News: Bulldogs three-peat as Martin Luther King Invitational Tournament champions
Story by Sgt. Christopher Zahn
QUANTICO, Va. - The Quantico Bulldogs men’s varsity basketball team repeated as the Martin Luther King Invitational Tournament champions for the third time at Naval Support Activity Bethesda from Jan. 13-16.
The Bulldogs defeated the Fort Meade Patriots in the championship game 78-64. To make it to the championship, they beat NSA Bethesda 111-61 and Fort Belvoir 100-60 in the preliminary round and Joint Base Anacostia-Boling 86-73 in the semifinals.
“We played really well this weekend,” said James Jones, the head coach of the Bulldogs. “This is our third year in a row winning this tournament and I was really pleased with the team.”
The championship game started slowly for Quantico. The effort was there, despite this being their fourth game in three days, but they struggled to score on the offensive end and contain the Patriots on the defensive end. There would be no blowout in this game, the winner would be the team able to shake off the frustrations and execute their game plan best.
Early on the Patriots had the advantage, running all their offense through their point guard, Trevor McDade, who repeatedly slashed his way past Quantico’s defenders to the basket for easy layups as they built a 10-point lead.
But the Bulldogs responded like the reigning champions they are. This year’s most valuable player, Chris Harris, put his team on his back and carried them the rest of the half.
“Harris is one of the top two or three best players in the Marine Corps,” Jones said. “He won the MVP here last year as well, so I expect that kind of performance from him,”
The inspired play by Harris ignited the rest of his team as they went on a 13-point run to take their first lead since they were up 2-0 at the beginning of the game. Point guard Brandon Mitchell and Harris combined to play the Bulldog’s trademark ball hawking defense on McDade, effectively shutting down Fort Meade’s offense.
“I just told them to continue to fight,” Harris said. “Just like in any basketball game, each team makes a run, so when they made their run, I just told them we’ll make ours, so relax.”
At the half, Quantico had built a 35-28 lead. When the second half started, it was a more focused Bulldog team on the offensive end.
“We really wanted to focus on getting inside early and get into the foul bonus early,” Jones said. “Even though we didn’t get the fouls, we were scoring.”
Their renewed fire on offense paid off as Chris Williams and Nathan Sales feasted on the Patriots’ defense in the paint while Harris and Seaman slashed to the basket and drained three-pointers. In the first five minutes of the half, Quantico went on a 15-1 run to take a 50-29 lead.
“In the first half, we didn’t do a very good job of getting it inside and our big men didn’t do a good job of scoring, so we needed to get back to the fundamentals,” Williams said.
After building such a large lead, some of the Bulldogs shifted into cruise control too early and Fort Meade made them pay. The Patriots went on an 11-point run of their own to cut the gap in half, sparking a timeout by Jones.
“They’re not going to just lay down for you,” he told his team during the pause. “Think about it, do your kids just lay down at night? No, you have to make them lay down. We just have to keep playing basketball and we’ll be alright.”
Heeding their coaches words, the Bulldogs finished the game strong. The Patriots never came within 10 points, thanks to strong defense and efficient offense for the rest of the half. The final score was 78-64 as the Bulldogs successfully defended their title.