LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, Texas –
The International Military Sports Council Basketball Championship came to a close April 22 in the Chaparral Fitness Center with the presentation of the gold, silver and bronze medals to the winning teams.
The U.S Armed Forces team defeated Lithuania 84-74 in a dramatic comeback victory to win its first CISM championship since 1988.
"We haven't gone every year, and sometimes the tournament is held in a third world country and the Secretary of State doesn't approve our travel," said Ted Albers, U.S. head coach. "It's great to be a part of the team that brought it back."
The U.S. win pushed Lithuania into silver-medal status.
Greece finished with the bronze medal after beating the Republic of Korea 99-88 in overtime.
The weeklong tournament began April 14 and featured military teams from seven countries, including Canada, Latvia and Italy.
CISM President Italian Brig. Gen. (Dr.) Gianni Gola thanked all the teams for their competitive and passionate performances and for doing an admirable job of promoting friendship through sport.
"The quality of the players was so high," said General Gola. "Many of these players play for their club teams back home and their national teams for the Olympics."
According to General Gola, 25 percent of the men and women that compete in the Olympics are military athletes.
Shooting guard Uldis Rudzitis, Latvia, was honored for being the top scorer in the tournament. He averaged almost 20 points over a seven-game span.
Rudzitis was joined by fellow countryman point guard Argis Kazaks on the All-Tournament Team. Shooting guard Daniel Nwaelele, USA, small forward Giedruis Kulbus, Lithuania, shooting guard Hyunjoong Kim, Republic of Korea and Benard James, USA, also were named to the All-Tournament Team.
James was also named the Most Valuable Player of the tournament
"I love the camaraderie," James said. "A lot of these guys have become like my brothers. I actually talk to a lot of these guys more than my brothers when we are at our different bases."
After the awards were handed out, the CISM flag was lowered and presented to the United States chief of mission, Col. Bob Labrutta, 37th Mission Support Group commander.
General Gola then received the flag and handed it to Lithuania's chief of mission, Marius Kugauda.
Lithuania will host the tournament in 2009. The nation's team earned silver in the 2005 CISM tournament as well.
General Gola and CISM representatives will also be present in Beijing for the 2008 Summer Olympics.
"The Chinese armed forces are allowing us to be present to assist our athletes. It is a great opportunity," General Gola said.