The morning sun shone through the windows of the IronWorks Gym sports courts as six youth basketball teams competed in a friendly tournament here March 17.
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan -- Six teams, comprised of four Japanese high school teams and two American teams, played in the double-elimination tournament.
“We love having the Japanese teams come here and play against our youth teams,” said Camille Peet, IronWorks Gym youth sports coordinator. “It challenges the children to play at their very best.”
In one of the first games played, Ajina-Dai Junior High School sent the Rockets to the loser’s bracket with a final score of 34-12.
The Rockets beat the other U.S. team, the Tsunamis, in the first game of the loser’s bracket but were not able to get past Hirata Junior High School.
“We played against some really tough teams,” said Rion Holmes, 14, Rockets point guard. “This tournament showed us our weak points so we can work on getting better for the upcoming season.”
Ajina-Dai JHS did not go undefeated. They lost to Otake Junior High School in the winner’s bracket quarter finals, but were able to beat Hirata JHS in the loser’s bracket semifinals.
Ajina-Dai JHS faced Otake JHS again in the finals. Both teams played energetically and Ajina- Dai came out on top.
Since Otake JHS beat Ajina-Dai JHS previously, the two teams played a final overtime game.
The two teams played a close game, but Otake JHS was able to snatch the victory with a lastsecond layup ending the game 26-24.
“We had to change our strategy against the American teams,” said Ryouko Murai, Otake JHS team captain. “They have tall players. We had to work around them to get the win.”
It is not often for IronWorks Gym to host a multinational tournament for the youth basketball teams. The players and coaches seemed to enjoy the opportunity to play against different cultures of basketball.
“I know my team loved coming here and playing against everyone,” said Sinya Todaka, Otake JHS coach. “It was a unique experience we will cherish. We hope to play here again soon.”
Experiencing the different cultures is what tournaments like this really help with, said Peet.
After the tournament’s closing ceremony and the teams received their trophies, the players went to the Crossroads Mall and celebrated their games together.
“We really liked the American culture the American players shared with us,” said Murai. “It was a relaxed and fun environment for us to talk and have fun in.”
After eating their food and hanging out with each other, it was time for the Japanese teams to head home. The children waved goodbye until the next time they can challenge their skills again on the courts.