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    NAS Jax Flyers soar to win national basketball tournament



    Story by Kaylee Larocque 

    Naval Air Station Jacksonville

    For the first time in the 79-year history of Naval Air Station Jacksonville (NAS Jax), a base sports team has won a national championship. The NAS Jax Flyers Basketball Team brought home the trophy after defeating Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in the 2019 Military Basketball Association (MBA) championships at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, April 14-15.
    The team is coached by NAS Jax Command Master Chief Jeffery Waters, and is comprised of 10 players who work at various tenant commands, and one family member.
    “I’ve been coaching the team for the past three years,” said Waters. “We’ve had several of the same players for the entire time but being in the military, some key players transfer to other duty stations. The nucleus of the team has stayed together but I think this has been the toughest year to get team chemistry. We’ve always had a good team, but never really had chemistry – that is, until this tournament. Then it all fell into place.”
    The MBA season runs from November to March.
    “This is the first year the association started an Atlantic Coastal Military Basketball League so we played teams up and down the coast,” Waters said. “We ended up finishing second in the regional conference. We were thrilled to go to Colorado Springs to participate along with 20 teams in the MBA Nationals.”
    According to Waters, the level of competition was intense. “There were some really talented teams from the Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine Corps,” he said. “We played six games over the weekend and kept winning. I was hoping we would do well, but really had no expectations. I just wanted the guys to enjoy themselves. We were representing NAS Jax and the Navy and wanted to do our best. I just told them to listen, play as a team, keep focused and do what we do best which is playing the game at our pace.”
    The championship game came down to the final 3.2 seconds against Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. The Flyers had possession of the ball and were fouled, stopping the clock.
    “It was nerve-racking. Our players have never been in this situation before and the stage we were playing on was huge,” said Waters. “AC2 Cornelius Green went to the line and he missed the first free throw. I had two time-outs left. So I called one because we needed to have a game plan. We were ahead by one point but there was still enough time for the Marines to get down the court and make a shot.”
    “We had one foul to give so we decided to let them get the rebound after the free throw and keep them on the end line so they would have to go the length of the court,” continued Waters. “And that’s exactly what happened. Green missed the second free throw, they got the ball, we fouled them and they had to bring the ball in at the end line with 1.5 seconds left in the game. They got about half court, tried to get a shot off but missed and we won 76-75.”
    And then the celebration began. “The whole place went crazy and our team was ecstatic,” said Waters. “I was so proud of our team. I have the utmost respect for the other teams - some went the season 20-0 and to have us come and win had to be hard. No one thought that we would make it, but we showed them that we could do this.”
    The team practices two to three times a week at the base gym. “We have a lot of talent,” said Waters. “I think that by losing people, it made the rest of the team step up and play team ball. That was the key to our success.”
    Before the season started, Waters travelled to Oklahoma City to work with MBA representatives to develop the Atlantic Coastal Military Basketball League. While there, he saw the championship trophy. “I told MBA Commissioner Mike Meyers to watch out for our team,” he said. “And when he presented us the trophy, he said, ‘I guess you predicted this.’”
    The players are thrilled all their hard work has paid off. “It feels so unreal at this point,” said AOAN Hursel Forbes of Patrol Squadron 45, who has been with the team the past three years. “It was literally down to the last second of the game and being on the court when the clock went off was amazing. I joined the team because I felt I had what it took to bring home the trophy this year.”
    “I just want to thank CMC Waters for the opportunity to play on his team, and everyone one of our supporters throughout the season,” he continued. “I would also like to thank my command for allowing me to play and thank my teammates. We’ve become a family and gotten through all the hard times together. We fought a lot during the season but we got it right when we were supposed to.”
    To celebrate the team’s win, the station is holding a “victory parade” April 25 at 12:30 p.m. starting at the outdoor pool. The parade will travel through the Navy Exchange complex, past the gym and ending at Dewey’s where a special screening of the final basketball game will be shown for family and friends. Everyone is encouraged to come out and cheer the team on.
    “It’s really cool we could bring this trophy back to the base to show that we are the best at what we do, not only in aviation, but recreation events too,” said Waters.



    Date Taken: 04.19.2019
    Date Posted: 04.24.2019 14:55
    Story ID: 319286
    Location: JACKSONVILLE, FL, US 

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