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Kadena boys take second straight Friendship crown

By STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 2, 2020

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa – For Kadena’s boys basketball team, the last three weeks have been as testing as they’ve been successful, coach Antiwon Tucker said.

The Panthers have gone 10-2 in that span, both losses coming in last weekend’s American School In Japan Kanto Classic - where they placed second - before capturing the title in the 14th Okinawa-American Friendship Tournament on Sunday for the second straight year.

“We’ve had three tough weekends, but the kids have shown many ways to handle adversity and we’re back to playing Kadena basketball,” Tucker said after the Panthers beat Oroku A 70-50 in the Friendship final.

Kadena finished the grueling three-week stretch that started with a two-game set against Taipei American with an 18-3 record. The Panthers have one more regular-season game against island-rival Kubasaki and the Far East Division I Tournament Feb. 20-22 at Humphreys remaining.

Kubasaki, 7-9 on the season, took third in the Friendship Tournament, beating Ginowan 60-57 in what coach Saleem Malik called a “nail-biter.”

“We had a rough start” to the season, Dragons senior forward and team captain Kiyon Smith said, “but we’ve improved over time.”

On the girls side, Kadena capped what has been an up-and-down three weeks by taking third in the Friendship Tournament, beating Ginowan 69-50. The Panthers went 3-2 in the tournament, after going 4-2 and finishing fourth in the Kanto Classic.

“Teams here can steal your confidence,” said Johnny Cooper of the Panthers, 15-8 after the Friendship Tournament. “We found resiliency in our young core … developing confidence to fight back and trust each other. That will be key going into Far East” Feb. 20-22 at Kadena.

Kubasaki’s girls fell to 2-11 after going winless in three games in the Friendship Tournament.

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