JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas — The weeklong Armed Forces Basketball Championship ended at the Chaparral Fitness Center on Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, Tuesday. Men’s and women’s teams from all branches of the military played a double round-robin ending with the Army men and Navy women taking home the gold.
In the men’s final, Army had five players with double digits in scoring, as Army grounded Air Force 95-85 to capture their second-straight title.
In the 2016 men’s championship, Army ended the Air Force’s eight-year championship win streak. One player, U.S. Army Capt. Ella Ellis, assigned to Fort Sill, Okla., was on the Army team that lost to the Air Force in the championship game in 2014. After Ellis was drafted to the NBA G-league affiliate of the Boston Celtics in 2015, he returned to the Armed Forces Basketball Championship in 2017 to redeem himself.
“We put on silver medals, and watching someone else put on gold medals was hard,” Ellis said. “Coach (Carl) Little worked with me and worked with my chain of command to get me here.”
Training twice a day in a gym with no air conditioning, called “The Dungeon,” the Army team built a strong resilience. That resilience, and Little’s ability to put him in the right place at the right time, gave them the advantage they needed to win, Ellis said.
The most important part of the tournament is that it “allows us to build bonds with our brother and sisters services,” Ellis said. “I think that’s pretty big because we work with each other a lot when we deploy.”
On the women’s side; team captain for the Navy women’s team, U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Christi Ayers, assigned to the National Geospatial Center, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, led the Navy to victory scoring 23 points in the women’s final game, clenching the gold winning 79-63.
“I feel so much better,” Ayers said. “It was really depressing losing on the buzzer last year. So I was excited for the chance to come back and win gold.”
Ayers, along with her teammates, U.S. Navy Seaman Danika Dale, assigned to Point Mugu, Calif., and U.S. Navy Hospitalman Kamille Horne, assigned to the Naval Post Graduate Dental School, Md., have been selected for the 2017 Women’s All-Tournament team.
“We trusted each other, we played together and we relied on each other,” Ayers said. “Nobody tried to be the hero and win the game themselves. Teamwork is what has gotten us this far.”
For more information, full game stats, and tournament game replays, visit armedforcessports.defense.gov.