Yokota-based team shines at Sava tourney
TOKYO – It was the “toughest competition” they’d faced this season, but the Saints Basketball Club did well enough Friday and Saturday to fashion a 4-1 record, the best among American and international-school teams at this weekend’s 5th Fred Sava Memorial Invitational Jamboree for boys basketball teams.
Waseda University’s B side went undefeated at 4-0, a half-game ahead of the Saints, a private independent club comprised of players from Yokota High School, in the two-day, seven-team round-robin event. No champion was officially crowned; the jamboree’s purpose was for teams to “just come out and have fun,” coach George Clarkson of host St. Mary’s International School said.
The jamboree is held annually in memory of the late coach Fred Sava, who coached St. Mary’s to Far East Division I Tournament titles in 2001, 2002 and 2009 – the latter his last tournament as Titans coach. Sava died the next January from brain cancer.
The Saints faced what coach Reggie Henderson said was “the toughest competition they’ve seen this year.”
Their only loss came against the collegians of Waseda. The Saints defeated Kubasaki of Okinawa in overtime, St. Mary’s, Christian Academy Japan and a college freshman team from Nittaidai University. The Saints averaged a tournament-high 73.2 points per game.
“This is big for us. We faced some adversity and different challenges than we’re used to, but we showed some strong character to pull through,” team captain Jadan Anderson said.
Rebounding from their 71-68 loss Friday to Waseda proved to be their toughest challenge. The Saints admittedly came out flat against St. Mary’s on Saturday. At one point, the Saints’ high-octane offense turned the ball over on four straight possessions while showing poor shot selection throughout the opening half. The two teams were tied 27-27 at intermission.
“We just told each other that we can’t lose another game, that we had to calm down and play our game instead of allowing them to decide how we will play,” Anderson said. “It was tough, but we didn’t quit and fought through.”
The Saints finally got untracked in the fourth quarter and pulled out a 62-51 win.
Leading the way for the Saints was Jermaine Neal. The lanky sniper was the team’s second-leading scorer averaging 20 points a game, with many of those points coming from behind the arc. His six three-pointers in the St. Mary’s game helped trigger the team’s bounce back.
“I try to stay focused and take the shots when I’m open,” Neal said.