The Sabers high school boys and girls junior varsity basketball teams wrapped up the 2018 season with first and second place finishes at their respective WJAA tournaments, January 13, 2018. The boys, playing at Canadian Academy in Kobe, held off the host Falcons in the last 30 seconds for a thrilling championship victory, winning 39-37. The girls, having traveled to Yokohama International School, lost to the host Dragons in the finals, 38-22.
The Sabers girls, led by Coach Okamoto and Coach Hirai, finished first in their pool to advance to the semifinals, where they dispatched the Canadian Academy Falcons, 41-22, before falling to a strong Yokohama team in the finals. All scores and game video can be viewed on the tournament website and YouTube page.
The Sabers boys, after narrowing losing their first-day opening game in the final minute to the host CA Falcons, were faced with the difficult task of having to win 4 games in a row to take the WJAA title. Three of those games came on the second day of the tournament with a depleted 8-player squad and little rest between games. On day 2, the Sabers first defeated the YIS Dragons 57-46 and then came from behind to beat the Hokkaido Huskies 53-40, setting up a rematch against the well-rested Falcons in the championship game in front of partisan home crowd.
In the final, the Sabers, facing fatigue, cramps, and injury, chose to forego their full-court press and fast-paced offense. The Falcons, fortunately for the Sabers, were content to slow down the game. The game was a back-and-forth affair with the Sabers up at halftime, 18-14, and the Falcons ahead 25-24 after 3 quarters. With 3 minutes left, the Sabers had a 6-point lead and seemed in control. But with 35 seconds left, CA tied the game at 37. On their ensuing possession, the Sabers, who struggled with rebounding throughout the game, came up with 2 crucial offensive rebounds to set up a Takayoshi Nakagawa midrange jumper that found nothing but net to put SOIS up 39-37 with 18 seconds left. The Sabers then made one last half-court defensive stand and CA’s last-second off-balance shot fell short.
Ken Taniuchi, a powerhouse in the paint and having played nearly every minute of the tournament, was named to the all-tournament team. Takayoshi Nakagawa scored 20 points in a Friday round-robin game and hit the game winner in the final. Owen Kralovec found his touch at just the right time to score a game-high 14 points in the final. Rui Kurisa managed the point guard position. Kevin Xu was strong inside. Neo Yokoyama was a defensive and offensive sparkplug.
Yuki Kojima and Kai Riku were valuable off the bench.
Jin Sato played on Friday, starting in his final game as a Saber.
The Sabers were coached by Coach Heimer and Coach Routh.
Sabers in black, going left.
- Another view of the final seconds of the championship game (Takayoshi's game winner, Sabers final defensive stand)
- Championship game, 3rd quarter and part of 4th quarter (with commentary from Hokkaido coach Mario)
- Roundrobin game vs Hokkaido Huskies (full game video courtesy of Hokkaido)