KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa – They won the title for the third straight year, but it was hardly the dominating performances of years past by the Kadena girls Sunday in the 8th Okinawa-American Friendship Basketball Tournament.
Jasmine Rhodes scored 16 points and the Panthers outscored Kubasaki 22-6 over an eight-minute span to outlast the Dragons 45-37 in the championship game. It was the fourth time Kadena has beaten the Dragons this season, three by margins of eight points or fewer.
“This year, if you play Kubasaki, it’s anybody’s ballgame, Kadena coach Willie Ware said of a Dragons team the Panthers routed 62-23 in last year’s title game. “This is a different Kubasaki team. This is not a pushover team.”
The game featured four ties and eight lead changes, the last coming late in the third quarter when Kadena went up 30-29. The Dragons, led by Sydney Johnson’s 14 points, led 29-20 before that 22-6 run began. Alicia Vaughan added 10 for Kadena.
It was the third game each team played on Sunday. “Defensively, we’re starting to get it done,” Dragons coach Bob Driggs said. “We’ve grown a lot, but we have to grow more.”
On the boys side, Kubasaki won the tournament for the first time since 2007, coincidentally the year Jon Fick became the first rookie coach to win a Far East Division I Tournament.
The Dragons used a 9-0 run to go from trailing 9-6 to leading 15-9 and were never in serious trouble the rest of the way, leading by as many as 22 in downing Futenma 75-60.
“The kids just took care of business,” Fick said. “Futenma’s a good team, but we just had a little more today.”