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CES powers down COMM to win base basketball championship 62-54

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- The 460th Civil Engineer Squadron held on, in a dog fight of a game, to beat the 460th Space Communications Squadron 62-54 and win the base intramural basketball championship Feb. 22.

Miles Jones led the engineers' balanced scoring attack with 16 points. Mike Washington chipped in 12 points and Tron Spearman dropped in 10 to help CES dispatch a COMM team that battled back through the loser's bracket after a loss to the engineers in the semi-finals. Arlington Riley led all scorers with 18 and Daevon Wall chipped in 16 for COMM.

"For me, beating COMM in the semifinals was bigger than winning the championship game," said Josh Cradoct, one of six CES players who also play for the Buckley base team. "Prior to the semifinals, COMM couldn't be touched. They were undefeated since the '09 season and were the defending base champs, so giving the perfect record a blemish felt better than the championship game."

The engineers didn't let their opportunity to once again defeat the reigning base champs slip away.

"COMM has been our competition for some years now. They always feel like they have the upper edge," said Marshea Miles, CES coach. "During the season, we tied a hard fought first game and we were blown out the second game. We felt like they were our only competition so when the playoffs came, we had to play smart. The refs weren't always on our side, so we had to be quiet and just play. After we blew 'em out in the semifinals, we knew it was just us against ourselves in the finals."

The engineers won the tip, but it was no indication of what was to come early on. COMM's Weir nailed a turn-around jumper from the baseline to get his team on the board first. He followed his shot with a steal in transition, but when Jerrod Jemmison sliced into the lane and took it up strong, Jones met him at the hoop and swatted the shot away.

Tron Spearman splashed in a three after more than two minutes ticked off the clock to give the engineers their first bucket.

CES forced a turnover. COMM forced a turnover. CES forced another turnover and Reggie Slayton helped the engineers take advantage by finding Jones in the key for a shot off the glass.

Rob Shaw, COMM's coach, said the flurry of turnovers came from both teams playing up tempo, man-to-man defense.

Wall answered right back for COMM, but Washington one-upped him with a three-pointer that popped twine and gave the engineers an 8-4 lead with 15:45 left in the first half.

COMM surged back with buckets from Riley and Jarrod Jemison to tie the score 8-8.

Jones nailed a three, but Wall matched his efforts to keep the score knotted 11-11.

Corey Frint chucked up an air ball from three-point land. CES rebounded and Preston "PJ" Williams drove the ball right up the gut of the COMM defense for a shot off glass.

Wall was fouled hard on the right block while shooting and made the engineers pay by hitting both free throws.

Guards will be guards and for more than a minute, neither team scored as they relied on poor outside shots and errant passes became more common that fundamental ones.

Shaw stopped the madness with a timeout and it paid off for COMM right away. Riley looked inside to Shaun Thomas who made a beautiful touch pass to an open Frint who made the easy bucket.

Frint tried to stay in the scoring groove, but instead hoisted up another long three that clanked hard off the rim. Spearman found Washington on the outlet pass and Washington showed COMM what a long shot is supposed to look like with a deep two pointer.

Frint missed again and then, frustrated, was called for fouling Washington while the guard was shooting from beyond the arch. Washington made all three free throws and gave the engineers an 18-15 lead with 6:45 left in the half.

The pace quickened. CES punched in nine more points and COMM scratched out eight more - mostly at the line. The halftime score was 28-23.

Miles said a frantic first half is normal for his squad and that he thought COMM had more to be concerned about than CES.

"If you know CE we always play like that in the first half. We have to get warmed up before we really show our talent," said the coach. "As long as it's close at the end of the first you can almost guarantee a victory. I feel COMM was more worried than we were in this game. We were already under their skin since the semi's."

Shaw and his team would not go down without a fight. COMM shrugged off a technical foul called on Marcus Freeman for dunking on warm-ups and took pride in their history.

"We beat this team earlier in the season by 25 points. We knew we could beat them," Shaw said. "I reassured the team that we were still in it. I also told them we had some distinct mismatches on the floor."

Thomas, Wallace and Jemmison combined to help cut the engineer's lead to a single point at 32-31 with 15:53 left in the game.

Spearman took it hard to the hole, but Thomas used his size and swatted his shot away. Wallace floated through the lane on the turning tide of momentum for a basket that put COMM in the lead for the first time since early in the first half.

The battle flared inside and Freeman was fouled and went to the line for COMM. He split the two and extended the lead.

Washington put CES on his back and carried them back to a tie with a free-throw and a three pointer.

Cradoct stuffed Wall in the post and snagged the rebound for CES. The eEngineers went on a 5-0 scoring run that nearly broke COMM, but Frint snagged a rebound, put his head down and went coast-to-coast for a basket.

Spearman had the answer in the form of a double-pump three pointer that found nothing but the bottom of the net to make the score 43-37.

Wallace scored on an in-bounds play and Jemmison converted on finger roll layup in the lane to make the score 43-41 with just 3:18 left.

Spearman was fouled by Riley and hit one of two. Riley made up for his miscue with a drive deep into the lane to cut the deficit back down to one point with 1:38 left on the clock to decide the base championship.

Cradoct took over. After being held to one point in the first half and looking like he was shooting at a hoop with a lid on it, he helped CES pull away at the free throw line. The guard in a big man's body swished in six free throws in 32 seconds. Hack-a-doct backfired for COMM.

"It never feels good when your shots aren't falling, but I know my team has many offensive weapons and when one of us isn't shooting very well, the rest of the team picks up the slack," he said. "I didn't have to shoot much in the game because the rest of the team was knocking down shots, and I noticed that early so I made myself a defensive presence by blocking and altering shots."

The engineers went 22-28 at the line in the second half - most of them coming in the final two minutes as COMM tried to stop the clock.

"If we didn't make our free throws then COMM might be holding the trophy right now. They're a great team and they never give up," Miles said.

CES outscored COMM 29-13 the rest of the way. The final score was 62-54.
Miles said that early in the season, the engineers had some players who weren't all about team. As the season went on, those players faded out and he was left coaching a team full of dedicated players.

"Last name, 'Ever.' First name, 'Greatest,'" the coach joked. "Everyone on the team knew their roll and just played."

Shaw also gave his team some love.

"I wouldn't trade my team in for the world," said the coach. "We had a couple of injuries that kept a couple of players from participating but, we battled hard with what we had. CES was a great team; I take nothing away from them. On that night, they were the better team."

Cradoct gave credit to his teammates and respect to COMM.

"I can't say enough about my teammates," he said. "Throughout the season, we were faced with all kinds of adversity and situations that had effects on our team's morale. But our team stuck together, picked each other up and battled through the tough times and overcame them. I want to say thanks to COMM for giving us a hard fought battle and for being the best team in the league because that's what fueled our fire to win."
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