By Randy Dela Cruz, Ho'okele Sports Editor
The twin towers of Navy Information Operations Command (NIOC) Hawaii, reservist Senior Airman Sean Caddell and Cryptologic Technician (Collection) 2nd Class Quentin Leathers, dominated the paint to lead their team to a 47-33 victory over Joint Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Accounting Command (JPAC) Ballers. The match was played on Feb. 25 in a Red Division intramural basketball game at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam Fitness Center.
Caddell, a former Division II basketball player at giant killer Chaminade University (2006-07), scored 12 points in the first half and finished with a game-high 22, while Leathers controlled the boards and chipped in with 15, which included a couple of slam dunks.
The win placed the back-to-back defending base champions in a tie for first place in the Red Division with the 324th Intelligence Squadron (324 IS) Tigers.
Both teams are undefeated with a record of 4-0 and will meet in an all-important battle on March 4 at the JBPHH Fitness Center starting at 6 p.m. to decide sole possession of the division’s top place.
“We feel that we’re the best team in the league,” said NIOC head coach Senior Chief Cryptologic Technician (Collection) Christopher Webb about the upcoming showdown. “We’re going to work hard and prepare for them. We will be ready. Our players have been in some tough games over the past two years, so we feel we’re prepared.”
Against the 324 IS, Webb left no doubt that NIOC will count heavily upon the inside game, which the team used to devastate JPAC.
Tied at 12-12 with 1:04 left on the clock before half-time, Leathers put NIOC out in front on a steal that he finished off with a thunderous slam.
The dunk seemed to awake the defending champs as Caddell ended his stellar first-half performance with back-to-back lay-ups to give NIOC an 18-12 advantage at the break.
“That was important,” said Webb about the team’s 6-0 run at the end of the first half. “We rotate so many players that when they (the opposition) rotate to try and catch their break, we jump on them. We got that momentum going into the half and we carried that over into the second half.”
While Caddell continued to play above the rim after intermission, Leathers really began to establish his presence under the hoop.
Held to only four points in the first half, Leathers threw down 11 close-range points in the second half, mostly on second and third shots.
“That’s what we do,” said Webb about the team’s tough inside game. “We will always go to Leathers and Sean to take the lead. Through their offensive prowess on offense and the boards, we lead to them and push back outwards.”
Although NIOC seemed to be in control for most of the game, JPAC, behind the shooting and rebounding of Master Sgt. Rick June, managed to hang around and even cut the lead down to four at 29-25 on a basket and trey by June with 9:20 on the clock.
June led JPAC in scoring with 17 points. Fourteen of his total game points came in the second half.
However, with time winding down, the duo of Caddell and Leathers made sure that there would be no coming back for JPAC.
Leathers tapped in a missed shot to give NIOC a 35-27 lead at the 5:15 mark and, after a basket-and-one from Caddell, Leathers scored on another putback to seal the game with a 40-27 lead and only 3:36 remaining in the game.
While Webb understands where his bread is buttered, he said that he would like more diversity in the team’s offensive attack.
He said that he hopes to get it before NIOC’s meeting against the 324 IS.
“We have to get better at hitting jump shots,” he admitted. “Our jump shots haven’t been where they should be. If we can make some jump shots and relieve some of the pressure in the middle, then we’re going to be unbeatable.”