The 1st Engineer Brigade completed a year-long goal March 28, taking home the 2019 Commander’s Cup Basketball Tournament championship trophy after beating the 43rd Adjutant General Battalion 64-54 in the tournament final.
“Sappers first! Engineers all the way! Hooah!” 1st Engr. Bde. coach Andre Jones exclaimed after accepting the trophy more than a year after the team finished in fourth place in last year’s tournament.
“Last year, we made it to the final four, but we didn’t go all the way,” Jones said. “This year, our goal was to go to (the championship game), and I’m happy we did that.”
The 1st Engr. Bde. jumped out to an early lead and never relinquished it, although the 43rd AG Bn. would rally several times throughout the contest.
In the first half, Cory Evans led the Engineers with 11 points, while Juwan Moore, D’Adrien Bradley, Cory Besay and Stanley Ballantyne all added to the point total, resulting in a 29-26 lead at halftime.
Moore would build on that lead by scoring the first six points of the second half on three consecutive layups. By the time the buzzer sounded, he had scored 15 second-half points on his way to leading the team with 19 overall.
“This really meant everything to us,” Moore said. “We’ve been trying to get back here to have the opportunity to play (for the championship) since last year. To come back and win it all has been amazing.”
Evans followed Moore in scoring with 15 points overall, while Bradley finished with nine points, and Besay and Ballantyne finished with eight points each.
Kedrick Fox led the 43rd AG Bn. with 21 points in all, including 16 in the first half. Lacey Rutledge added 11 points, and Antigeaus Dixon and Alexander Williams each scored seven points.
“It was tough,” Fox said after the game. “They’re a very hard team to play against. They came out red hot, and we came out a little slow. We tried to pick it up a little bit at the end as best we could, but they were a little too much for us tonight.”
However, while the 43rd AG Bn. ended up taking home this year’s second-place trophy, Fox and other players already have their sights set on next year’s championship. “We play hard, and we love playing together,” Fox said. “We’ll get ‘em next year.”
As the second-seeded team in the tournament, the 1st Engr. Bde. had a bye in the first round, and advanced in the second round with a 50-45 win over Combat Training Company March 27. Later that same night, they advanced to the championship with a 69-55 win over the 554th Engineer Battalion.
Jones said his team knew the 43rd AG Bn., which was the top seed in the tournament, would a tough opponent in the championship game.
“They’re one of the top teams in this league, so we knew going in we had a challenge in front of us. The biggest thing for us was coming to play — and that’s what we did,” Jones said.
The 43rd AG Bn., which also had a bye in the first round, won its first game of the tournament March 27, beating the U.S. Marine Corps Detachment 48-39, then defeating the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence 54-51 to reach the championship.
When asked, Jones said he believed the key to his team’s success in the championship game was defense.
“We didn’t get frustrated. We stayed positive and we continued to play,” Jones said, adding that he was proud of his players.
“I’m proud of them. They have good chemistry; they listen, and they played good ball. We’re a family — that’s one thing I can say about these guys — and they all came out and played hard tonight,” he said.
Prior to the championship game, the MSCoE team took the tournament’s third-place game with a forfeit win. Although it wasn’t the way the team wanted to win, David Henderlite, who co-coaches the MSCoE team with Christopher McCoy, said they were proud of their players. The MSCoE team beat the 3rd Battalion, 10th Infantry Regiment, 46-21 in the first round March 26 and defeated the Medical Department Activity 49-42 March 27 in the second round before falling to the 43rd AG Bn. in the semifinal.
“We did pretty good,” Henderlite said. “We had it a little rough last night, playing back to back, but we came out and played and lost by three points — that’s how it is.”