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Yokota, last season’s Class AA boys basketball champion, on Friday became the lastest victim of Edgren’s home basketball mystique, falling 58-39 to the Eagles in a Japan Basketball League showdown.

The Eagles improved to 5-8, winning five of their last seven games, including three victories over Class AA opposition (two over Yokota).

“We’re in the same league with those other (Class AA) teams and tonight’s game showed it,” Edgren coach Andre Thibert said.

Yokota’s three losses last season came in the first weekend of December. The Panthers won their last 30 on their way to their first Class AA title, but have found the Eagles’ Nest to be the same road block it was last season.

“Misawa’s always a hard place for us to play,” Yokota coach Paul Ettl said. “Andre’s team is improving every week. They played their hearts out on defense. And we’re hitting a little rough patch right now.”

“We get a lot of people out. There’s not a lot to do at Misawa. The game is it,” Thibert said. “We try to create that atmosphere. It’s a lot different than when you’re on the road, being on a bus all those hours. We do it more than anybody. On the road, you have to play from within if things don't go your way.”

Edgren began the season with losses to Class A JBL opposition E.J. King and Matthew C. Perry at Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station. But since then, Edgren slowly and surely has gotten on a winning track.

On Friday, the squad welcomed to the lineup Mark Young and Zach Latimore, who had been out with injuries since the start of the season. Thibert said he'd stressed to his charges the importance of defense against Yokota and its high-powered senior center, Caiveon Thomas.

“I told them if we keep it under 50, we would have a chance to win,” Thibert said.

Thomas got his points — he led the Panthers with 17 — but he was the only Yokota player in double figures. The Eagles got balanced scoring from Latimore (17), Kirk Chin (16) and Derrick Lang (10) and outscored Yokota 24-10 in the final period to pull away.

“Things clicked in the fourth quarter,” Thibert said. “That doesn’t happen often for us.”

Yokota won 12 of its first 13 games but has lost four of its past five.

First Okinawa-American Shootout garners rave reviewsFor the first time in Okinawa Activities Council history, a tournament welcoming a large number of Japanese schools is being staged at Kadena Air Base.

Kadena and Kubasaki High Schools of the OAC welcomed nine member schools from the Japanese community for three days of hoops and fellowship, with games taking place at Kadena High and Middle Schools and Amelia Earhart Intermediate School. Organizers said they hoped it would be the first of many such get-togethers.

“It’s taken us three years of work to get this off the ground,” said Fred Bales, Kubasaki athletic director and tournament organizer.

The idea of such a gathering was discussed for months by DODDS-Okinawa district and Okinawa Basketball Association officials, he said. The big issues were funding to pay for officials, awards and other tournament necessities, as well as finding a weekend when many Japanese teams could play.

A committee that eventually included such entities as the USO, the American Consular General’s office and the Okinawa Developmental International Council finally agreed on Jan. 26-28 as a playing weekend.

“We can’t thank the committee enough for their hours of tireless work,” Bales said.

In addition to round-robin pool play and single-elimination playoffs running through Sunday afternoon, the tournament also included an appearance by the FC Ryukyu soccer team’s cheerleaders as well as a Saturday pizza party at the Kadena USO. In attendance were 15 BJ-League Japanese professional players and Tokyo Apache coach Joe Bryant, the father of Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant; they were on island for Saturday’s BJ-League All-Star Game.

Bales said the tournament hopes to add more American teams in the future, perhaps two each from Japan and South Korea, with four Japanese schools to fill out the boys’ and girls’ brackets. Invitations were sent, but only three weeks in advance of the tournament, which some coaches said was too late.

“We didn’t have the lead time to free up the schedules” of teams in the DODDS-Japan and Korea districts, Bales said. “But we want to get more American involvement. And everybody we've talked to said they want to make this an annual thing, something that will draw Okinawa schools back to it in the future.”

Third time’s a charm for Falcons against CrusadersA healthy dose of defense to bottle up Seoul Foreign scoring star George Rudolph and what coach Steve Boyd called the “best game of Daniel Burns’ career” helped Seoul American snap a two-game losing streak against the Crusaders.

The Falcons’ 85-game Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference winning streak was snapped on Dec. 6 in a 64-55 loss to Seoul Foreign; the Falcons lost 51-47 at Seoul Foreign on Dec. 15.

This time, on their home turf, the Falcons prevailed 65-52. Burns scored 14 points and dished out seven assists, and the Falcons held Rudolph to a season-low nine points. Rudolph scored 26 on Dec. 6 and 18 on Dec. 15.

“You’ve got to defend your home ground,” said Boyd, whose Falcons improved to 23-13 and 6-1 in the league, while handing the Crusaders (15-5, 9-1) their first league loss of the season.

Seoul American played “probably the most complete game we’ve had this season against a quality opponent,” Boyd said, adding that a 22-13 fourth quarter made the difference. “We just got going back and forth, we started hitting shots and they didn’t. That was the difference.”

Big third quarter helps Perry girls stay on winning trackWhile the Falcons and Eagles boys thrived in the final period, Matthew C. Perry’s girls played their best ball in the third quarter to win twice on Friday at Osaka International School.

Kiara Lacey’s steal in the final 10 seconds sealed the first game as the Samurai edged Osaka International 37-36, a game in which Perry trailed at halftime 20-17 but outscored the Sabres 12-2 in the third period.

Then the Samurai, with a school-best 13-6 record, outscored Yokohama International 14-6 in the third period of a game in which they trailed 11-8 after one period. Perry edged the Dragons 46-42.

In each instance, coach Nikki Flick said, “You could tell the girls had sat down at halftime and thought a lot about it.”

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