MARINE CORPS AIR STATION FUTENMA, Okinawa – Are the real Panthers back, junior guard Jasmine Rhodes was asked.
“Yes,” she replied without hesitation.
She had good reason, 32 of them to be exact. That was how many points she scored as for the first time, Kadena girls basketball enjoyed a blowout win over a Kubasaki Dragons squad that had played the Panthers close their previous four meetings.
“They finally showed up,” coach Willie Ware said on Sunday after Kadena downed Kubasaki 63-40 in the knockout round of the 20th Martin Luther King Invitational Tournament at Futenma’s Semper Fit Gymnasium.
Rhodes scored 23 of her 32 points in the first half, while freshman point guard Linda Vaughan totaled 18 assists, 12 on passes to Rhodes, usually on outlets following rebounds.
After a couple of down games earlier on the weekend, “we were firing on all cylinders,” Ware said. “Jasmine played a great game. Linda does a great job of running the offense, controlling the game and she has such good court vision.”
The two teams had played four previous games this season, Kadena winning three of them by a total margin of 10 points.
Kubasaki beat Kadena 48-42 last month, its first win over the Panthers since the 2009 Hong Kong International School tournament and the first in the Okinawa regular season since 2004.
“We just had trouble getting in synch,” Dragons coach Bob Driggs said. “Kadena came out and clicked. We have to go back and get it done. This is what we can expect when we go to Far East” next month at Camp Zama.
With the loss, Kubasaki was eliminated from the double-elimination playoffs, while Kadena moved on to face Storm on Monday, needing to win that one plus twice over Her-ricanes to capture the title.
Kubasaki’s boys were the only one of four Okinawa high school teams to not make the playoff round, going 2-4 and losing its last four games in pool play. Kadena’s boys tied two other teams at 2-3 and got in the playoffs via points tiebreaker. They were eliminated by Black Top Cru 65-63 Sunday in the knockout round.