News: Jolly Green Giants not so jolly with competition
Story by Lance Cpl. James Smith
IWAKUNI, Japan - The youth basketball’s 13-to-15-year-old division played its final game of the season as the Jolly Green Giants squared off for the championship against the Iwakuni Legends at the IronWorks Gym sports courts here, March 14, 2013.
In the course of the season, the Giants won every game, including a pre-season and regular-season tournament. The Legends lost twice in their entire season, both to the Giants.
“Before the game started, we had the mindset that we were going to play another game against them because it was a double elimination game,” said Windell Stewart, Iwakuni Legends coach. “If we win the first game, we play another game against them.”
The teams battled back and forth as the game progressed, constantly blocking shots, catching rebounds or stealing the ball. By the end of the first half, the Legends possessed a one-point lead over the Giants.
“I told the kids they needed to hustle more,” said Damian Deanda, Jolly Green Giants coach. “Rebounds were a big thing as well. They kept missing a lot of their first shots and couldn’t get the rebounds.”
The second half intensified with the Legends blasting ahead with eight points. The Giants came back with another two baskets and six free throws to finally take the lead.
With two minutes left in the fourth quarter, frustration set in as the Giants sat ahead by one. Multiple technical fouls called against the Legends gave the Giants the opening they were looking for.
Vince Ermitan, Giants player, made nine free throws, bringing the score to 29-19. The Legends made a desperate attempt to catch up by making a basket, but the Giants countered with a basket of their own. The final seconds of the game expired as the Giants defeated the Legends 31-21.
“We won the championship last year, but it was nowhere near as being undefeated,” said Deanda. “We practice three times a week, and it really paid off.”
For the coaches of the Legends, defeat didn’t matter because the night was about something else.
“This team came a long way,” said Nicholas Buenrostro, Legends coach. “We couldn’t get everyone to practice all the time, but they overcame it, they showed up and they played their hearts out. That’s all we could ask from them.”
With the youth basketball season finished, the Jolly Green Giants hold the bragging rights with two tournament wins, an undefeated season and a championship to top it all off.
This year, the Giants, much like their namesakes, stood taller than their competition.