Things learned, observed in Pacific high school basketball Week 9.0.2
The last time Kadena’s girls played this big was the last time the Panthers were winning Far East Division I Tournaments, back in 2007-08, with Aja Walker as its inside force.
For story and photos from Day 2 of the Okinawa-American Shootout, click here. For scores and all-tournament selections, click here.
It took the Panthers four years, until last Saturday, which served as the coming-out party for juniors Eisiah Lawson and Deja Caldwell. They combined for 42 points and 28 rebounds as Kadena built a huge first-half lead, then held off a tenacious Naha Shogyo team 55-54 in Sunday’s shootout final at Foster Field House.
So now, you can’t count on Kadena relying on outside shooting of current star guard Maria Vaughan and departed guard Desirae Seals and the inside play of tenacious, but still not-very-tall Anissa Fitz.
Now, the Panthers have a huge inside presence. Focus on the guards, they feed it inside to the Panther Pillars for easy layups. Collapse inside defensively on Caldwell and Lawson, kick it outside to Vaughan and her sister, Alicia, for perimeter shots.
You can take away only so much.
The boys’ side saw equally workmanlike effort on the inside as Kadena finally broke a three-year finals drought and won the Shootout gold for the first time since 2008. Preston Harris, Josh Dyer and Savon Woodie combined for 29 rebounds as the Panthers avenged their tournament-opening loss to 2011 island champion Konan, beating the Shisa 73-67 in a see-saw final.
Two weekends of tournament education, over. Class dismissed. Now, we’ll see if Okinawa has what it takes to challenge perceived Far East Division I Tournament favorites American School In Japan for the boys and girls gold next month.