Panthers rally to make it a basketball sweep
CAMP ZAMA, Japan -- Call the Yokota girls basketball team the second-half kids.
Trailing at halftime in both the semifinals and the championship, MVP Sarah Claypool and the Panthers rallied for victories twice to capture the title Wednesday in their first trip to the Far East Division II Girls Basketball Tournament.
"Both games, the girls played good second halves, the girls came out at half and did really well," Yokota coach Kitty Martinez did after the Panthers won their first Far East title of any kind since taking the 1989 and 1991 Division I titles.
Yokota got a semifinal victory over Edgren before topping Zama American 53-40 in Wednesday's final at the Yano Fitness Center on Camp Zama.
The Panthers trailed Edgren by a point before outscoring them 31-12 in the second half of the semifinal, then rallied from a 21-15 halftime gap against Zama by scoring 20 points in the third period.
“At halftime, I think we just refocused,” Martinez said.
There were questions as to the health of Claypool and freshman point guard Jamia Bailey heading into the D-II tournament, as each suffered injuries during the DODDS Japan tournament Feb. 5-7 at Yokota.
But they returned to action after Martinez rested the two for the Panthers' last two regular-season games, each losses to Division I American School In Japan and Seisen International. But sitting them out, Martinez said, was a wise decision.
"It ended up being a good decision," she said. "It ended up being better safe than sorry."
Bailey had 15 points and Caitlyn Rowan scored 14 for the Panthers in the championship game against Zama, a team that handed them a 45-39 loss in Monday’s pool play. Sarah Cronin and Jasmine Strong added eight points each.
Destiny Howze led Zama – which lost its first game of the tournament – with 16 points.
MVP – Sarah Claypool, Yokota
Ja’asia Rasun, Humphreys; Heidi Burkard, Okinawa Christian; Michele Thompson, Sarah Colthart, Osan; Naomi Ziola, Matthew C. Perry; Coko Magby, Vanessa Black, Robert D. Edgren; Signe Tyler, Sacred Heart; Claypool, Sarah Cronin, Jamia Bailey, Caitlyn Rowen, Yokota; Destiny Howze, Aly Chiarenza, Tiara Carroll, Zama
Yokota wins, wins, wins, wins, wins
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan – Many expected longtime Division I school Yokota to run away with the boys basketball title when the Panthers were moved down to Division II this school year.
At a quick glance, that’s what happened Wednesday, when Yokota routed Matthew C. Perry 78-50 for the Far East Division title.
But a closer look shows the Samurai gave the Panthers all the competition they wanted – and maybe a bit more.
“You’ve got to give them credit,” tournament Most Valuable Player Jadan Anderson said. “They pushed us.”
Perry pushed Yokota into playing several extra games in fact. A 71-62 Samurai victory in the opening round of double-elimination play Tuesday meant the Panthers couldn’t afford another loss in the tournament. And they had to win four times Wednesday just for the right to play for the title.
“I’m really proud of the way our team persevered,” Yokota coach Paul Ettl said.
The Panthers didn’t really need to warm up for the final game and it showed. Yokota ran out to a 19-8 advantage after the first quarter and the lead didn’t dip into single digits after the opening minutes of the second quarter.
Jermaine Neal scored 24 points and Hunter Court 21 for the Panthers. Jamarvin Harvey and Anderson each added 12.
Ettl said the key was how the team handled Perry’s pressure defense.
“That really hurt us (in Tuesday’s game),” he said. “Perry played very well. Got us back on our heels and we never recovered.”
Anderson, a senior who plans to attend Azusa Pacific University next fall, majoring in exercise science and playing basketball, credited his teammates for maintaining their focus in the final day.
“We weren’t even looking ahead to playing them,” he said. “We were just taking them one at a time. Then we tried to take it one quarter at a time. Because if you win the quarters, you’re going to win the game.”
Jarrell Davis paced Perry with 23 points and Jon Cadavos added 17. Those two, along with Tyson Moore, gave Yokota a tougher battle in the first championship game. Since Perry hadn’t lost yet, the teams had to play a second time for one of them to get a second loss and be eliminated. Moore had 19, Davis 14 and Cadavos 11 in Yokota’s 58-48 victory. Neal led Yokota with 18, followed by Marcus Henagan with 15, Harvey with 15 and Anderson with 12.
Anderson laughed when asked if he was ready to play more basketball Wednesday.
“They’re too pumped up to be tired right now,” Ettl said. “I think they’ll feel it tomorrow.”
MVP – Jadan Anderson, Yokota
Jay Diaz, Devin Speight, Daegu; Dai’Quan Wilson, Humpheys; Jacob Lyle, E.J. King; Jon Cadavos, Jarrell Davis, Matthew C. Perry ; Shawn Monroe, Kenny Ishida, Okinawa Christian; Nicholas White, Sung DeAngelo, Osan; Shawn Robinson-Ortiz, Blake Thomas-Smaw, Robert D. Edgren; Anderson, Marcus Henagan, Yokota; Zechariah Wilson, Zion Christian
Sportsmanship - Humpheys