KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa – Nile C. Kinnick’s boys basketball team had enough of coming up short in big games and tournament finals, coach Robert Stovall said.
Kennedy Hamilton did something about it in dramatic fashion on Wednesday. The senior sank a bank shot from the right side with two seconds left, boosting the Red Devils to an 83-82 victory over host Kadena in the Far East Division I Tournament final.
“We had just put him back in the game,” Stovall said of re-entering Hamilton in the closing seconds. “Somehow, he got the ball and put it up.”
With the victory, the Red Devils closed their season 20-5, including four wins in five games at Far East. It’s Kinnick’s second Far East Division I title overall and their first since 2018, also on Okinawa.
Kinnick’s performance in the tournament also ensured it defeated every team it played during the season at least once.
“It’s been a great season,” Stovall said. “We avenged every loss we had, but the thing is, we were so evenly matched, St. Mary’s, Kadena and us.”
Kinnick burst in front by 17 points in the first half, but the Panthers stormed back to tie it 42-42 at halftime. The game see-sawed from there, with the Panthers leading by four points after three quarters, and it stayed tight all the way to the closing seconds.
DeShaun Nixon hit one of two foul shots to put the Panthers ahead 82-81 with 7.5 seconds left. Xavier Wright shot from the left side, but it was slapped out of bounds by Kadena. The next inbound pass went to Hamilton, who sank his game-winning shot.
“They made a great shot, a buzzer beater; you couldn’t ask for a better game, except for Kadena to win,” said coach Antiwon Tucker, whose Panthers were seeking their 10th D-I title and first since 2010. “They’re (Kinnick) a great team, always tough to play.”
In his final game for Kinnick, Vance Lewis led the Red Devils with 32 points and was named tourney Most Valuable Player. Jaden Patsel paced the Panthers (20-3) with 22.