Wing eliminates defending champ Hawaii
CAMP KINSER, Okinawa — This time, the ex-master outdid the ex-students.
Behind hot-shooting Kevin Cochran, coach Greg Mitchell and 1st Marine Aircraft Wing took down defending champion Marine Corps Base Hawaii 75-55 on Thursday, avenging a round-robin loss on the first day of the Marine Forces Pacific Regional Basketball Tournament.
Mitchell, who guided Hawaii to the title last July, unleashed a fullcourt man-to-man press on the islanders in the opening minutes. Wing seized a 15-5 lead five minutes into the contest and didn’t look back.
“I’ve been holding back on the press,” said Mitchell, whose team lost to Hawaii 83-75 in the tournament’s first game.
“You don’t want to show it too early and give the opposition a chance to counter it. You don’t want to expose all your threats during round-robin. But I just couldn’t help myself. I had to bring it out.”
Wing won its seventh game in the tournament thanks to the pressure defense and Cochran’s shooting touch.
The veteran guard, hobbled by a sprained right ankle, still scored 26 points, hitting four three-pointers and finishing 8-for-11 from the foul line while playing just over half the game.
Wing advanced to Friday’s semifinals against Okinawa’s 3rd Force Service Support Group, which dispatched U.S. Naval Hospital Camp Lester 64-41.
Marine Corps Base Camp Butler defeated Japan’s Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station 87-85 to reach the other semifinal against Okinawa’s 3rd Marine Division/Expeditionary Force, the top seed, which had Thursday off.
Hawaii coach Guy Woodard partially blamed Thursday’s defeat on a groin pull suffered by point guard Paul Stewart. He also lost pivot Matt Catron, who flew from Okinawa to Hawaii on Thursday en route to a deployment in Iraq.
“We just never could get into a good rotation, with the injury and the distractions” over losing Catron, Woodard said.
He also credited Wing’s performance.
“They played well. They did what they had to do,” Woodard said. “We’ll be back next year.”