Prep teams get some lumps in MLK tourneys
By DAVE ORNAUER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: January 20, 2013
School of Hard Knocks 101, has ended for Seoul American’s girls and Kadena’s boys and girls and Kubasaki’s girls basketball teams.
And now that the Martin Luther King Invitational tournaments concluded on Okinawa on Sunday and headed into the home stretch Monday at South Korea’s Camp Humphreys, those teams took stock of what they need to do to prepare for next month’s Far East high school tournaments.
“This was a good test for us; we finally got a chance to play top-level competition this weekend (and they realize they’re not) head-and-shoulders above everybody else,” coach Willie Ware said of Kadena’s girls, who came into the weekend tournament unbeaten against high school teams.
Nishihara, the No. 1-rated Japanese team on the island, took care of that, beating the Panthers in a two-game final 46-39 and 58-48, using seven early three-point goals to break open the second game.
“Defense,” Ware said of the key component the Panthers must work on before the Far East Division I Tournament Feb. 18-21 at Yokota. Nishihara “moves the ball very well. We have to react quicker. And we have to play a full game, not just in spurts.”
The three-day tournament featured 13 men’s and four women’s teams, all bigger, more physical, quicker and faster than their high-school counterparts. Kadena’s boys won once and lost twice in the double-elimination event, while Kubasaki’s girls fell in two games. Still, each was able to take a little something from the tournament.
“We played three really good games and got a chance to evaluate some players in adverse circumstances, which is always a benefit,” Panthers boys coach Gerald Johnson said. “We learned a few things about our players.”
Over at Camp Humphreys, Seoul American won once and lost twice, its victory coming against Kunsan Air Base, 43-24. While a confidence booster for the Falcons, coach Jesse J. Smith said he cautioned his players afterward about “our reason for being here.”
In any game against women, “we’re the underdogs, they’re the favorites. We’re the high school team, they’re the women’s teams,” Smith said. “We made some mistakes, they play rougher than high school teams. They’re here to learn how to fight through those things.”
Kadena's Jasmine Rhodes and Nishihara High's Yurina Akamine battle for the ball during Sunday's double-elimination championship games in the 18th Martin Luther King Invitational Basketball Tournament at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Okinawa. Nishihara, Okinawa's top-rated Japanese team, beat Kadena twice 46-39 and 58-48 for the title, the first won by a high school in the tournament's history.
ADAM FONDREN/SPECIAL TO STARS AND STRIPES