With Kadena’s defense bottling up senior captains Kai Yamaguchi and Kentrell Key, it was time for Kubasaki’s juniors to step into the fray.

Ryan Jackson had 18 points and C.J. Crenshaw 13 - including a backdoor layup off a thread-the-needle bounce pass by Jackson in the closing minutes - as the Dragons edged the Panthers, 64-61, Friday at the Panther Pit to win the Okinawa Activities Council basketball season series, 3-1.

“C.J. and Ryan were huge down the stretch. They made things happen,” coach Jon Fick said, “plus we got a good defensive stop to seal it. But give Kadena credit. They’re a tall team, they rebound well and gave us fits on the glass.”

It was Kubasaki’s first OAC season series victory over Kadena since 2005-06, the season before Fick took the helm from the late Chris Sullivan.

“We’ve had some unbelievable games,” Kadena coach Robert Bliss said. “Tonight was a fabulous win in a fabulous atmosphere,” Fick said. “It could have gone either way.”

After Kubasaki (32-8) routed Kadena, 79-54, in the season opener, “we had some close battles. Tonight was another classic Kadena-Kubasaki game, down the stretch, back and forth, lead changes, a lot of energy, quality and great plays. It was the best game we’ve had all year.”

Perhaps the biggest play was Jackson’s pass to a streaking Crenshaw in stride toward the basket behind Kadena’s defense. The Panthers (20-14) had a five-point lead when Jackson brought the ball up the right side and Kadena’s defense collapsed on him.

“I don’t know how he saw it,” Fick said. “But he dumped it inside and C.J. was there.”

“That was amazing precision on that pass,” Bliss said.

Key added 12 points for Kubasaki. Skylar Warren and Jason Sumpter paced four Panthers in double figures with 14 points each. Lotty Smith had 13 and Jaylen Street 12.

Unless more games against Japanese or adult club teams are scheduled, it was Kadena’s and Kubasaki’s final regular-season game before the Far East Division I Tournament Feb. 21-26 on Guam.

“They’re (Kadena) going to be a tough out for anybody at Far East,” Fick said.

On the girls side, Desirae Seals and Anissa Fitz each scored 13 points as the Panthers wrapped up the season series, 4-0, with a 62-38 romp over the Dragons. Shari Moss added 12 for Kadena. Shakayla McGuire scored 10 for Kubasaki.

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