Zama American has spent much of the school year collecting Far East High School sports tournament banners. Its latest joyfully ended a 50-year run of frustration and heartbreak for the Trojans boys basketball team.
It took surviving a defensive struggle and deliberate slowdown by St. Paul Christian of Guam, but the Trojans got eight points each from Andrae Adams and David Coleman and edged the Warriors 28-25 in Wednesday’s title game at Camp Zama’s Yano Fitness Center.
“It’s a great feeling,” coach Parish Jones said. “I’m so excited and so proud for the kids. It’s been a long time.”
Not since 1963 has a Trojans boys basketball team known this feeling. Zama came close twice before, in 1985 and 2007 when it reached the Final Four only to come up short.
The basketball team now joins the school’s football, girls tennis and wrestling teams as Far East D-II champions in the 2012-13 school year.
Yoshi Nicolas hit a three-point goal to begin the game, but the Warriors, usually a strong press-and-transition team, uncharacteristically played a four-corner stall, riding out the rest of the first period with no action.
“Not at all,” Jones said when asked if he was surprised. “I’d have done the same thing” if he were Warriors coaches Paul Pineda and Stu Schaefer.
The Warriors clawed back slowly and the lead drifted back and forth until the Trojans crept ahead by three points in the closing minutes. “After we got that lead, we had control and I felt comfortable,” Jones said.
Wednesday was a day that saw Far East tournament title droughts end at the D-II level, while D-I powers put themselves in position to end theirs.
Morrison Academy’s girls, powered by Victoria Huang’s 21 points, led wire to wire and beat E.J. King 67-50 in the D-II final at Robert D. Edgren High School. It was the Mustangs’ first title since 2000 and denied the Cobras their first D-II crown since 1997.
“For our program, this was pretty big,” Mustangs coach Robert Turner said. The title followed Morrison’s D-II girls volleyball championship in November at Daegu, something Turner credited for his team winning its title. “We have youth, but a lot of experience and composure. I think the volleyball experience helped them with this one,” Turner said.
“It’s going to be a great flight home. The girls have been dreaming of the banner.”
The Division I boys tournament saw two-time defending champion Kubasaki dethroned by Kadena 59-57 – the fifth time this season the teams have played to games ending in victory margins of two points or fewer.
American School In Japan’s boys reached their first final since last winning the D-I tournament in 1983, downing Father Duenas Memorial 57-46 behind Henry Wallrapp’s 24 points. The Mustangs face an opponent to be determined.
ASIJ’s girls, meanwhile, lost for the first time this season and the first time in three tries against Nile C. Kinnick, which reached the D-I finals by downing the Mustangs 34-27 behind De’Asia Brown’s 14 points and Alyshia Allison’s 10. Kinnick hasn’t won the title since 2001.