News: Task Force Thunder teams shoot into semi-finals
Story by Sgt. Shanika Futrell
KANDAHAR AIRFEIELD, Afghanistan – With the basketball championship here heading toward its final game, no one was sure who would take it all, but several fans were leaning toward the Dragonlords, a team from Task Force Thunder (159th Combat Aviation Brigade).
Three different teams from TF Thunder made it into the semi-finals, but there was only one advanced to the “Final Four.”
Fans cheered the Dragonlords basketball team on as they took the victory over Top Flight Security in the semi-finals here, July 19, resulting in Dragonlords playing in the Final Four.
While walking off the court, the smiles did not stop as the games continued to see who the next team was they had to face.
“We were number one throughout the entire season, and my team had only lost one game,” said Spc. Barry Elliott, the Dragonlords coach. “We had never practiced together because we are in a war zone, and everyone has a job to do. I was proud of the team to have made it this far, but we still needed to fine tune a few things.”
After the second game was over the Dragonlords found out they had to play the team Council.
“We beat them during the season, so it should not be that hard to have a repeat,” said Staff Sgt. Barry Mayers, a player on the Dragonlords before the game.
Five minutes into the second half, Council led over the Dragonlords by three points. Elliott called a time out to strategize with the players. But not before he let one of the teammates pump the players up.
“That’s alright; we can come back,” said Staff Sgt. Gabriel Bridges, another player on the team. “D-up (get on your defensive game) and make those free throws … we got this.”
Reassured they had a solid plan, the Dragonlords stepped back onto the court to finish out the last 10 minutes of the game, but had trouble getting ahead in points.
“The team had a few issues while on the court. Their confidence dropped, resulting in a poor defense (and a) lack of communication,” said Elliott.
At the end-of-game the score was 24 – 21 with Council advancing to the finals.
Though the game was an upset for the Dragonlords, they still placed in the top three out of 24 other teams. Despite their loss, they stayed to cheer the other games and players on.
“This type of thing is all about camaraderie out here,” said Elliott. “We have met many different service men and have a better appreciation for one another. Many of the teams who had lost previously were out there on the sidelines cheering on the other teams, and that is what this all about - getting involved, supporting one another and being active.”
The Dragonlords say they are awaiting the next season to take the trophy home to their duty station.
“We will revamp and restructure this team, so that next season we win it all,” said Elliott.”The team worked well together, and teamwork was important to have made it this far. Without teamwork we could have placed a whole lot worse.”