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NEWS | March 19, 2010

MLRS takes title from 'Defenders'

By Patrick Desmond 502nd Air Base Wing OL-A Public Affairs

If the last three years of intramural basketball has proven anything, it's that defense really does win championships.

Just ask 59th Medical Logistics Readiness Squadron coach Lucas Jenkins, whose team outlasted reigning intramural champs, the 802nd Security Forces Squadron Defenders, in a low scoring 32-22 title game March 16.

"Just commitment on defense and taking it personally," he said. "I always tell them, do not let your man beat you in any aspect of the game, and they did that. They executed perfectly."

MLRS played a better half of basketball than the Defenders on championship night, circumventing a full-court press much of the first half.

Caleb Swartzendruber led MLRS with 11 points, including four free throws down the stretch during the close game, while MLRS point guard Alphius White led the charge through the backcourt pressure.

"They were in a press all night, it's kind of tiring," the speedy guard said. "It takes a lot of communicating and knowing your position and where you need to go."

The Defenders took Chaparral court Tuesday with the name 'Defenders' emblazoned on their uniforms. From the tip-off, it seemed its patented pressure defense would uphold the gold letters showcased across their jerseys for a third straight year.

Up to their old tricks - pressing opposing ball handlers and capitalizing on takeaways - the Defenders held a 6-0 lead after 12 minutes. But MLRS remained calm.

Jenkins knew this would come, and he prepared his team before the game.

"Right before the game, I was telling everyone just to stay composed," he said. "We don't have to rush just because they're pressing. Take your time, find the open man and once we beat the press, do what we've been doing all year."

Down 4-0, a MLRS timeout provided a clear picture of the contrast between the opposing teams. On the home side, the Defenders coach Jesse Jenkins' huddle buzzed with excitement while the MLRS squad seemed meditative.

Back on the floor, MLRS forward Adams put an exclamation on his team's first two points, running past his defender along the baseline to catch a pass and spike a one-handed slam.

After being held to the early scoring drought, the points began to rain in for MLRS as they closed the first half on a 19-1 tear.

Following Adams' jam, MLRS scored on its next three possessions with Swartzendruber finding range on a 3-pointer to give his team a 9-7 lead.

But the champs didn't go down lightly.

They regrouped their tenacious defense at the break and went on their own run to again outscore MLRS through the first 12 minutes of the second half and pulled within three, 22-18, late in the game.

The easy buckets MLRS had preyed on in the first half were no longer there, each offensive possession turning into a battle for control of the ball or resulting in a trip to the foul line.

The lead and championship seemed to be slipping away with three minutes to play, when MLRS was turned away after three offensive rebounds, only to lose the ball out of bounds.

But the MLRS lead amassed at halftime was too much to overcome and the Defenders had to stop the clock by fouling.

Swartzendruber remained cool, hitting four-of-four free throws, teammate Milo Otis added a double-pump lay-in, and consistent with the style starting MLRS' scoring, Adams' dunk closed the win, 32-22.