HONG KONG — Saturday’s championship games in the 38th Hong Kong International School Holiday Basketball Tournament provided the chance for teams familiar with each other to square off for early season Pacific bragging rights.
Seoul American’s boys rallied from a nine-point fourth-quarter deficit to edge Kubasaki of Okinawa 68-66, avenging a 75-71 defeat on Feb. 24 in the Far East Class AA Tournament final at Seoul American.
On the girls’ side, Kadena of Okinawa managed a repeat of its Class AA semifinal triumph over Seoul American, rallying from a 21-18 halftime deficit to edge the Falcons 47-40.
The 16-team, three-day tournament was the first test of the 2007-08 season for boys and girls teams from Kadena, Kubasaki and Seoul American. The six teams begin regular-season play later this week.
“This is much better competition” than the last time Seoul American’s boys traveled to the tournament two years ago, coach Steve Boyd said. “All the boys teams were very tough, very strong. This was just what we needed and we got it.”
“This was a great learning experience,” said Charlotte Hicks, in her 22nd and final season as coach of Seoul American’s girls.
The verdicts were also a sharp departure from the results of games between the respective championship combatants on the first day of the tournament. Seoul American’s girls edged Kadena 50-44, while Kubasaki’s boys nipped Seoul American 72-69 in Thursday’s pool play.
Chris Churchwell’s basket in the final two minutes and the play of all-tournament selection Shawn Grandy and MVP Willie Brown capped the Falcons’ boys’ surge; they trailed 62-53 early in the final period.
“A lot of people in the stands thought we were dead,” said Boyd, whose Falcons went 5-1 in the tournament. “We weren’t playing well. But somehow we regained our composure and hit some clutch free throws. I’m happy to win this for the first time. I’m happy for the kids."
The first time the teams met, on Thursday, Seoul American led by 16 points before Kubasaki rallied.
“That was a bitter pill for me to swallow,” Boyd said of his third straight loss to the Dragons. “Give them credit. They came back. I was ready for a little revenge.”
Boyd and Hicks had hoped for a title sweep, but came up short in the girls final. “At least we can take one title back to Seoul,” Boyd said.
Kadena’s girls last season handed Seoul American its only loss in the Class AA semifinals 57-43 at Kadena.
The Falcons avenged that defeat Thursday and appeared on the way to repeating that in Saturday’s championship before all-tournament guards Brooke Hudson and Monica Hayes rallied the Panthers. Kadena outscored the Falcons 24-11 to lead 42-32 after three periods.
Seoul American “stopped playing as a team and started playing individually, and lost focus,” Hicks said. “But I’m proud of them.”
Hicks said she hopes her Falcons can fully avenge last year’s semifinal defeat and the Hong Kong championship loss in the 2008 Class AA tournament in February at Kadena.
“We’ll take care of our weaknesses and go from there,” Hicks said. “They’ll bond, they’ll push harder so when it comes time to go to Kadena, we’ll be the ones cutting down the net, not somebody else.”