Army rolls Air Force in wheelchair basketball at Warrior Games

By Traci Hendrix | May 13, 2013, 10:30 p.m. (ET)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Army blew out the Air Force 59-9 in the Army's first wheelchair basketball game of the 2013 Warrior Games presented by Deloitte at the U.S. Olympic Training Center today. Army is now 1-0 while Air Force is 1-1.

Army started off the game with six points in the first minute and a half. Down from the start, the first Air Force bucket was made by former Staff Sgt. Claude Owens (Beavercreek, Ohio). But the points were far between for Air Force, which won the opening game against Special Operations on Sunday.

After taking a 31-5 lead at the half, third year Army coach Doug Garner (Arlington, Texas) said the main focus for the defending champions was to tighten their ball handling and shooting.

"We had a lot of misses on some easy shots in the first half, so we've got to get those jitters out of our system so we could pull the win today and get them out of our game for tomorrow," Garner said.

Garner explained the Army’s practices have been focused on the basics and really preparing them for the fast-paced competition in the Warrior Games, where they won gold last year in both team sports (sitting volleyball and wheelchair basketball). 

Three-time Warrior Games athlete Anthony Pone (Fort Worth, Texas), an Army veteran, brought his size and intimidation factor into the game against the Air Force, but what he says is the most important thing for the team to bring to any game is intensity. 

"Tomorrow’s going to be harder and faster, so we will keep it intense and play hard defense against the Marines," Pone said.

Warrior Games rookie Charles Armstead (Killeen, Texas), also an Army veteran, described the atmosphere of his first wheelchair basketball game as an incredible eye-opener. "I wasn’t expecting all the emotion in the crowds, so it was a surprisingly wonderful experience," he said.

On the other side of the gym, Navy beat Special Operations in a much closer game. After taking a 18-14 lead at the half, Navy narrowly escaped with 27-26, thanks to clutch plays in last couple minutes.

On Tuesday, Army will take on Marines (1-0) in a replay of last year's gold medal game. Navy (1-1) will take on Air Force for a spot in Wednesday’s Bronze Medal Game.