After being idle for as many as three weeks during the Christmas break, high school basketball teams began shaking off the rust and putting the polish back on their games.
Some found they needed a bit more elbow grease than others. A prime example was Yokota’s girls, who Wednesday survived a scare at home from Zama American, prevailing 47-46 over the Trojans — a day after coach Ric Cabral threw the team out of practice in frustration.
"Christmas is the best time of year, except for coaches," Cabral said. "I love Christmas but I hate Christmas. They [players] say they’re going to work and keep in shape, but you know what happens."
What happened in Tuesday’s practice was too many missed layups, dribbling too long, turnovers — almost as if the Panthers were starting from scratch.
"We went right back to Day 1" of the season, Cabral said. "Back to the drawing board. We have to get the rust off."
What rescued the Panthers (8-2), who trailed 34-29 after three periods, was Erika Ettl’s scoring (15 points) and a game-winning shot by Paige Davis with 12.5 seconds left. Elizabeth Powell scored a game-high 19 points for Zama (8-3), whose seven-game winning streak ended.
"It was a barnburner. Typical Yokota-Zama game," Cabral said.
Down at Camp Zama, Yokota’s boys (17-0) also escaped victorious, edging the 5-7 Trojans 49-45 three weeks after blowing out Zama 58-26 at Yokota’s Capps Gym.
"We got a real scare. Zama’s really improved," Yokota coach Paul Ettl said. Tajh Kirby led the way with 15 points as the Panthers outscored the Trojans 14-9 in the final period.
Close games were hardly a bother for Seoul American’s boys and girls teams. The Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference leaders each scored impressive home victories over Korea International.
Joe McLean (15 points, 10 rebounds) and RaiDion Fails (12 points) powered the boys (25-9, 10-0 in KAIAC) to a 69-18 victory.
The Falcons boys stayed sharp by playing in the New Year Classic at Yokosuka Naval Base and a company-level tournament; Seoul went 10-5 during the break.
Seniors Fails and Willie Brown returned to the lineup after a lengthy emergency-leave stay in the States and "they were rusty. It will take them awhile to get back into the groove," coach Steve Boyd said. "It’s what you expect when you haven’t played organized ball in a few weeks."
The Falcons girls (15-1, 8-0) appeared to fire on all cylinders in a 49-6 victory, something which surprised coach Billy Ratcliff, who had been expecting his charges to be rusty.
"We worked hard Monday and Tuesday in practice, and we looked as sharp as we have all season long," Ratcliff said. "I don’t know how to account for it."