Support our mission
Yokota's Dylan Tomas drives through Nile C. Kinnick defenders Darius Scott and Oliver Chilton and plows into Red Devils guard Adrian Tagalog during Thursday's DODEA-Japan boys basketball tournament game. Tomas was called for an offensive foul on the play. The Red Devils won 63-50.

Yokota's Dylan Tomas drives through Nile C. Kinnick defenders Darius Scott and Oliver Chilton and plows into Red Devils guard Adrian Tagalog during Thursday's DODEA-Japan boys basketball tournament game. Tomas was called for an offensive foul on the play. The Red Devils won 63-50. (Dave Ornauer/Stars and Stripes)

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan – Teams traveled from as far away as 19½ hours by bus to get to Yokota and Camp Zama for this weekend’s season-ending DODEA-Japan basketball tournaments - the first since February 2020.

No matter whether they rode the 430 miles from Misawa Air Base, the 725 miles from Sasebo Naval Base or just around the corner, all said they were happy just to be playing, given the uncertainties of the COVID-interrupted season.

“We’re blessed to have what we do have,” Zama senior Keshawn McNeill said Thursday after his Trojans won their two scheduled pool-play games.

A few weeks earlier, much was uncertain as to whether there would even be a rest of the season. DODEA-Pacific put sports on a three-week pause starting Jan. 10, forcing DODEA-Japan and DODEA-Korea schools to wait until early February to restart.

Nile C. Kinnick's Austin Davenport skies for a rebound againsts Yokota's DeShaun Bryant and Damian Abrams during Thursday's DODEA-Japan boys basketball tournament game. The Red Devils won 63-50.

Nile C. Kinnick's Austin Davenport skies for a rebound againsts Yokota's DeShaun Bryant and Damian Abrams during Thursday's DODEA-Japan boys basketball tournament game. The Red Devils won 63-50. (Dave Ornauer/Stars and Stripes)

DODEA-Korea’s end-of-season tournaments were last week, while DODEA-Japan postponed its tournaments until this weekend. DODEA’s Okinawa high schools shut down their winter season altogether in the face of large numbers of COVID positives and contact tracing.

“I wouldn’t want to be at Kadena or Kubasaki right now,” McNeill said. “That’s why every time I get on the court, I try to make the best of it, try to leave it all out there.”

The DODEA-Japan boys basketball tournament got underway Thursday at Yokota High School and the girls tournament at Zama, with 1½ days of pool play followed by 1½ days of single-elimination bracket games. The one-day wrestling tournament is Saturday at Kinnick.

Many teams were getting a first glance of each other. E.J. King and Matthew C. Perry played most of their games against each other, as was the case with Yokota, Zama and Kinnick. Robert D. Edgren, in northern Japan, had seen their Tokyo brethren sparingly.

Nile C. Kinnick's Vance Lewis skies for a shot against Yokota's Tre Perkins and Dylan Tomas during Thursday's DODEA-Japan boys basketball tournament game. The Red Devils won 63-50.

Nile C. Kinnick's Vance Lewis skies for a shot against Yokota's Tre Perkins and Dylan Tomas during Thursday's DODEA-Japan boys basketball tournament game. The Red Devils won 63-50. (Dave Ornauer/Stars and Stripes)

“This weekend will make up a lot for these kids,” Red Devils boys coach Robert Stovall said. “They haven’t had a lot of positives this season.”

Each team in the basketball tournaments was missing at least one starter due to injuries or COVID and coaches spent the days in the run-up to the tournaments moving junior varsity players onto the rosters.

“Next man up,” Yokota boys coach Dan Galvin said. “It’s just another example of things that can’t be emulated in the classroom. They’re (players) just happy to be here.”

King’s girls coach McKinzy Best has three volleyball and two tennis players who made a similar journey to Zama in October, but “the rest haven’t,” he said.

Robert D. Edgren's Fred Stewart and Zama's Gregory Horton and Jarius Brown leap for a rebound during Thursday's DODEA-Japan boys basketball tournament game. The Trojans won 63-53.

Robert D. Edgren's Fred Stewart and Zama's Gregory Horton and Jarius Brown leap for a rebound during Thursday's DODEA-Japan boys basketball tournament game. The Trojans won 63-53. (Dave Ornauer/Stars and Stripes)

“Any time there’s a long bus ride, they’re going to be tired, but we had two hours’ rest” before their first game, a 46-29 win over Zama. “They were good to go.”

In non-COVID years, the Red Devils, Trojans and Panthers are also expected to make lengthy bus trips to the outlying Japan schools.

Thus, “I tell my kids, don’t expect them to feel sorry for us because we made a long trip,” Perry boys coach Daniel Burns said.

But it was all about getting back on the court and players and finishing up the season. “Today was worth it,” Best said.

Zama‘s Jarius Brown gets his path to the basket blocked by Robert D. Edgren’s O’moj Reeves during Thursday’s DODEA-Japan boys basketball tournament game. The Trojans won 63-53.

Zama‘s Jarius Brown gets his path to the basket blocked by Robert D. Edgren’s O’moj Reeves during Thursday’s DODEA-Japan boys basketball tournament game. The Trojans won 63-53. (Dave Ornauer/Stars and Stripes)

author picture
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.
twitter Email

Stripes in 7



around the web


Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up