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MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — Big play under the basket was never a problem for Robert D. Edgren coach Sarah Richardson.

The big worry was the lack of a skilled point guard and just the act of getting the ball upcourt to her senior twin towers, Desirae Riddick and Lauren White.

So with her Eagles mired at 4-7 and, having lost the previous week to Matthew C. Perry for the first time in 14 seasons, Richardson drew up a new strategy for last weekend’s Japan Basketball League series with Yokota.

And it paid off handsomely.

“Stop, look and pass,” Richardson said of attempting to pass over defensive pressure rather than dribble through it. “We spent a week in practice trying to focus on getting the ball downcourt, and the kids executed it well.”

The result: Edgren swept Yokota 59-40 and 57-51, improving to 6-7 overall and 4-7 in the JBL, 1½ games behind the Panthers (8-6, 5-5), who have lost four straight.

The Eagles’ record is still well off the pace of last year’s 27-3 record and second-place finish in the Far East Class AA tournament.

Part of the problem, Richardson said, has been an inability to keep good point guards, including last year’s starter Sophia McClendon, a sophomore who transferred to the States after the season.

So the Eagles have worked hard, Richardson said, on their passing game to neutralize full-court pressure as well as boost each player’s confidence in their ability to dribble the ball.

Playing against Yokota helped, Richardson said.

“They played very strongly against us. To be competitive, you have to go up against tough players.”

Richardson continued to get big numbers from Riddick, who racked up 44 points and 33 rebounds in the two games, and White, who pulled down 25 rebounds in the two games. Elizabeth Wells chipped in with 29 points.

Improvement at the foul line also helped the Eagles, who shot 80 percent.

“I thought I was looking at another team,” Richardson said of a squad that missed 27 foul shots in a loss earlier this season.

“I’m pleased” with the team’s progress, Richardson said.

Despite loss, Panthers boys keep JBL lead

Though the Panthers managed only a split with the Eagles in the boys’ half of the JBL weekend series, Yokota continued to roll after the start of the New Year, having won five of its last six games to improve to 12-9 overall and 8-4 in the JBL, leading second-place Nile C. Kinnick by a game.

“This is nice. We feel like we’re playing pretty well right now,” coach Tim Pujol said after Yokota won 66-56 Saturday before falling 57-53 Sunday to the Eagles (12-7 overall, 7-6 JBL).

Both games were in doubt “until the final two minutes,” he said. Edgren stayed close in the opener thanks to the combined seven three-pointers by perimeter specialists Carlos Whatley and Bradley Tinch.

Though Yokota buckled down on Sunday and held the two to one three-pointer, it was the Panthers’ own shooting that deserted them, Pujol said.

“We shot about 15 percent lower on Sunday than on Saturday. We did a good job defensively, but we missed some shots that we normally make.”

Still, Pujol said he was pleased with his team’s effort. “I’m glad we came up here,” he said. “Two very close games, hard-fought, right to the end.”

Recent game summaries

Boys basketball

Sunday

Robert D. Edgren 57, Yokota 53

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — Bradley Tinch was held to one three-pointer but poured in 22 points and Michael Smith added 12 as the Eagles (12-7) snapped a five-game winning streak by the Panthers (12-9). Corie White had 19 points and 11 rebounds; Zemetress Randle, 16 and 9 for Yokota.

Saturday

Yokota 66, Robert D. Edgren 56

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — Matt Irwin tossed in 16 points and Corie White added 15 to pace four players in double figures as Yokota won the Japan Basketball League series opener. Carlos Whatley of Edgren led all scorers with 23 points and Bradley Tinch netted 19; the two combined to hit seven three-pointers.

Taegu American 76, Intl Christian-Uijongbu 42

CAMP GEORGE, South Korea — Kenny Randle scored 29 points, Jared McCloud added 16, Rich Oberle 11 points and 10 rebounds and J.R. Holmes had 11 points and 12 rebounds for the Warriors (5-8). John J. Kim paced the Eagles (1-11) with 17 points.

Friday

Taegu American 75, Intl. Christian-Seoul 28

CAMP GEORGE, South Korea — Freshman Kenny Randle again ignited the Warriors with 31 points and seven rebounds, while Chase Bradley had 19 points and 12 rebounds and J.R. Holmes 10 points and 13 rebounds. Phila Lee led the winless Eagles (0-8) with 15 points.

Girls basketball

Sunday

Robert D. Edgren 57, Yokota 51

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — Desirae Riddick scored 23 points and grabbed 19 rebounds, Elizabeth Wells added 15 points and Lauren White 11 points and 17 rebounds to boost the Eagles (6-7) to within a half-game of .500 and hand the Panthers (8-6) their fourth straight loss. Porsche Jones scored 16 points for Yokota.

Saturday

Robert D. Edgren 59, Yokota 40

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — Big play underneath again made the difference for the Eagles, who got 21 points and 14 rebounds from Desirae Riddick, eight rebounds from Lauren White and 13 points from Elizabeth Wells. Danita Ross was high for the Panthers with eight points.

Christian Acad. In Japan 35, Nile C. Kinnick 34

TOKYO — In a battle for best record in Japan, Brianna Kennedy hit a buzzer-beater for the Knights (8-1), who handed the Red Devils (13-3) their first Kanto Plain loss. Erin Kleinjan led CAJ with 12 points. Jessica Jackson had 16 points, 11 rebounds and five steals and Lu Johnson 10 points for Kinnick.

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