The All-Marine men’s and women’s basketball teams both finished fourth at the Armed Forces Championship that was held at Naval Station Mayport, Florida from June 2-8. The men’s team, which finished the tournament with a record of 2-5, were one win away from making it to the championship game. The women’s team, which finished 1-6, fell in the bronze medal game to the Air Force with a score of 76-70.
After the first five games of the round-robin style tournament, the All-Marine men’s team was tied for second and shared a 2-3 record with the All-Army team heading into their second and final matchup which would determine who faced the undefeated Navy in the championship game.
Though the Army team took a 36-22 lead into the half, a good second half helped the Marines make it a one possession game as three-time All-Marine team member Bryan Baptiste nailed a three-pointer to make it 58-55 with two minutes remaining; however, the Marines did not score again and came up short of the win 68-55. Despite only two victories in seven games, the Marines’ third-year head coach, Master Gunnery Sgt. Elonzo Higginson II, was pleased with the effort his team gave.
“With all things considered, this was an outstanding tournament for the Marines,” Higginson said. “The Marines played with heart, pride, character and competed in every game. We were in every game within the last five minutes.”
The Marines got their first victory of the tournament versus the Army with a score of 93-84. Prior to that, the USMC team lost to eventual champ, the Navy, by 6, and the Air Force, by 12, in the first two games. Following an 11-point loss to the Navy in their second bout, the Marines got another crucial victory in Game 5, getting even with the Air Force and handing the airmen a 10-point loss that pushed them down to 4th place. The win against the Army, Baptiste says, was a turning point for the Marines.
“The key game was the first time we played and beat the Army, which let us know how good we were and [that] we just needed to relax and play,” Baptiste said, who got his first victory versus the Army in three years of playing in the tournament. “[It was] the highlight of the tournament for me.”
Baptiste was the tournament’s top scorer at 17 points per game. Second-year player Sgt. Dejuan Isaiah averaged 16.6 points per game and made 29 three-pointers. The Marines also got a solid showing from two-time All-Marine team member Cpl. Londel Lennon who grabbed the most rebounds and blocked the most shots of anyone in the tournament. Sgt. Jurmond Cattenhead was the All-Marine men’s team’s third-leading scoring at 13 points per game and pulled down nine rebounds a game. Though the Marines had several outstanding performers in the tournament, Coach Higginson recognized that there is an immense amount of talent on the other teams and that the margin for error in the Armed Forces Championship is slim.
“The Armed Forces Tournament is very competitive,” Higginson said. “The other three services have players that went to schools at their respective academies on basketball scholarships. Some of their players have international or D-league experience. Most, if not all, of the USMC players entered [service] after high school for various reasons, but it wasn’t for a basketball scholarship."
Despite not winning a medal, the All-Marine men’s team has plenty to be proud of. Baptiste and Lennon were each selected to the All-Armed Forces Tournament Team and joined Cattenhead and Isaiah on the Conseil International du Sport Militaire (CISM) team which will compete at the Military World Games in Wuhan, China from October 18-28, 2019.
After losing to the Navy in the opening game by 28 points, the All-Marine women’s team picked up their first win of the championship in Game 2 versus the Air Force. The women Marines would take losses from the Army and Navy again before the Air Force women got even with a narrow 3-point win in Game 5 heading into the final two days of the tournament. Despite a 30-point loss to the Army in Game 6, the women Marines put up a tough fight against the Air Force in the bronze medal game, but ended up losing 76-70.
The women Marines were led by Alyshia Crawford and Naomi Greene who averaged 10 and 9.6 points a game respectively. Zatorya Cook became the first woman Marine in 10 years to make the All-Armed Forces team.
2019 Armed Forces Basketball Championship (Naval Station Mayport, Florida, June 2-8) Results:
3rd place game: USAF 81, USMC 74
Championship: Navy 75, Army 73
3rd place game: USAF 76, USMC 70
Championship: Army, 71, Navy 62
1st – Navy (6-1)
2nd – Army (3-4)
3rd – USAF (3-4)
4th – USMC (2-5)
1st – Army (6-1)
2nd – Navy (5-2)
3rd – USAF (2-5)
4th – USMC (1-6)