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KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — You could call Sunday’s performance by the Kubasaki boys basketball team in the Okinawa-American Shootout a coming-out party.

Not only did first-year coach Jon Fick enjoy his first victory over archrival Kadena by 75-65 in the semifinal, but the Dragons rallied from a 19-point first-quarter deficit to upend Konan 97-92 to capture the title. On the girls’ side, Kadena fell to Futenma 62-57 in the title game.

“This tournament was awesome for us. We’ve grown every single game,” said Fick, whose Dragons entered the three-day tournament 3-9, including a 102-88 loss to Kadena on Dec. 15 and an 82-70 defeat at the hands of the Panthers on Jan. 19.

Kubasaki found its stride, winning five of its six games, all by 10 points or less, something Fick said helped the Dragons stage a rally after falling behind Konan 29-10 before a crowd of more than 1,000 packing Kadena High’s Panther Pit.

“That shows how young we are,” Fick said. “A huge crowd, a huge atmosphere. We were shellshocked. All our games were tough. The tournament prepared us for this moment. I’m so proud of the guys. All 11 of them stepped up.”

Against Konan, Kubasaki regrouped and fought its way back into the contest. Michael Dickerson gave the Dragons their first lead with a free throw and a rebound layup. The Dragons led 41-37, but the Shisa regained the edge, went up by 12 points and led 70-61 late in the third quarter.

Chris Cooke hit two threes, including one that capped a 10-0 run and put Kubasaki ahead 71-70. Nine of the game’s 13 lead changes took place in the final period. Then Quinton Mason, hobbled by a sprained ankle, hit three foul shots down the stretch to give the Dragons the lead for good.

Kadena’s girls (17-4) very nearly matched Kubasaki’s comeback. Futenma twioce led by 12 points in the third quarter.

Brittney Gilliam led Kadena’s charge, scoring 13 of her 27 points in the final quarter. Zori Drew sliced Futenma’s edge to 60-57 with a layup with 20 seconds left, but it was as close as Kadena would get.

“We never give up,” Kadena coach Ken Hudson said. “As long as you don’t give up, you’re never out of it.””


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