WSA dethrones reigning basketball champions

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Matthew Jackson, point guard with the 50th Wing Staff Agencies, proudly displays the 2018 Basketball Base Champion trophy after the 2017-2018 Intramural Basketball Championship at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, Feb. 27, 2018. The 50th Wing Staff Agencies were victorious against the 4th Space Operations Squadron, winning 44-41. (U.S. Air Force photo by Christopher DeWitt)

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Shawn Graves with the 4th Space Operations Squadron, shoots a free throw during the 2017-2018 Intramural Basketball Championship game at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, Feb. 27, 2018. 4th SOPS won the 2016-2017 Intramural Basketball championship, but lost to the 50th Wing Staff Agencies 44-41 this year. (U.S. Air Force photo by Christopher DeWitt)

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Michael Kilbourne, left, shooting guard with the 50th Wing Staff Agencies, gets a shot off while guarded by Franklin Eason, right, with the 4th Space Operations Squadron, during the second half of the 2017-2018 Intramural Basketball Championship game at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, Feb. 27, 2018. (U.S. Air Force photo by Christopher DeWitt)

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Michael Kilbourne, shooting guard with the 50th Wing Staff Agencies, puts up a shot at the 2017-2018 Intramural Basketball Championship game at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, Feb. 27, 2018. The 50th Space Wing Wing Staff Agencies beat 50th Operations Support Squadron in the semi-final round. (U.S. Air Force photo by Christopher DeWitt)

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Players with the 4th Space Operations Squadron huddle to discuss strategy during the 2017-2018 Intramural Basketball Championship game at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, Feb. 27, 2018. The team beat the 2nd Space Operations Squadron in the semi-finals, earning their championship game spot. (U.S. Air Force photo by Christopher DeWitt)

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Michael Kilbourne, left, shooting guard with the 50th Wing Staff Agencies, and Tyrelle Shepherd, right, with the 4th Space Operations Squadron, battle for the ball during the 2017-2018 Intramural Basketball Championship game at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, Feb. 27, 2018. Kilbourne and Shepherd have been playing basketball since they were children. (U.S. Air Force photo by Christopher DeWitt)

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Angelo Fernandez with 4th Space Operations Squadron, dribbles the ball past Brandon Council, small forward with the 50th Wing Staff Agencies, during the 2017-2018 Intramural Basketball Championship game at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, Feb. 27, 2018. The 50th Space Wing Wing Staff Agencies led 21-16 at the half and came out victorious with a final score of 44-41. (U.S. Air Force photo by Christopher DeWitt)

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50th Wing Staff Agencies team members gather with the trophy after the 2017-2018 Intramural Basketball Championship at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, Feb. 27, 2018. The 50th WSA team was comprised of Airmen from finance, 50th Contracting Squadron, the 50th Inspector General office and the 50th Network Operations Group. (U.S. Air Force photo by Christopher DeWitt)

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --

The 50th Space Wing Wing Staff Agencies defeated reigning champions, 4th Space Operations Squadron, in the 2017-2018 Intramural Basketball Championship Feb. 27.

Losing to the 4th SOPS in the semifinals last year, the 50th WSA was ready to redeem themselves.

50th WSA sealed their victory with a score of 44-41, holding onto the lead the entire game.

50th WSA’s road to the championship was not easy, as their team was small however, they had seasoned veterans.

“It was a rollercoaster for our team, but overall, we had a strong regular season,” said Michael Kilbourn, 50th WSA shooting guard. “Like all teams, it took us a while to form and get there. It was a challenge because unlike your traditional sport seasons where you have practices, we just played the games.”

The 50th WSA played the 50th Operations Support Squadron in the semifinal game and won by nearly 30 points.

“It took us awhile to get into a rhythm, but over the course of the last three games we were on the upswing, and it came at a perfect time,” Kilbourn said. “By the time we were in the final game, we were where we needed to be. We rode that momentum into the championship game.”

