By Randy Dela Cruz, Ho'okele Sports Editor
The 324th Intelligence Squadron (324 IS) Tigers broke open a close game in the early moments of the second half to get past the 8th Intelligence Squadron (8 IS) Exploiters, 54-38, on Feb. 4 in an intramural basketball Red Division basketball showdown at Hickam Fitness Center, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.
Up 22-16 at halftime, the Tigers immediately opened the second half by scoring a basket on a long baseline-to-baseline pass from Tech. Sgt. Tim Harris to Tech. Sgt. Terrance Gist.
Moments later, Harris touched a lay-up off the glass for two more points to put the Tigers ahead by double digits for the first time at 26-16.
The win kept the Tigers tied for the division’s lead at 2-0, while the Exploiters dropped their first game of the season and now hold a 1-1 mark.
“The coaches talked to us and told us to calm down,” said Harris about the team’s strong second half. “(We had to) move the ball like we know how to move the ball, run our plays, run our sets and switched from man to a two-three. They didn’t know what to do with the two-three.”
While the 324 IS was able to pull away in the second half, the game was a seesaw affair in the first half with the lead changing four times before the break.
Tied at 13-13, the Exploiters forged ahead at 16-13 on a 3-point shot from guard Airman 1st Class Juan Nunez.
However, two free throws from Airman 1st Class Brian Vanderpool cut the lead down to one before a basket by Harris regained the advantage for the Tigers.
Another lay-up by Harris gave the Tigers a 19-16 lead before Senior Airman A.J. Abdul sank a clutch 3-point shot as the first half came down to a close.
“I think that was huge,” said Abdul about his long-distance bomb to end the half. “We came out and had to fight. They (Exploiters) made a big push and really tested us. I think it (shot) gave us the momentum.”
Although the Exploiters got big numbers from Nunez and Capt. Anwar Johnson, the tough 324 IS defense limited the damage from the duo by shutting down the rest of the team.
Johnson hit three 3-point shots, while Nunez connected on two from long distance and finished with 16 points.
With the Tigers defense smothering the Exploiters, the 324 IS started to get their fast-break offense in gear.
Harris said that at half-time he and his teammates all agreed to press the action whenever they got the ball.
“We definitely got conditioning,” Harris explained. “We kept running the ball and they got tired.”
For the game, Harris chipped in with 15 points, while Abdul also contributed 15 on two treys, two basket-and-ones and three free throws.
The strong inside play of the Tigers also played a big role in helping the team to its lopsided victory.
Abdul said that aggressive play by the Tigers gave them control of the boards.
“We noticed that they were sending three or four rebounders to the bucket,” Abdul noted. “So we told our guys, total group effort. They all got down on the boards, got down deep and out with the victory.”
Abdul said that getting out of the gates with two straight wins has given the Tigers a strong sense of confidence.
With the team running on all cylinders, he believes that the Tigers should keep the streak alive.
“We practice hard,” he said. “We have a lot of talent this year. We’re very deep and if we stay focused, stay injury free, we’ll be right there at the end.”