MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan --
The Wolverines gave it their best against the Waki Junior High School, but Waki walked away with the win 37-32 in a 13- to 15-year-old youth basketball game at the IronWorks Gym sports courts here Saturday.
The game seemed to be a warm up to the upcoming tournament scheduled to take place March 30 with more American and Japanese youth basketball teams at the IronWorks Gym sports courts here.
“We came out here last year and enjoyed it so much, we decided to return for the tournament this year,” Yoshifumi Kawanishi, Waki head coach, said.
The Wolverines took possession of the ball at the start. The players went back and forth until Tatsuki Onaka, Waki point guard, sank a 3-point shot.
The two teams battle on and by the end of the first quarter, Waki was up 9-4.
“We practice seven days a week to get better,” Yoshifumi Kawanishi, Waki head coach, said. “After today’s game, we’re going to work on our offense because we aren’t as aggressive as other teams we play against.”
At the start of the second quarter, the Wolverines were able to make a bucket before fouling Yusuke Yatsugi, Waki small forward. Yatsugi was able to sink the two shots to keep the lead.
Malik Hale, Wolverines guard forward, was able to make back-to-back layups to gain the advantage over Waki.
Yuuki Tanaka, Waki guard forward, answered with a layup making it 13-12 with 3:26 left in the quarter.
“We kept running a 3-2, but the Waki players kept breaking it down,” Hale said. “Our team work is great, but it can be improved.”
Hale single handedly put nine points on the board for the Wolverines in the rest of the second quarter, but the Wolverines were still trailing at the end of the quarter 22-20.
“I really enjoyed playing against the experienced American players,” Taiki Takeshita, Waki center, said. “They helped my team figure out what we need to work on.”
Waki players had their hands on the ball going into the third quarter. They showed exceptional team work by getting the ball from hoop to hoop in a few short passes.
Waki was able to make another three points before the Wolverines called a time out with 2:27 left in the quarter.
The time out seemed to be what the players needed because they came back with well played team work of their own and scored a bucket. Their efforts wouldn’t be enough to finish on top. By the end of the quarter, Waki maintained the lead 25-23.
The flood gates sprang open in the fourth quarter with both teams’ players giving their all to make as many baskets as they could.
It looked like the game was going to end with Waki gaining an 11-point lead.
With two minutes left on the clock, the Wolverines stepped up their game dominating the rebounds and sinking buckets.
Only 27 seconds were remaining when the Wolverines made their last 2-pointer bringing the score to 37-32. The teams fought hard until the buzzer went off.
“It was hard trying to get past the tall American players,” Yuuki Oyama, Waki power forward, said. “I’m feeling very tall after this win.”
The Waki players are scheduled to be heading into the tournament next month. They seem to be excited at another chance to play against American players.