Marines win basketball & volleyball gold

May 14, 2010, 2:05 a.m. (ET)

Day 4 Recap

The Marines showcased their dominance in team sports at the 2010 Warrior Games with back-to-back gold medals in sitting volleyball and wheelchair basketball Thursday evening in SportsCenter I of the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.

Dominant all week in volleyball, the Marines were pressed by the Army squad, which forced a deciding third game with a thrilling victory in the second game. The Army came back from a 14-9 deficit to win and defeat the Marines, as the Marines dropped their lone game of the tournament. Tied at 8-8 in the third game, the Marines outscored Army 7-1 the remainder of the way to secure the gold.

The players on the Marines team had been brought together just two weeks before the start of the games.

"I told them, ‘we may not be able to run plays, but we can pass, set and hit and learn the rules," said coach Sam Tickle. "We basically broke everyone down and built them back up. They are the most coachable group I have ever worked with."

The Army never challenged a strong Marines squad in the gold-medal final of wheelchair basketball. The Marines jumped out to an early 14-0 lead and would never look back. Army wouldn't score its first bucket until 5:10 remained in the first half. With a 17-5 lead at the half, the Marines would run away with it in the second, winning 44-15.

"This is the first time that I have ever competed in wheelchair basketball," said retired Marine Kevin Blanchard after the victory. "So, overall, it's been a lot of fun. Since training together for two weeks the camaraderie we've developed is amazing. I've been out of the Marines since 2006 and I believe this medal has made me a better person mentally and physically."

In the individual events, Marc Esposito (Air Force) earned two medals on the day after he won gold in air pistol and finished with a bronze medal in cycling (upright).

Scores and results from Thursday are as follows:

Cycling (Air Force Academy)

Gold - Justin Wess (Marines)
Silver - Travis Bartlett (Marines)
Bronze - Marc Esposito (Air Force)

Gold - Michael Sanders (Air Force)
Silver - Angel Gomez (Marines)
Bronze - Mike Bell (Navy)

Gold - Michael Blair (Marines)
Silver - Freddy De Los Santos (Army)
Bronze - Travis Green (Marines)

Shooting (OTC, Shooting Center)

Air Pistol
Gold - Marc Esposito (Air Force)
Silver - Alan Marley (Army)
Bronze - Ryan Shurtleff (Army)

Air Rifle - Standing - SH1
Gold - Shawn Porter (Army)
Silver - Justin Widhalm (Army)
Bronze - Paul Roberts (Army)

Air Rifle - Standing - SH2
Gold - Jantzen Frazier (Army)
Silver - Mathew Benack (Marines)
Bronze - Sergio Lara (Army)

Air Rifle - Prone - SH1
Gold - Juan Guerrero (Army)
Silver - Robert Beach (Marines)

Bronze - Richard Tack (Marines)

Air Rifle - Prone - SH2
Gold - David Bratton (Army)
Silver - Mathew Benack (Marines)
Bronze - Stacy Pearsall (Air Force)

Sitting Volleyball (OTC, SportsCenter I & II)
Semifinal 1 - Marines def Army 4, 2-0 (25-14, 25-21)
Semifinal 2 - Army 3 def Air Force, 2-1 (25-13, 23-25, 15-12)
Bronze Medal Game - Air Force def Army 4, 1-0 (15-3)
Gold Medal Game - Marines def Army 3, 2-1 (25-16, 21-25, 15-9)

Final Standings:
Army 3
Air Force
Army 4
Wheelchair Basketball (OTC, SportsCenter I)

Gold Medal Game - Marines 44, Army 15

Finals Standings:
Air Force

Day 4 Flash Quotes
Sitting Volleyball Player Robert Nuss of the Army on his thoughts following a loss to the Marines in the gold-medal final:
"At the beginning, our team was very nervous. We were playing a talented Marine team. However, through hard work and coming together as a team, we are very proud of this silver medal."

Sitting Volleyball Player Matt Agnew of the Army on his thoughts following a loss to the Marines in the gold-medal final:
"This medal feels great. The game was a huge adrenaline rush. Being here gives me back pride in representing the Army. It means a lot because I know I'm motivating other people through sport."

Sgt. David Bratton of the Army on his gold-medal victory in prone air rifle:
"I didn't think I was going to win because I had issues with equipment when I first got here. I was a little worried but I pulled it out at the very end. I could say I wish I never got hurt but then I wouldn't be here with a gold medal on my chest."

Marc Esposito of the Air Force on his gold-medal victory in air pistol:
"First and foremost, I want to thank my fellow competitors. I'm very happy to be representing the Air Force. It's been hard work preparing for these Games, but it's a luxury to get out with all the servicemen who all share a lot of camaraderie."

Day 5 Preview
The first-ever Warrior Games come to a close Friday with the focus on the Air Force Academy and the track and field competition from 0830 to 1230 hrs. Swimming finals also will be contested Friday afternoon from 1430 to 1645 at the OTC Aquatics Center.

Friday will also determine the Ultimate Champion with everyone chasing the Army's David Bratton, who jumped out to an early lead in the five-event competition to decide the Warrior Games' top athlete. Bratton's gold medal in air rifle pushed him to the front of the 18-person field, but four events still remain Friday including the 50m freestyle swim, 100m sprint, 1500m run and shot put.

The race for the Chairman's Cup will also be top-of-mind for the warrior athletes competing. The Marines stood atop the Chairman's Cup standings as competition came to a close Thursday, but with a majority of the Warrior Games medals still to be determined Friday, it is still a wide-open race.

The closing ceremonies will cap the inaugural five-day competition featuring 187 athletes. The ceremony will begin at 1830 hrs. at the Air Force Academy's Arnold Hall and will feature multi-platinum singer/songwriter John Rich performing an exclusive USO concert honoring wounded warriors during the event. Performing on stage with Rich will be several wounded warriors who are currently receiving care at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and who participate in Musicorps - an intensive music rehabilitation program founded by composer Arthur Bloom that improves quality of life and aids healing for severely injured soldiers.

In 2005, one half of the GRAMMY nominated country music duo Big & Rich, John Rich traveled to Germany and Iraq as part of his first USO tour. He, along with Jessica Simpson, performed for more than 5,900 service members. Rich recently released his first solo project "Son of a Preacher Man" and hosted three seasons of CMT's highest rated reality series "Gone Country."

Friday's complete schedule is as follows:

Track & Field (Air Force Academy, Outdoor Track) - 0830 - 1230 hrs.
Events include:
100, 200, 400, 1500m
Shot Put·

Swimming (OTC, Aquatics Center) - 1430 - 1645 hrs.
Events include:
50m freestyle (m/w)
50m breaststroke (m)
50m backstroke (w)
100m freestyle (m)
Mixed 200m relay

Chairman’s Cup Standings

Branch Gold Silver Bronze Total Medal Weighted Score
Marines 5 6 2 13 26
Air Force 2 0 4 6 24
Army 5 6 5 16 16
Navy 0 0 1 1 4