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Championship games became host-team celebrations as the first Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Japan basketball tournaments ended Saturday.

Senior Cameron Cooper scored 19 points and host Yokota outscored Zama American 16-4 in the third quarter en route to a 53-43 victory in the boys’ final.

Senior Tiffani Wright reached the 30-point mark for the 12th time, scoring 30 as the Zama girls defeated Nile C. Kinnick 53-50 in the championship game.

“They had a little trouble with our press, especially in the third quarter, so we got some easy opportunities,” said Yokota boys coach Paul Ettl, adding that after halftime, his players “found that extra gear,” which helped them score 14 straight points.

Zama kept within striking distance, outscoring Yokota 21-17 in the final quarter, but “we kept it out of reach,” Ettl said.

“This was a good experience, especially to help us get ready for Far East,” he said of the DODDS-Japan’s significance to last year’s Class AA tournament runners-up. This year’s Far East tournament is to be Feb. 20-25 on Okinawa.

Earlier Saturday, Yokota found itself staring at a berth in the third-place game, trailing Nile C. Kinnick by six points with 40 seconds left in the semifinals. But the Panthers rallied for seven points, including Doug Bloom’s basket with three seconds left.

“Unbelievable,” Ettl said of a stretch in which Yokota forced three straight turnovers. “The place was nuts. Three plays in a row. Kinnick controlled that game until the very end.”

The tightly contested semifinal could signal an exciting final week of the regular season. Yokota (23-3 overall, 11-2 Japan Basketball League) must visit Kinnick (16-4, 9-3) and Zama (20-5, 9-4), needing to win both games to secure the title.

“Those will be wars,” Ettl said.

Close games between Yokota and Kinnick weren’t the sole province of the DODDS-Japan boys tournament. At Camp Zama, the Panthers and Red Devils went to the wire tied 61-61 in their semifinal, until Kinnick’s Sarah Greenert was fouled by Yokota’s Chyna Roach as time expired. Greenert sank two free throws to propel Kinnick into the final against the host Trojans.

In the title clash, the Trojans led throughout, with Wright customarily dominating play inside. The Red Devils kept it tight but the Trojans hung on at the end.

Zama enters the final week of the season 18-3 overall and 10-1 in the JBL, a game ahead of Kinnick (17-5, 9-2). Zama visits Yokota on Tuesday and Kinnick travels to Yokota on Thursday.


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