Osan opens basektball season with win

OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- The Osan men's basketball team, the Defenders, defeated the Yongsan Rebels 85-65 Wednesday night during the finals of the Pacific Air Forces-wide preseason tournament held here. The Osan Defenders went undefeated through pool play to reach the final during the five day tournament.

The Osan women's team captured 2nd place earlier in the week losing to an inspired multi-service team from the island of Okinawa, who had to play the entire tournament with just five players on their squad. The Mystics fought off fatigue all tournament and had to dig deep more than once to remain undefeated through the tournament.

"We just kept on playing. When we were tired, we sucked it up," said Evevetta Crawford of the Mystics who also took home MVP honors for the women's tournament. "Everybody just took turns stepping up."

Not only is winning a tournament with five players impressive, they also put up 77 points in their 77-70 victory over Osan. On the men's side, the final got off to a slow start as both teams opened with turnovers, but Osan sent an early message that they weren't going to be pushed around on their home court when Marlon George, 51st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron stuffed Yongsan's first shot attempt. Defense turned out to be the evening's theme as both squads pressure forced multiple turnovers.

The defenses kept both teams from really settling in, which ended up being like an all-you-can-eat buffet ... endless trips to the free throw line. Osan must have had a big appetite that evening because even though trips to the paint were hazardous to their health and often ended up with Osan players like Greg Wilson, 51st Munitions Squadron, and Gareth Davis, 51st Comptroller Squadron on the floor, they stuck to their inside game. It was that fearless determination to work inside the paint that garnered Wilson the tournament MVP trophy. Yongsan on the other hand was very effective in breaking down Osan's defense and frequently worked the ball inside, but failed to finish plays off.

Osan showed offensive patience and shut down any scoring runs from the Yongsan side by working the ball outside the arc to their ace perimeter shooters Matt Wireman, 607th Air Intelligence Squadron, and Kenyetta Prince, 55th Airlift Flight. Wireman shot lights out by going 4 for 4 from downtown which is just another day at the office for a player who knows his role on the team.

"I'm not big, I'm not quick. I am on this team to do one thing, and that is to shoot the ball," said Wireman. He acknowledged his impressive stats got a lot of help from his friends. "With a team that has this much talent, a guy like me is underrated, so I got a lot of great looks." First half scoring was closed out by Wireman as he pulled up and hit a three-point buzzer beater which put Osan into the locker room with a halftime lead of 39-33.

The second half was more of the same. Osan controlled the tempo, and never relinquished their lead. Yongsan made a couple of runs and closed the gap as close as six points, but just when you could feel the momentum start to shift, Osan would sink a three along with Yongsan's hopes.

After Osan stretched its second half lead to 22 points, frustration crept into the gym as Yongsan was slapped with two technical fouls for pushing and a verbal exchange with officials. That sealed the deal for Osan and for the remainder of the game, they played keep away and wrapped up the evening and the tournament with an 85-65 victory.

Coach Tony Jones believes this tournament victory was great, but just a starting point for his team.

"We started practicing way back in the summer. It's hard to get everyone on the same page with exercises and work commitments," said Coach Jones "This was a great start for us, but we set a lot of goals this season. They're a great bunch of guys and one of the best teams I've ever coached!"