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Yokota’s Mark Dixon puts up a lay-up as Seoul American defender Christopher Baker tries to chase him down during the Far East Boys Class AA finals on Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Saturday.
Yokota’s Mark Dixon puts up a lay-up as Seoul American defender Christopher Baker tries to chase him down during the Far East Boys Class AA finals on Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Saturday. (Fred Zimmerman / S&S)
Yokota’s Mark Dixon puts up a lay-up as Seoul American defender Christopher Baker tries to chase him down during the Far East Boys Class AA finals on Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Saturday.
Yokota’s Mark Dixon puts up a lay-up as Seoul American defender Christopher Baker tries to chase him down during the Far East Boys Class AA finals on Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Saturday. (Fred Zimmerman / S&S)
Yokota’s Caiveon Thomas cuts off a piece of the net after his team beat Seoul American 72-51 to take the Far East Boys Class AA title on Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, on Saturday.
Yokota’s Caiveon Thomas cuts off a piece of the net after his team beat Seoul American 72-51 to take the Far East Boys Class AA title on Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, on Saturday. (Fred Zimmerman / S&S)
Seoul American’s Jeremy Christopher puts up a shot as Yokota’s Caiveon Thomas attempts to block.
Seoul American’s Jeremy Christopher puts up a shot as Yokota’s Caiveon Thomas attempts to block. (Fred Zimmerman / S&S)
Yokota’s Caiveon Thomas (24) and Mark Dixon blanket Seoul American’s Andrew Luna underneath the basket.
Yokota’s Caiveon Thomas (24) and Mark Dixon blanket Seoul American’s Andrew Luna underneath the basket. (Fred Zimmerman / S&S)
Seoul American’s Andrew Luna, right, puts up a shot just out of Yokota’s Caiveon Thomas.
Seoul American’s Andrew Luna, right, puts up a shot just out of Yokota’s Caiveon Thomas. (Fred Zimmerman / S&S)

KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — The Yokota Panthers’ long wait is over.

Caiveon Thomas scored 25 points and Cameron Cooper 16 as the Panthers led from wire to wire, defeating the Seoul American Falcons 72-51 Saturday at Kadena High School for their first Far East High School Boys Class AA Basketball Tournament title since 1976.

“It’s too good for words. It feels great,” said coach Paul Ettl, adding that the drought-ending victory “wasn’t just for us. We tried to win it for all the good Yokota teams that couldn’t do these past 30 years what we did today.”

Ettl said it was fitting Saturday’s victory pushed the Panthers’ winning streak to 30 games. They last lost 47-45 to Robert D. Edgren on December 3 at Misawa Air Base — part of a weekend when the Panthers suffered their only three losses of the season.

“We won 30 games in a row and 30 years of frustration (is now) over for Yokota,” Ettl said.

The victory also salved the bitterness of Yokota’s 66-62 loss in 2005’s Class AA title game to Kadena, on the same court.

“That was definitely a motivator,” said senior Cooper, who was chosen as the tournament MVP. “That was our goal, to get back to the championship game.”

Once there, the Panthers rode the scoring of Cooper and Thomas and played stingy defense, led by senior Jason Ricks, who shadowed the Falcons’ senior point guard Jamaal Mohn the entire game.

Yokota led from the start, but broke it open in the second quarter after Mohn was called for an offensive foul.

“From that point, it was all downhill for us,” Falcons coach Steve Boyd said. “I could see the momentum shift.”

The Falcons had a strategy, Boyd said, to neutralize Cooper and Thomas but “they turned the tables on us. Cooper and Thomas simply played outstanding ball.”

Still, the Falcons were within reach until the third quarter. Then the Panthers gradually pulled away, leading by 18 entering the final eight minutes.

“They just kept extending the lead and we could never get back on top of it,” Boyd said. “Yokota simply wanted it more than us, and they played like it.”

Saturday also was sweet for Ettl. He won his first Class AA championship in four years as Yokota varsity coach, after taking the Panthers to the final twice.

“This was just a continuation of the success of last year,” he said. Then, Yokota shared the Japan Basketball League and Kanto Plain Association of Secondary Schools titles with Kinnick. “I hope it’s more than a one-year deal.”

Notes: In five previous championship game appearances since 1982, the Panthers lost to Faith Academy that season, to American School In Japan in overtime in 1983, to Kadena in 1984 and 2005 and to Kubasaki in 1988. ... Seoul American now is 3-for-5 in Class AA title games; the Falcons beat Kadena for the 1996 championship and topped Kubasaki and Kinnick in 2003 and ’04. Seoul American also won the 1994 final 50-48 in double-overtime over Hong Kong International but had to forfeit the victory for using an ineligible player. ... Yokota’s victory was the first time the home team had not won the Class AA title since 2002, when St. Mary’s International of Tokyo won its second of two titles on Guam.

