Lackland Air Force Base, Texas —
Two top-notch teams locked horns for the Lackland intramural basketball championship earlier this week, and they produced a razor-thin result after a heart-pounding battle.
The 737th Training Group from Division I (National League) won the 2006-07 title after they defeated the 342nd Training Squadron "Warriors" from Division I (American League) 45-43 Feb. 28 at the Chaparral Fitness Center on Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.
Saul Bookman scored the final go-ahead shot for the 737th TRG with just four seconds left to play in regulation. Bookman (who led TRG with 12 points and six rebounds) took an inbound pass and bolted down the sideline before he made the winning layup off the backboard.
"I wanted to take the ball as hard as I could to the hole," Bookman recalled.
Also for the 737th TRG during the championship contest, Ryan Nichols scored 11 points; Antonio Holmes, 8; Carlton Patin and Paul Lee both had 4; Duke McDuffie, 3; Lavarus Calloway, 2; and Claborne Staten, 1.
Patin was especially pleased with the TRG championship. Last March, the TRG forward played for the 690th Information Operations Group as they lost the championship game 42-40 to the Air Force Information Warfare Center. While that game went down to the final three seconds, Patin almost made a 3-point shot to give IOG the title.
"I'm as happy as I can be right now," Patin said, after TRG won Wednesday. "I'm just really, really happy to get one. It feels really good."
For the 342nd TRS, it was their second appearance in the championship final during the past three years. The 342nd won the 2004-05 title. James Allen led the Warriors with 14 points; Armando Daniel had 11; Oscar Mendez, 8; John Wilson, 7; and David Clark, 3.
"I think it was an evenly matched game, but they got the big shots," Daniel said. "They played a good first half. We played a good second half. It went down to the last four seconds, you can't get more even than that. Tonight, they (TRG) were the better team."
TRG took a 24-18 halftime lead, mostly on the strength of some wicked outside shooting.
Nichols hit two 3-pointers, and Bookman, Holmes and Patin each had one 3-pointer during the first half.
"That's just part of our game," Bookman said. "We run and gun and shoot from the outside in."
As if to emphasize their outside game was working, Bookman got an open look at the basket and scored another 3-point shot to give TRG a 27-18 advantage just as soon as the second half got under way.
However, the Warriors gradually came back, and the score was tied at 40 after Allen made a free throw with 1:24 left to play. With 56.8 seconds left on the clock, the Warriors stole the ball. However, their fast-break attempt failed after the ball bounced out of bounds.
TRG followed with a picture-perfect 3-pointer by Holmes that sailed into the hoop from a spot about two feet beyond the arc. At that point, with a loud contingent of basic trainees cheering loudly for TRG from the grandstand, TRG was up 42-40.
A foul shot by Mendez reduced the TRG lead to 42-41 with 18.9 seconds left. Two seconds later, Patin scored a foul shot, and that gave TRG a slim 43-41 advantage.
With only 11 seconds left to play and the championship on the line, Daniel went to the free- throw line and scored twice to tie the score at 43.
Then, Bookman outran the 342nd defense from midcourt to make the winning shot and secure the championship for the 737th TRG.
The 342nd outscored the 737th 25-21 during the second half. But it was not enough for them to take their second title in three years.
The 737th TRG posted an 8-1 record during the regular season, and the 342nd TRS went 9-1 to take first place in their respective divisions.
Earlier during the single-elimination postseason tournament, the 737th TRG beat the 67th Network Warfare Group, 43-39, on Feb. 22 and the 543rd Support Squadron, 44-38, on Feb. 26.
The 342nd TRS defeated the 314th Military Intelligence Battalion, 54-52, on Feb. 22 and Radiology, 36-29, Feb. 26.