Story by Lance Cpl. Elizabeth Case
Okinawa and U.S. women’s basketball teams competed in an all-women’s basketball tournament March 2-3 at the Semper Fit Gym at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.
The screeching of shoes on a polished basketball court echoed throughout the gymnasium as teams fought for victory. Fans cheered in Japanese and English as they rooted for their team.
Despite language barriers, the spirit of sportsmanship was mutually understood through the shared competition of basketball.
“This tournament is our way to highlight and promote women’s basketball,” said Rathell Smith, the athletic director for MCAS Futenma. “It is a really fun way for us to promote friendship at the same time.”
The two-day tournament included double-elimination games on the first day and single-elimination games on the second day. Nine teams from throughout Okinawa, including three American teams, played in the tournament. The team members varied in age from high school students to adults, and were comprised of active-duty service members and civilians.
The basketball games were an interesting learning experience, according to Haraka Yonaha, a player for the Maehara High School basketball team, Okinawa.
“I’ve never experienced a competition with American players before, so I’m really excited,” said Yonaha. “Our team and the American teams have different styles of playing, so it is great to learn from each other how to become better at the sport. I would like the opportunity to play on base with American teams more often.”
The varying skill levels gave players new opportunities to enjoy the sport, according to Master Sgt. Bernard Dogan, the coach for the Lady Her-ricanes, one of the American teams composed of service members and family members.
“This kind of tournament is exactly what the players want to be a part of,” said Dogan. “It’s a really exciting tournament to watch, and it’s a fun way for us to get to know all of these other great players in competition and good spirit.”
The competition kept the crowd excited, as teams were eliminated throughout both tournament days. As the games came to a close, the Okinawa women’s team from Maehara High School won first place, followed by Lady Storm, one of the American teams, and Nishihara High School, another Okinawa team.
The tournament ended with new friendships and opportunities, as players and coaches look to the future.
“I’m so happy I could be a part of this tournament,” said Dogan. “I look forward to bringing more tournaments for the women’s teams and having the ladies compete against one another more often. I am glad we can continue this fellowship and camaraderie with women basketball players on Okinawa.”