Boys Class AA tournament

At Kadena High School, Kadena Air Base, Okinawa

Single-elimination playoffs

Wednesday’s games

Nile C. Kinnick, Japan, 70, John F. Kennedy, Guam, 44

Zama American, Japan, 76, Southern, Guam, 51

Morrison Christian Academy, Taiwan, 44, St. Mary’s International, Japan, 38

Yokota, Japan, 60, Christian Academy In Japan 46

Seoul American 60, Guam High 50

Hong Kong International 57, Father Duenas Memorial, Guam, 48

Kadena, Okinawa, 62, American School In Japan 41

Kubasaki, Okinawa, 77, Simon Sanchez, Guam, 44

Thursday’s games

Southern 54, John F. Kennedy 52

St. Mary’s 44, CAJ 37

Father Duenas 46, Guam High 34

ASIJ 54, Simon Sanchez 46

Zama 58, Kinnick 50

Yokota 55, Morrison 52

Seoul American 78, Hong Kong Int’l 65

Kadena 61, Kubasaki 55

Southern 92, Kubasaki 70

St. Mary’s 45, Hong Kong Int’l 39

Morrison 53, Father Duenas 48

Kinnick 58, ASIJ 46

Friday’s games

John F. Kennedy 45, ASIJ 43

Father Duenas 54, CAJ 44

Hong Kong Int’l 64, Guam High 49

Kubasaki 62, Simon Sanchez 45

John F. Kennedy 35, Father Duenas 33

Hong Kong Int’l 67, Kubasaki 59

St. Mary’s 56, Southern 39

Morrison 67, Kinnick 62

Yokota 61, Zama 56

Seoul American 77, Kadena 62

Saturday’s games

John F. Kennedy 61, Hong Kong Int’l 33 (ninth place)

Kinnick 60, Southern 52 (seventh place)

St. Mary’s 47, Morrison 40 (fifth place)

Kadena 73, Zama 67 (third place)

Yokota 72, Seoul American 51 (championship)

Awards

Most Valuable Player: Cameron Cooper, Yokota.

All-Tournament Teams: First team, Cameron Cooper (two-time selection), Caiveon Thomas (two-time selection), Yokota; Jamaal Mohn (two-time selection), Jeremy Christopher, Seoul American; Wilberto Badillo, Zama American. Second team, Travis Ekmark (three-time selection), Nile C. Kinnick; Shmarua Phelps, Anthony Soroka, Kadena; David Willis, St. Mary’s International; Elliott Tan, Morrison Christian Academy. Honorable mention, Gerald Paulino, Southern; Jerry Torres, John F. Kennedy; T.J. Gavlik, Hong Kong International; Alex Mierzejewski, Kadena; Aaron Tabor, Zama American; Paul McDonald, Morrison Christian Academy; Jude Martinez, Father Duenas Memorial; Vance Maxey, Kubasaki; Jason Ricks, Yokota; Andrew Luna, Seoul American.

Team Sportsmanship Award: Father Duenas Memorial.

Saturday’s summaries

Championship

Yokota 20 17 23 12 72

Seoul 16 11 15 9 51

Leading scorers: Yokota, Caiveon Thomas 25, Cameron Cooper 16; Seoul American, Jeremy Christopher 15, Andrew Luna 13.

Third place

Kadena 26 15 15 17 73

Zama American 21 17 15 14 67

Leading scorers-Kadena, Jamil Barney 18, Alex Mierzejewski 13, Marquis Newton 12; Zama American, Wilberto Badillo 23, Aaron Tabor 18, Ben Bishop 17.

Fifth place

St. Mary’s 14 11 8 14 47

Morrison 2 11 15 12 40

Leading scorers: St. Mary’s International, Young Do Yeon 16; Morrison Christian Academy, Paul McDonald 17, Elliott Tan 11.

Seventh place

Nile C. Kinnick 22 10 17 11 60

Southern 11 11 18 12 52

Leading scorers: Nile C. Kinnick, Travis Ekmark 20, Emanuel Wuyckoff 19; Southern, Jarvis Duenas 19.

Ninth place

Hong Kong International 11 2 11 9 33

John F. Kennedy 14 17 13 17 61

Leading scorers: John F. Kennedy, Merwin Martin 25, Eric Alsaris 18; Hong Kong International, David Mock 8.

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