we started the season slow and then we picked it up. This year, we started again slow, faced some tough teams, but we’ve got our chemistry back and I don’t see us losing again this year.”
In the early minutes of the game, it appeared the Bulls would easily dispatch the 15 MDG after the Bulls stormed out of the gates and built an 11-point lead at 19-8.
However, sparked by a long-distance three ball by team captain Airman 1st Class Christopher McCloud, the 15 MDG cut the difference down to two at 19-17 with 1:17 remaining before halftime
A basket and free throw by Sanders stopped the 9-0 run by the 15 MDG and gave the Bulls a 22-17 lead at the break.
The three points by Sanders just before half-time seemed to be the spark that the Bulls needed to get back on track in the second half.
Back with momentum on their side, the Bulls maintained the lead and raised the advantage back to nine on a basket by Burton at 36-27 with 6:51 remaining on the clock.
Then on the next trip down the floor, Sanders sealed the game with a basket that put the Bulls back in full control at 38-27.
Although the 15 MDG made several runs to try and get back into the game, the Bulls answered every challenge and never let go of the lead.
Burton said that after experiencing so much hard-luck defeats early in the season, the Bulls were determined to not let this game slip away.
“In our timeouts, we were saying, ‘composure,’” Burton said. “There is no shot clock. We just got to keep our composure and play our style of basketball.”
While Burton credited the Bulls’ improved chemistry for turning the season around, McCloud said it was lack of the same on his team’s part that sent the 15 MDG down to their first defeat.
McCloud said that he hopes the loss would be a wakeup call for the 15 MDG as it tries to get back on the winning track.
“We have to talk. There was no communication out here,” said McCloud, who led his team with 10 points. “Their (Bulls) backdoor passes killed us all game. It’s individual basketball. It’s not the best player that wins the game; it’s the best team. We’re not a team yet. We’re still individual players looking to become a team.”
As McCloud and his teammates struggle to find their game, Burton said that he believes the Bulls are right where they should be and are working on getting stronger with each new game.
“There’s more room for improvement, but I think we’re a good team,” he said. “I think we’ll make a run.”