Chambers nails three at buzzer as Kadena edges Kubasaki
By DAVE ORNAUER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 15, 2017
KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa – Cody Chambers could not have picked a better time, nor distance, to hit his only basket of the game.
The senior guard sank a three-point goal from just inside the midcourt line as time ran out, rallying Kadena to a 40-39 win Friday over Kubasaki in the second of four regular-season meetings between the longtime Okinawa rivals.
The Panthers are 10-0 overall and 2-0 over the Dragons this season, including a 50-35 win on Nov. 28 at Kubasaki. The Dragons are 5-2.
With 3.6 seconds left, Chambers took an inbound pass, weaved through traffic and drove to center court, putting up a desperation heave as the buzzer sounded.
“I have to execute for my team,” Chambers said of what he was thinking as his shot went up. “I wanted us to be unbeaten and I didn’t want to let the guys down.”
The shot hit nothing but net, triggering a Vesuvius of joy at Kadena’s end of the court. Many of the near-capacity crowd of 600-plus streamed onto the floor; teammates and spectators hoisted Chambers onto their shoulders in celebration.
“I’m so happy it went in,” Chambers said. “It’s indescribable. A crazy win. A good win for our team.”
“That was a miracle. Unbelievable,” Panthers coach Robert Bliss said. “I don’t know how in the world that happened. Time stood still as that shot went up. Kubasaki played so well. I’m so happy for Cody. He’s been through so much the last four years,” including a wrist injury that hampered Chambers much of last season, Bliss said.
It was a tight, defensive struggle, with neither team leading by more than six points. Montez Young Jr. led Kadena with 16 points, but the Dragons clamped down on him and held him to five second-half points.
Elonzo Higginson III led Kubasaki with 12 points. Jonathan Baker hit the second of his two three-pointers to give the Dragons a 33-32 lead, and they extended that to a five-point lead as part of a 7-0 run late in the fourth quarter.
But the Panthers stayed close, then missed a couple of opportunities down the stretch as the Dragons missed several chances to put the contest away. Finally, Kadena got the ball back with 3.6 seconds left and cashed in on its final chance.
“Both teams have scorers, yet we only had 79 total points; there’s gotta be some defense played out there,” Dragons coach Jon Fick said. “This game was ours and it got away. A 3.6-second desperation three. Shoganai,” Fick said, invoking a Japanese expression literally meaning “no can help.”