Rickie Banister, shooting guard with the 50th WSA, said their team came together in the playoffs, and they played the best basketball in the two games leading up to the championship than they had all season.

“Everyone understood their role and everyone did their job,” he said.

Matthew Jackson, point guard with the 50th WSA, agreed the semifinal game boosted their confidence going into the final game. 

“With so many ups and downs throughout the season, the semifinal game helped us prepare for the championship,” he said.

Kilbourn added the hardest parts were 4th SOPS players’ talent and numbers.

“At any point we were facing the prospect of them deciding to dial it up and us not having the same amount of bandwidth,” he said. “We just knew we were up against a really formidable opponent.”

For Kilbourn, the game was more mental than physical.

“You have to create a little friction,” he said. “If you’re like me and you have a competitive spirit, you’re centered on some sort of adversity. You have to have something to overcome.”

Kilbourn added if you can get the other team opposed to you and get in their heads, then you can edge them out.

Anthony Gardner with 4th SOPS, said their team went into the championship with the same game play they had all season: fast breaks and moving the ball quickly.

Gardner said they played good defense, but could not get their shots in the hoop.

“The two most talented teams played against each other, and we didn’t have our roles nailed down well enough,” he said. “They’re a group of talented guys and they deserved to win.”

Banister, Kilbourn and Jackson all praised their coach, Gregory Deas with the 50th SW IG, on his ability to bring the team together and ultimately seal their victory.

“We tried player coaches but they didn’t work out,” Banister said. “We knew we had a good enough team to make it to the finals, but without a coach we couldn’t win it. We talked to someone we all respected.

“He (Deas) never gets too high or low,” he added. “He has no problem being honest and tells you not what you want to hear but what you need to hear. It was the unity of command and Deas’ singular voice that was the difference-maker.”

Deas’ advice to slow the game down and focus on each individual’s role on the team led them to victory.

“He just told us to do our job, and not worry about anyone else,” Banister said. “We always had the potential to play at that level. We were, at times, our own worst enemy, but the other side of that coin is that our potential was boundless, we chose not to defeat ourselves which allowed us to win.”

“We had high hopes this year,” Jackson said. “We finally accomplished what we set out to do.”

Kilbourn added although the sport is meant to be fun, it gets serious.

“There’s pent up emotion, and it actually feels really great when you win,” he said. “For one second, that fun feeling is at the pinnacle.”

“We got that monkey off our back,” Banister added. “We got to exhale, and all our hard work paid off. This was a David versus Goliath story.”

Kilbourn has been playing basketball since he was a child, and his favorite part about the sport is how dynamic it is.

“You’re facing all these obstacles simultaneously, and it’s a teamwork-oriented sport,” he said. “It’s mental, physical and emotional and tasks every bit of your character.”

As part of the Wing Commander’s Inspection Program, “improving the unit,” one of the four major graded areas, Kilbourn compared basketball to improving his unit, the 50th CONS.

“I think basketball is a metaphor for the prospect that if people are being taken care of and taking care of themselves, they can take care of each other,” he said. “It’s a positive, vicious cycle.”

Banister added with the 50th WSA team working together not only improved each individual unit, but the wing as a whole.

“We’re one team, one fight, and that’s exactly what happened with us during the season,” he said. “Finance, contracting, IG and the NOG formed one team and we won. It was integration at its finest. We brought everything together to make it work for one mission.”

To “stay ready in the off season,” also the theme for this year’s CCIP, Kilbourn said the 50th CONS tries to acknowledge the need of the unit as a whole.

“We really believe in the fact that folks need the opportunity to create a whole person concept, otherwise the unit has no chance of meeting its potential,” he said. “It starts with the self. Basketball and other intramural sports presents this opportunity. It creates harmony because it doesn’t force you to choose between work and personal growth.”

For more information about upcoming intramural sports or fitness center events, call the fitness center at 567-6628.