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JBLM intramural basketball championship

Scott Hansen/JBLM PAO 494th BSB’s Darius Smith (1) splits 5th ASOS defenders Zach Miller (24) and Jason Baker as he drives the lane and scores.

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With the win secure and the final seconds of the JBLM intramural basketball championship game winding down, Darius Smith, of the 494th Brigade Support Battalion, surprised everyone when he suddenly passed the ball to an opponent.

"He asked me, ‘Let me get the ball so I can shoot it from half court,'" Smith said. "And I said ‘OK, go for it.'" Zach Miller, of the 5th Air Support Operations Squadron, then fired off a half-court shot at the buzzer. It bounced off the rim to conclude 494th BSB's 82-65 best-of-JBLM victory over the 5th ASOS at Wilson Sports and Fitness Center March 27.

While both teams played tough, players on both sides described the game as a relaxed, family-friendly environment.

"You have enough stress as a military Soldier," Smith said. "I think it's fun getting a little bit of competition." The championship was the culmination of a season that started in December with more than 50 teams from JBLM. Each team played at least one game every week since the season began, with a break during Christmas.

The championship that paired the top JBLM Air Force vs. Army team, invited the community to come out and watch the friendly rivalry game.

"What we were trying to do was to show the Soldiers that we appreciate them coming out and participating in our intramural sports," JBLM Intramural Sports Programmer Tara Ricci said, "which is why we wanted to make this last game an exciting event for them and invite the community to come out.

"We felt that if (the players) saw the community and the command here for the final game, that they would feel the support and they would want to continue to play soccer or softball because they feel like people care what they are doing."

While both teams played for fun, every player competed for every loose ball and attempted to defend every shot. "It is competitive but it's a more family-based atmosphere," said Darius Sutton of 5th ASOS.

By halftime, 494th BSB led 38-30 and pulled away even further in the second half with seven field goals from beyond the 3-point arc.

John McGee from 494th BSB led with 25 points and seven 3-pointers in the game.

Entering the game, McGee said he had not been shooting well in the last few games and that he might have been overlooked in the opponent's scouting report.

"I came in ready to play; ready to shoot with a clear mind," McGee said.

In the end both teams laughed and smiled as they received their trophies for regular season championships and the joint base trophy.

"There's no conflict between teams," McGee said. "After the game, we're still friends."

A number of players on both teams had played basketball prior to coming to JBLM, including NCAA Division I basketball. McGee played college basketball at Jacksonville State University, while his teammate, Smith, played at Niagara University. But a number of the athletes played a different sport in college, like Sutton, who played soccer at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington.

"I always loved basketball growing up in North Carolina," Sutton said.

After a year in college, Sutton joined the Air Force and played basketball at Ramstein Air Base in Germany for two years before coming to JBLM.

"These are the best teams I've ever played with," Sutton said. "This league is really fun for the most part." The next intramural championship is May 22 when Air Force and Army face off on the soccer field at Cowan Stadium.

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