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It’s never easy to win at St. Mary’s International. Just ask coach Paul Ettl and the Yokota Panthers.

Their 65-51 victory on Friday might have seemed one-sided, but from Ettl’s perspective, the Panthers were in a fight from start to finish at St. Mary’s tinny, loud basketball gym sometimes called the "Titan Dome."

"It was one of those games when any lead didn’t seem safe," said Ettl, whose team led most of the way, but had to fend off a Titans team that made run after run at the Panthers.

Tajh Kirby scored 29 points and DeEric Harvin added 18 for Yokota. Toni Taniguchi scored 20 for the Titans.

"It was a hard-fought game, which is to be expected at St. Mary’s," Ettl said. "We were really happy to get out of there with a ‘W.’ "

Why is it so tough to play at St. Mary’s?

No matter what type of team coach Fred Sava fields, a contender or pretender, Ettl said, the fans come out and cheer passionately, becoming quite a distraction.

"It’s just the tradition of St. Mary’s. They’re always competitive and they play a notch up at home, no matter what type of team he has. Any team likes to defend its home turf," Ettl said. "Fred’s a good coach. He consistently puts a good team on the floor."

Friday’s contest could also serve as a preview of what’s to come this weekend at Yokosuka Naval Base, in the 3rd New Year Classic Tournament.

"I’m sure next week will be competitive," Ettl said.

Eighth team being sought for New Year ClassicThe eight-team field for this weekend’s New Year Classic was diminished by one when Robert D. Edgren dropped out of the field on Friday, tournament host and Nile C. Kinnick coach Michael Adair said. He did not specify why Edgren withdrew.

Adair said he had contacted Christian Academy In Japan and would try to contact Zama American, which had already turned down an invitation, to try to even the field at eight.

The tournament features Yokota, St. Mary’s, American School In Japan, Kinnick, defending Class AA Tournament champion Seoul American, Kadena and defending New Year Classic champion Kubasaki.

Seoul boys survive at DaeguPlaying at Daegu American’s Warrior Gym can sometimes feel like standing with the row of ducks in a shooting gallery, the way the Warriors launch three-point shots.

Daegu got the jump early on Seoul American’s boys on Friday, leading 23-14 after one period, before the Falcons settled down to win 77-65 and got another big game from reigning Class AA MVP Willie Brown – 31 points, seven rebounds, five steals and six assists.

"He’s improved a lot," Daegu coach Phillip Loyd said of Brown, who was matched against Warriors guard Thomas Brooks (25 points) on defense.

"Phil has lived and died with the outside shots as long as I’ve seen him coach here," Falcons coach Steve Boyd said. "They have good guards, like they usually do. They have good shooters. They’re tough at home."

But the Falcons survived that and their inside strength was enough to overcome a 15-point, 12-rebound performance by Daegu’s 6-foot-7 Drew Snowden. "We were really surprised they didn’t go to him more often," Boyd said of Snowden.

Zama girls change defense, rally past CAJA defensive adjustment helped Zama American’s girls continue their early-season success. The Trojans (5-2) rallied from a five-point third-quarter deficit to slam the door on CAJ, outscoring the Knights 11-2 in the fourth quarter of a 32-28 victory at CAJ.

"We picked up our defense," coach Veronica Jones said. CAJ had been going to the interior often against the Trojans’ 2-3 zone, so the Trojans adjusted to cut off the entry pass to the high post and force the Knights to shoot from outside.

Early shooting woes didn’t help Zama, nor did missing 19 foul shots. But "once the girls settled down and got into a groove they picked it up a bit," Jones said.

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