PHOTO CAPTION: Spc. Dionne Brown launches the game-winning shot in All-Army's 56-53 victory over All-Navy in the women's finale of the 2010 Armed Forces Basketball Championships Aug. 22 at Joint Base Fort Myer-Henderson Hall, Va. Brown was 0-for-9 from the field before hitting the jumper with 17.9 seconds remaining. ''I couldn't hit a shot,'' said Brown, a 28-year-old medic at Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu. ''But you know what my dad always said: 'It's not how many you make, it's when you make it.' That shot right there is worth every 20-point game I've ever had in my life.'' U.S. Army photo by Tim Hipps, FMWRC Public Affairs
All-Army women win Armed Forces Basketball Championship
By Tim Hipps
FMWRC Public Affairs
JOINT BASE FORT MYER-HENDERSON HALL, Va. – Sgt. April Cromartie-Golden had 17 points and eight rebounds to lead All-Army to a 56-53 victory over All-Navy in the women’s finale of the 2010 Armed Forces Basketball Championships on Aug. 22 at the Fort Myer Fitness Center.
Spc. Dionne Brown made a 15-foot jumper for a 54-53 lead with 17.9 seconds remaining and added two free throws with 3.2 seconds left to secure the gold medal. Brown was 0-for-9 from the field before hitting the game-winner.
“I couldn’t hit a shot,” said Brown, a 28-year-old medic at Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu. “But you know what my dad always said: ‘It’s not how many you make, it’s when you make it.’”
Having played four seasons at Texas Tech and Baylor Universities and another with the Seattle Storm in the WNBA, Brown knows a thing or few about clutch shots.
“That shot right there is worth every 20-point game I’ve ever had in my life,” she said. “There was a big pick set by [Tomorro] Newton and I just came off and did the best I could and put it in. Just give it your best shot.”
The All-Army women withstood the best shots from their sister services during a weeklong tournament in which they played six games in seven days. They opened Monday with a 72-61 loss to All-Navy and dropped a 68-66 decision to All-Air Force on Wednesday. The teams settled into a double-elimination format on Thursday with All-Army seeded third.
“We weren’t really too worried about the first three days,” All-Army coach Maj. Tony Reed said. “We’re probably the only team that started everybody and let everybody play. So the first three days was about getting that All-Army experience, but that fourth day we had to go to work.
“Come Thursday, we went with a seven-man rotation all the way through. It’s almost like three free scrimmages, and then you can hit it hard. That’s the way we approached it.”
His players bought into the approach, which paid dividends in their third meeting of the week with All-Navy.
“That was an eye-opener on Monday,” said Sgt. Aquanita Burras of Yongsan, Korea. “Wednesday also was an eye-opener. We knew in those first three games where we were and where we needed to be coming into Thursday’s game, and we brought it.”
Cromartie-Golden had her way in the paint during the first half in the championships game on Sunday, but All-Navy throttled the All-Army center in the second and took a 43-36 lead on Seaman Shardae Jones’ layup with 10:45 remaining.
“The Navy has a very, very intelligent coaching staff,” Brown said. “They were not going to let her keep getting those easy two points in the paint, so they started packing it in. I was struggling, so we were trying to get drives with Bowman and Aqua, and things were rolling off the rim, so we just had to hang in there. Our defense really, really picked us up.”
After Ensign Jen Schumacher’s jumper gave All-Navy a 47-42 lead with 7:40 left, Reed sent disruptive force Sgt. Shamyra “Lil Bit” Daigle into the game and applied full-court pressure.
“I think they weren’t expecting that full-court press,” Reed said. “We showed it Monday and Tuesday – then we kind of put it away and didn’t show it until today.”
Daigle forced a turnover and hit a 3-pointer from the corner that pulled All-Army to 47-45 with 6:30 left.
“She came in and gave us a spark,” Reed said. “Even if she didn’t get the actual steal, just her presence out there – rotating and trying to make plays – she was a big spark for us just like she was last year for this team.”
Spc. Tomorro Newton of Fort Bragg, N.C., converted a three-point play that got All-Army within 52-50 with 1:47 left.
Spc. Avonte Williams came up with back-to-back steals, the first of which led to Spc. Tachina Chatman’s jumper for a 52-52 tie with 1:37 remaining.
“She’s our best defender, bottom line,” Reed said of Williams, a member of the Georgia Army National Guard from Stone Mountain. “I believe she’s the best defender in this tournament, and you saw it right there. She should be on that All-CISM team.” Chatman also came from the Georgia National Guard.
All-Navy Lt. Adrienne Rossetti made two free throws with 34.5 seconds left but the second was nullified by a lane violation and All-Navy led, 53-52.
Brown’s game-winner gave All-Army the lead for good. Rossetti missed two free throws with 11 seconds remaining and Brown made a pair to seal the victory.
“It came down to those key hustle plays at the end and a couple of big shots,” said Spc. Ashley Bowman of Fort Meade, Md. “It was just pure desire, I would say.”
Bowman, 24, a native of Cleveland who played two seasons for Norfolk State University and pro ball in Iceland, was thrilled by the Armed Forces opportunity.
“It means a lot for me because I never even thought I was going to play basketball again,” said Bowman, who had 15 points and six steals in the title tilt. “That’s why I came into the Army. I needed some stability in my life. To be able to come and play basketball and represent the Army is a blessing, and for the game to be on in Afghanistan, where people are downrange, and for us to be representing what we’re doing in the world, to me, is a powerful feeling because it’s bigger than us. It feels great.”
The game was telecast live worldwide on The Pentagon Channel.
“It meant a lot to bring back the gold, especially for one of the players that has been playing All-Army since 2000,” Burras said in reference to teammate 1st Lt. Evevetta Crawford, who missed the last two Armed Forces tournaments while attending school. “Actually seeing her with tears in her eyes was one of those moments. We brought it back. Go Army!”
Newton, 26, said she never experienced such a gratifying feeling during her four years of playing for Georgia State University.
“I’ve never won anything this big, really,” she said. “I’ve come close a couple of times, but I’ve never done anything like this. It’s a big deal representing the whole entire Army against the other branches of the military. It’s a big thing to wear that gold medal.”
“I just want to soak this up,” Reed concluded. “The women did an excellent job. They came together.”