Her-Ricanes dribble into O-League
OKINAWA, Japan -- Two players waited with their muscles coiled, bodies still, eyes focused upward, while other players shuffled anxiously around them. A sharp whistle rang out, and the players suddenly came to life, springing up to meet the ball that flew into the air. The game had begun.
The Her-Ricanes basketball team competed against the reigning O-League champions, the Phoenix, Sept. 6 at Misato Jr. High School as part of the second series of the 2013 women’s O-League tournament. This is the first time the Her-Ricanes have competed in the tournament. The first series of the tournament took place during April and May of this year.
“We normally play in the Marine Corps Community Services tournaments,” said Bernard Dogan, the head coach of the team.
American teams make up a majority of the participants in the MCCS Okinawa tournaments, leaving little opportunity to compete against local teams, according to Dogan.
The Her-Ricanes’ team is comprised of service members, civilians and dependents from bases across Okinawa. They dedicate approximately six hours a week to practice and compete in games and tournaments.
“They get an opportunity to intermingle and mix in with people who have a similar hobby with them,” said Dogan, who coached a women’s basketball team while stationed at Camp Pendleton, Calif.
Dogan founded the team to allow women stationed on Okinawa more opportunities to play.
Competing against the local teams proved to be a challenge, according to Tara L. Copeland, a forward on the team.
“They play very differently,” said Copeland. “They like to run a lot, so that’s been a big challenge for us.”
The Phoenix proved hard to catch as the game progressed. After almost every turnover, the Phoenix players were instantly on the other side of the court, assaulting the opposing basket with their speed.
However, the Her-Ricanes refused to give up quietly, using their height and physicality to grab rebounds and impede the other team’s tactics.
The style of basketball the Her-Ricanes played was unfamiliar, according to Lee Kamiya, a Phoenix player. It was new and presented a great challenge.
Both players agreed that despite their differences, competing against teams from another country was a great experience.
“We get to go out and see how different cultures play,” said Copeland. “It was cool seeing something different and experiencing different styles of play.”
The Phoenix proved victorious at the end of the evening, defeating the Her-Ricanes by a score of 56-41. Despite the loss, the Her-Ricanes are not out of the running. They won their previous game against Oki-Ice, another American team, and still have three more matches to go before the playoffs.
Dogan reminds his team of the remaining games and encourages them not to lose their enthusiasm.
“They may have beaten us today, but it’s good to play them now, so we can find their weaknesses,” he tells his team. “We’ll see them again in the playoffs.”