MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan --
Station residents gathered inside the IronWorks Gym sports court aboard Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, March 13, 2014, for the final game of the season youth basketball’s 13 to 15-year-old division. The Dark Knights squared off against J-Money, in a double elimination match, presenting J-Money the opportunity to grasp the championship from the undefeated Dark Knights by winning back-to-back games.
As the players hit the court, the crowd cheered for the competitors who prepared to do battle.
“I had absolute confidence in my team,” Sgt. Ascia Martin, the Dark Knights head coach. “We came in to this match undefeated and my team was going to leave as champions. We had one last challenge: J-Money. They had a very talented team, but the determination of my guys was more than enough for them to handle.”
However, the Dark Knights’ victory did not come easy. The teams battled back and forth as the game progressed. Blocked shots, rebounds and steals by both teams kept the game close. The crowd roared with each change of possession, leaving no doubt the game would go down to the wire.
“This team came a long way,” said Martin. “We had a team in which not everyone knew how to play basketball, but it’s the members within the team that took it upon themselves to help their teammates. They took the roles of leaders and that’s why we got to this point.”
The second half as intense as both teams denied their adversaries scoring opportunities. At the end of the quarter the scoreboard read 21-20 in favor of the Dark Knights.
“It’s all about the kids having fun,” said Aksana Krautsova, the youth sports coordinator for Marine Corps Community Services. “We set up these tournaments to showcase the kids’ abilities, but the main reason is to teach them how to work as a team and to build leadership skills, all the while playing a sport that they enjoy.”
With a win over J-Money, the Dark Knights received the title of champions and bragging rights until the start of next year’s youth sports basketball season.