Bailey’s late steals, baskets rescue 21st TSC
WIESBADEN AIR BASE, Germany — Larry Bailey converted consecutive steals into consecutive layups in the final 20 seconds of Sunday’s championship game, lifting Kaiserslautern-based Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 21st Theater Support Command, to the IMCOM-Europe Unit-Level Basketball title.
His team won 75-71 over Headquarters and Headquarters Company, U.S. Army Garrison Benelux of Chievres, Belgium.
Bailey, who scored a game-high 30 points, made both steals as the 21st TSC squad opted to pressure consecutive Benelux inbounds opportunities under the 21st’s basket. On the first try, Bailey said he anticipated where the ball was going as it came to midcourt.
“My teammate had slipped, and I had a feeling they’d throw the ball to the left,” Bailey said of his first last-minute theft, which came with 13.6 seconds to play. “I jumped that way. The second one, he [Dekishon Rogers] had the ball in front of him, and I just wrestled it away.”
Bailey’s thefts came after USAG Benelux post presence Raymond Berry, who had scored his previous 24 points in the paint, stepped behind the three-point arc to swish a shot that tied the game at 71 with 49 seconds to go.
The 21st TSC inbounded, and Brian Piekelko, who finished with 12 points, was racing the shot clock as he drove the lane with 20 seconds left.
Piekelko was called for a charge, a turnover and his fifth personal foul, which, before Bailey took charge, seemed to put USAG Benelux in line for the game’s final shot.
Earlier in the second half, with his team trailing by three, Bailey gave a hint of things to come by sinking consecutive three-pointers from the left wing to put 21st TSC ahead, 45-42. It was their first lead since the game’s opening five minutes.
“That’s my favorite shot,” said Bailey, who finished 4-for-8 from behind the arc for the game and 7-for-11 from the floor in the decisive second half.
In addition to Berry’s 27 points, USAG Benelux, which led 42-35 at halftime, got 22 points from Steven Whetten.
Clifton Lewis added 14 points and Darren Lyles 13 for the support soldiers, who emerged from a five-way tie atop their seven-team pool to reach Saturday’s semifinals in this 15-team event that began Thursday.
“Four teams out of our community could have played here,” Lewis said. “They made us as good as we are by the competition they gave us.”