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CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Marine Corps Base Camp Butler should expect a spirited battle in its bid for a third straight Marine Forces Pacific Regional Basketball Tournament title, opposing players say.

The host and two-time defending champion takes aim at that three-peat starting Tuesday, with players from teams seeking to dethrone Base indicating that the five-day, single round-robin and single-elimination tournament should be “wide open.”

“This will be a good regional,” Tony Ellis of 3rd Marine Logistics Group said. “The teams are pretty even. I don’t think there’s a true powerhouse.”

“The talent is more spread out this year,” added Josh Reaser of 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, a four-year player at Stetson who was selected for the 2005 All-Marine tryout camp. “We’ll give them (Base) a better run this time, definitely.”

Base, 3rd MLG and Wing will take the court starting Tuesday with three other commands — 3rd Marine Division/3rd Marine Expeditionary Force and U.S. Naval Hospital Camp Lester from Okinawa and Iwakuni Air Station in Japan — for the right to call themselves Pacific champions.

Besides crowning a champion — the title clash is slated for 6 p.m. Saturday — the tournament also helps select six players to attend the All-Marine tryout camp Oct. 16-Nov. 2 at Cherry Point Air Station, N.C.

They’ll bid for berths on the All-Marine team competing in the All-Armed Forces tournament, scheduled for Nov. 3-11 at Fort Carson, Colo. The All-Armed Forces team then will travel to Mons, Belgium, for the Supreme Headquarters, Allied Powers Europe tournament Nov. 27-Dec. 2. Team USA finished third in that event last year after winning the tournament in 2004.

Players from the five Okinawa commands have benefitted considerably, Ellis remarked, from playing in the newly formed Joint Military Athletic Conference. So far, nine teams have played at least seven games each in league play. The league will take a break during the regionals.

Marine Forces Pacific Regional Basketball TournamentDates — Oct. 10-14, 2006.

Site — Foster Field House, Foster Athletic Complex, Camp Foster, Okinawa.

Format — Single elimination, six teams in one pool, play five games each first three days. All teams seeded into single-elimination playoff, quarterfinals and semifinals on fourth day, championship game on fifth day.

Schedule — Five round-robin games per day, noon, 2 p.m., 4 p.m., 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday. Quarterfinals at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. and semifinals at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. Friday. Championship game at 6 p.m. Saturday.

Awards — Most Valuable Player, All-Tournament coach, 10-player All-Tournament team, six players selected to attend All-Marine tryout camp scheduled for Oct. 16-Nov. 2 at Cherry Point Air Station, N.C. Selected players will move on to All-Armed Forces tournament Nov. 3-11 at Fort Carson, Colo., and to the Supreme Headquarters, Allied Powers Europe tournament scheduled for Nov. 27-Dec. 2 at Mons, Belgium.

Participating commands — Host Marine Corps Base Camp Butler (two-time defending champion), 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, 3rd Marine Division/3rd Marine Expeditionary Force, U.S. Naval Hospital Camp Lester, Okinawa; Iwakuni Air Station, Japan.

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