After a four-year absence, the March Madness Invitational Basketball Tournament for Pacific interservice teams returns to Andersen Air Force Base, Guam.

Eight men’s and six women’s teams will compete for top honors in the combined single round-robin/double-elimination playoff event, scheduled for March 21 at Andersen’s Coral Reef Fitness & Sports Center.

Gerrard Barnes, the fitness center’s longtime director and one of the March Madness founders, said the tournament serves multiple purposes:

Final Pacific interservice season bragging rights.A last tune-up for Pacific Rim players headed for their respective All-Service tryout camps next month.To perpetuate post-level competition, which in recent years has been vastly reduced due to budget cuts and operations tempo.A form of sports entertainment for those stationed on Guam, particularly those deployed to the island."I’m trying to keep Guam actively involved in the varsity sports program that has been so symbolic in the Pacific the last 40 years," Barnes said.

A retired Air Force senior master sergeant, Barnes, 60, has been a cornerstone of Pacific interservice ball, winning three Pacific Air Forces tournament titles in the 1980s, three March Madness titles and four Osan Pacificwide Holiday Tournament crowns.

Such tournaments provide an outlet for the "elite, advanced-level athlete who needs a program to keep developing their skills," Barnes said.

"And it’s entertainment for the folks on island. (It’s something) I can do for those deployed here, a source of entertainment while they’re here."

Barnes and Andersen’s men’s and women’s teams will welcome:

South Korea’s Osan Air Base Defenders and Camp Humphreys Bulldogs men and women.Japan’s Misawa Air Base Jets men and women.The Okinawa Mystics women’s open team.Hawaii’s Hickam Air Force Base Flyers men.Naval Station Big Navy of Guam.Three local entities, Guam’s senior women’s and men’s national teams and the Budweiser Kings men’s team.

The tournament begins at 11 a.m. Saturday. Pool play runs for three days, with all 14 teams qualifying for the playoffs. The championship games are set for March 21 at 2:30 p.m. for women and 4:30 for men, with if-necessary games to follow.

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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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