Kadena girls second again; Warriors, Osan, Kunsan win MLKs
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa – With a series of missed opportunities, the Kadena High School girls lost to the Lady Warriors 59-47, failing in their third bid in four years to win the Martin Luther King Invitational Basketball Tournament.
The Warriors, a women’s open team, outscored the Panthers 25-8 in the first 13 minutes of the second half as player-coach Ebony Robinson scored 15 of her 19 points, leading three players in double figures.
Critical was a five-minute segment of the second half in which the Panthers missed five of six foul shots plus an easy layup and the Warriors forced Kadena into three turnovers that each led to points.
“That killed us. That sealed our fate,” Panthers coach Willie Ware said. “At that point, they were up by two when they put that run together. It’s a game of runs. And in the second half, it seemed like there was a lid on the basket.”
Leading just 28-25 at halftime, the Warriors turned on the jets from the field and the foul line, where Sandra Adames made six straight free throws. Tournament MVP Brittany Eley contributed 18 points for the Warriors.
Compounding the Panthers’ troubles, guards Jasmine Rhodes and Linda Vaughan and forwards Tiarrah Edwards and Jazmyn Sharper were each saddled with at least three fouls, preventing Ware from employing a pressing defense until the closing minutes.
“We had to throw everything out the window, bring the press, but by then, it was too late,” Ware said. Rhodes paced the Panthers with 14 points, 10 in the first half. Kadena missed nine foul shots, seven in the second half.
Still, Ware said, the experience of playing in the four-day MLK could benefit the Panthers (14-6) down the road. “This was the first time we had to play from behind in close games,” he said. “This helps us. We always welcome competition like this.”
Adames, a former two-time All-Marine, said experience won out over youth and stamina, that the Warriors relied on what she called “basketball IQ” to slow Kadena’s penetration and athleticism.
“They’re still being taught what we’d already learned at that age,” Adames said.
It was the fourth straight year the Panthers played into the tournament’s final day. They finished third last year.
In the Okinawa MLK finals, it was all Warriors. After the Lady Warriors bagged their first Okinawa MLK title, the men from Camp Kinser, led by MVP and All-Marine Kenny Blackwell, thrashed Rebound, another open team, 73-47.
And it was all Air Force, all the time in the Korea MLK, in which teams had to battle not only each other, but the elements. Bad weather meant an hour’s delay in games played at the Super and MP Hill Gyms. Kunsan Air Base’s men stumbled once, losing 82-81 in pool play to Daegu-Area IV, before storming through four teams in elimination games. The Wolf Pack, who won their playoff games by an average of 12 points per game, claimed the title 77-66 over Yongsan Garrison.
Osan Air Base’s women blew through the field unbeaten and by an average of 25.3 points - until the Defenders reached the final against Area I, which matched Osan step for step until the end. The Defenders outlasted the Warriors 61-59, their closest margin of the weekend.