MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan --
Kokutaiji dominated the Wolverines 28-11 during the 2011 Youth Sports Goodwill Basketball Tournament championship game at the IronWorks Gym sports courts here March 13.
Kyoichiro Imori, Kokutaiji center, won the tip-off against Malik Hale, Wolverines’ power forward. Both teams made four points each in the first five minutes of the first quarter.
“I felt like a fish out of water during this game but we still pulled through,” Yuki Konishi, Kokutaiji small forward, said.
Imori stole the ball and was fouled. He got his team two more points coming off the line making it 6-4.
Kokutaiji distanced their lead when Yudai Sasai, Kokutaiji point guard, stole the ball and made a layup followed by Taiga Kagawa, Kokutaiji power forward, who capitalized on a rebound ending the first quarter at 10-4.
“My policy is defense first,” Akio Nishi, Kokutaiji, head coach, said. “Offense will come naturally after a good fundamental understanding of defense.”
The Wolverines started the second quarter with the ball, but Kagawa was quick to steal the ball twice and put four more points on the board for Kokutaiji 14-4.
Hale was the Wolverines only beacon of light during the second quarter. He put up a layup before getting injured and had to sit out the rest of the game.
Hale said when he was sent to the bench it seemed like the Wolverines momentum almost stopped, and Kokutaiji took full advantage of the opportunity.
By the end of the second quarter, Kokutaiji had a massive 25-6 lead. Kokutaiji’s Konishi started the third quarter off with a three-pointer.
Tamina L. Croom, Wolverines’ small forward, ducked through the Kokutaiji defense to sink a layup making it 28-8. Kokutaiji’s defense stepped up its game to stop any more scoring attempts by the Wolverines’ players for the rest of the third quarter.
“The other teams really put pressure on us during the tournament,” Konishi said. “We have a strong defense, and that really helped us get the win.”
Possession went back and forth at the start of the fourth quarter. Jamarkis M. Croom, Wolverines’ power forward, was fouled when he attempted a layup and came off the line with one point for his team.
Rion Holmes, Wolverines’ point guard, stole the ball and was also fouled.
Holmes went two for two with time running out.
With a final score of 28-11, Yadai Sasai, Kokutaiji team captain, Yudai Sasai, accepted the first place trophy during the closing ceremony.
Our practices are hard but the team really comes through during games like this said Sasai.
The Japanese teams that played during the tournament look forward to coming back to play again.Hgn