News: ‘Black Jack’ electrifies crowd with buzzer beater, wins championship
Story by Staff Sgt. Johnathan Hoover
PARWAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Members of Team Mamba were crowned champions of a basketball tournament held at the Clamshell Gym on Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, Oct. 25, 2013. During a grueling doubleheader, they defeated team Red Dragons 36-33 in overtime and team Get Money 43-36 at the end of regulation in the championship.
In the first game against the Red Dragons, Mamba got off to a good start and led by 12 points to end the first half.
In the second half of play, Team Mamba was plagued by turnovers, allowing the Red Dragons to claw back into the game with a score of 31-31 at the end of regulation play, sending the game into overtime.
“We turned the ball over because we got reckless,” said Spc. Ricardo Berry, coach of team Mamba from Washington, D.C. “They went to a full-court pressure defense and switched to a half-court trap which caused us some problems.”
“It happened quite a bit during the tournament, we would get a large lead and the other team would quickly chip away at it,” added Sgt. 1st Class Rodolfo Llamas, shooting guard and intelligence noncommissioned officer-in-charge, assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division..
Llamas, from Yuma, Ariz., said, “Our team stopped doing what got us the lead and the other team never let up. They wanted to beat us.”
“I can’t say enough of about what the team did as a whole. They did a great job keeping us in the game and getting us to overtime,” said Berry, assigned to HHC, 2nd BCT.
In the overtime session, the Red Dragons took a quick lead and led by one point with 23 seconds remaining.
There wasn’t a set play for what was going to happen, said Llamas.
“I was actually trying to get a two-pointer but they left him (Heinonen) open. I passed him the ball and it was quite a moment,” said Llamas.
Capt. Erich Heinonen received the pass and would connect on a 3-pointer from the top of the key with three seconds left in overtime to put Mamba up by one.
“I knew there wasn’t a lot of time left on the clock,” said Heinonen, a power forward and brigade administrative law attorney assigned to HHC, 2nd BCT. “I was confident in the shot, had a good look and I took it.”
Berry, assigned to HHC, 2nd BCT, said of the shot, “it felt like everything was in slow motion when the ball left his hand until it went through the bottom of the net.”
“That shot is considered as ‘the shot heard across Bagram,’” said Sgt. 1st Class Carlos Felix from Long Island, N.Y. and the center for team Mamba. “It was a big shot that sent us to the championship game.”
Team Red Dragon, who pushed Mamba to the limit, were also comprised of Soldiers assigned to 3rd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd BCT, and the United States Air Forces’ 455th Air Expeditionary Wing.
Team Mamba advanced to the championship game to play team Get Money, 30- minutes later.
Mamba led by 13 points early in the second half of play and looked to cruise to an easy victory before turnovers again cost Mamba, allowing Get Money to cash in on some easy buckets and cutting the lead to three points with less than three minutes remaining.
“I called a timeout and let the guys know that we can win this game. We had to continue to play the way we were playing when we built the lead,” said Berry.
Heinonen added, “Coach would give us some instruction but we all knew what we needed to do to win.”
“We rose to the challenge and played like we were supposed to,” said Felix.
Get Money had no choice but to foul as time was running out, putting Mamba on the free throw line for most of the remaining time.
“I think that’s what separated us from the other teams. We didn’t have the most athletic, fastest or biggest team, but we would hit free throws, especially at the end of the game,” said Llamas
Berry said of the team, they came together throughout the tournament, improving each game and he couldn’t be prouder of them.
“We won and put 1st Cav. on the map, said Felix, assigned to HHC, 2nd BCT.
“It was an honor to play with these guys, especially overseas. Doing something outside of Soldiering to get our minds off being away,” said Llamas.
Felix said, “I appreciate all the support that we received from our co-workers. It was a great experience.”