CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Six times last season, they tried to beat the Kadena Panthers. Six times, the Kubasaki Dragons failed.

On Wednesday, Kubasaki ended the dry spell, inaugurating the Okinawa Activities Council girls basketball season with a 45-36 triumph over the defending Far East Class AA champion.

“I think we surprised them,” said coach Bob Driggs, who returned to the Dragons’ helm after a 12-year absence and struck gold. “We wanted to see if we could end this run of their’s. Kadena’s a great team. But we had some great performances tonight.”

The Dragons (3-1) had three players score nine points or more. Atana Grady, who had nine points, made a driving layup with 5:50 left in the second quarter, part of a 10-0 run that put Kubasaki ahead 17-9 after four early lead changes and three ties. Kubasaki never trailed again.

Erin Foote took over from outside to begin the third quarter, hitting two three-pointers en route to a 12-point performance. Shanon Sumter scored 11 points.

Kadena, which had won its first two games, cut its deficit to seven behind Katie LaGrave’s 11 fourth-quarter points. LaGrave and reigning Class AA MVP Theresa Gittens were held to season lows of 13 and 10 points, respectively.

Driggs said the Dragons concentrated on defending Gittens and LaGrave. He praised defensive play by Foote, Kaleen Mathieu and Sumter, who blocked seven shots in the first half and finished with 10 blocks.

“Kaleen Mathieu, I can’t say enough for her defense,” said Driggs. “Erin is as steady as a rock. And Shanon became an eraser, shut down the middle.”

The Dragons forced 32 turnovers and held the Panthers to 13-for-81 shooting (16 percent).

“They gave us a good old-fashioned whipping,” Kadena coach Ken Hudson said. “They took our best players out of the game. They did a good job on Katie and Theresa.”

Driggs said Wednesday’s contest had the trappings of crucial last-season showdown but cautioned it was too early to draw conclusions.

“This was like a Far East game at the start of the season,” he said. “But it’s still early. This is just one game. Put it in the books for us. Last year was a long dry spell for us. But we still have to face this team three or four more times this season.”

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