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Kadena Panthers junior Josh Greggs (10) shoots over Kitanakagusuku defender Takaya Sunagawa (4) as teammate Kevin Paranal (33) watches during Sunday's boys championship game in the 2nd Okinawa-American Shootout High School Basketball Tournament.

Kadena Panthers junior Josh Greggs (10) shoots over Kitanakagusuku defender Takaya Sunagawa (4) as teammate Kevin Paranal (33) watches during Sunday's boys championship game in the 2nd Okinawa-American Shootout High School Basketball Tournament. (Dave Ornauer / S&S)

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Lying on his back on the court, Josh Greggs shut his eyes, pulled his jersey up over his chest and breathed deeply.

“That pretty much says it all,” coach Robert Bliss said of his weary but happy junior guard.

Greggs scored 12 points and his Kadena Panthers outlasted three-pointer-happy Kitanakagusuku 70-68 in Sunday’s boys title game in the 2nd Okinawa-American Shootout basketball tournament.

The game featured seven early lead changes and five ties before the Panthers surged to a 15-point third-quarter lead, 48-33, on Kevin Paranal’s rebound bucket with 4:10 left in the period.

But the Fighting Lions, who edged the Panthers 124-123 in overtime in a December game at Kadena, kept fighting back behind hot-shooting Ryuichi Kishimoto. The two-time All-Tournament guard scored 33 points, including nine three-point goals, the last coming at the buzzer.

“Luckily, they ran out of time,” Bliss said. “Another five minutes, it might have been different.”

Kadena’s goal, Bliss said, was to handle Kitanaka’s speed and defensive pressure while keeping Kishimoto as far from the basket as possible.

“We tried to make it difficult for him to shoot, not give him any room. And he still hit nine threes,” Bliss said. “They scrap. Their press bothered us big-time. They’re so quick and relentless.”

Thanks to the play of Paranal (12 points) and junior Jamil Barney (24), the Panthers remained just enough ahead. Barney’s performance came on the heels of his winning MVP honors in last week’s Martin Luther King Invitational Tournament for military teams.

“He’s had an amazing two weeks,” Bliss said.

Meanwhile, Kubasaki’s girls took fourth place in the tournament for the second straight year. Kadena’s girls, second a year ago, and Kubasaki’s boys, champions last year, finished out of the hardware chase.

“We’re starting to figure out how to slow it down and use our height,” Kubasaki girls coach Bob Driggs said after the Dragons outlasted Urasoe 58-56 in overtime of the fourth-place game. Kubasaki won four games over the weekend after having won just two the rest of the season.

“These games with the Japanese teams make us. We haven’t peaked yet. Hopefully, we’ll keep it rolling,” Driggs said.

Kubasaki’s boys ended play on a down note, falling 55-50 to Futenma, the Dragons’ third loss in four games in two days.

Kadena’s girls, like Kubasaki’s boys — defending Far East Class AA tournament champions — also finished dismally, falling 80-55 to Naha in the third-place game after suffering a 63-60 semifinal loss to Itoman.

“That was emotionally draining,” Kadena coach Ken Hudson said of the semifinal loss, which he said carried over to the Naha game. “We’re not closing games properly, doing the right things to win. We’re playing like it’s No. 1 or nothing, and that’s not how you do things.”

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Dave Ornauer has been employed by or assigned to Stars and Stripes Pacific almost continuously since March 5, 1981. He covers interservice and high school sports at DODEA-Pacific schools and manages the Pacific Storm Tracker.
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