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Hail Crenshaw, Fern, Hardeman, Stripes’ winter Athletes of the Quarter

For C.J. Crenshaw and Kubasaki's boys basketball team, success was measured, especially in the second half of the season, in ones. Where Faith Academy’s girls team was concerned, success was measured in one hugely meaningful pair – Grace Fern and Kelly Hardeman.

The three seniors made their exits from the Far East Tournament stage in high style, as Crenshaw’s Dragons and Fern’s and Hardeman’s Vanguards brought home the gold, Kubasaki for the second straight year, the third time on coach Jon Fick’s watch and Pacific-record 11th title, Faith its sixth D-I crown and second in four years and 10th Far East title overall, including four D-II golds.

Crenshaw averaged 21 points per game for Kubasaki (23-15), but at the foul line was where the guard made his greatest impact. He shot 75 percent from the line for the season, and an eye-popping 91 percent after the holiday break.

Before a mostly partisan chamoru crowd at the Charles King Fitness & Sports Center on Naval Station, Guam, Kubasaki beat Okkodo of Guam 55-47 on Feb. 25 in the D-I Tournament final. Crenshaw, who was named the tournament’s MVP, shot 6-for-9 from the foul line and Kubasaki as a team went 10-for-15 in the last 3:43.

“He’s an outstanding young citizen,” Fick said of Crenshaw. “He deserves everything he gets.”

At Yokota High School’s Capps Gym, hosting the girls D-I Tournament for the first time since 1989, the “Grace & Kelly Show” played to its final curtain, as the two combined for 44 points in powering the Lady V’s past Kadena 57-33 in the Feb. 25 gold-medal game.

It was the second D-I tournament title in four tries for Hardeman and Fern – they finished second twice to Seoul American the previous two years after beating the Falcons when the two were freshmen – and the two played so well together that even coach Joshua Manthe couldn’t decide which one would be tournament MVP … so the two shared the honor.

“It was a peak in a journey that is far from over, and one that will most likely bring higher, more exciting mountaintops to climb,” Manthe said of Fern, who averaged 18 points, 5 steals and 5 assists per game, and Hardeman, who averaged 23 points, 11 rebounds and 3 blocked shots.

Of losing four straight Far East D-I Tournament finals to Seoul American in three sports over a 1½-year span, Manthe said: “It’s tough on kids to work so hard and to be right there but to continually come up short. … A lot of kids that age would crumble, they would throw in the towel, but not these girls. They got back in the saddle every time, worked harder, had more determination, always eager for another opportunity to prove themselves, no matter how many times they came up short.”

-- Coach of the Quarter/Team of the Quarter: Daegu High’s girls basketball team was thought to be in full-blown rebuilding mode. The Warriors’ Big Three, Kristina Bergman, Gulee Kwon and Angie Robinet, had graduated. Not only did Daegu have to replace its coach of more than a decade, Michelle Chandler, but new coach Ed Hearn stepped down for personal reasons early this season. Enter the fray stepped athletics director Ken Walter, who’d never coached girls varsity ball in his life, along with the “Super Sophomores,” Lari Robertson, Sarah Wright and Kierra Pineda, along with senior transfer Raven Calloway. The Warriors lost but two times all season and won the Far East D-II title 32-20 over Robert D. Edgren.

-- Most improved team: Once senior point guard Jen Black got back into the Robert D. Edgren Eagles girls basketball team’s lineup, they soared. Edgren began the season 0-9, but went 13-6 the rest of the way, reaching the Far East D-II title game.

-- Best singular performance: Not only did Rebekah Harwell of Matthew C. Perry break the Pacific high school girls basketball single-game scoring record once – she matched the record of 44 set in 2009 by Kubasaki’s Gabby Falco, then shattered it with 52 points on Dec. 10 in a 66-41 romp over E.J. King in a Western Japan Athletic Association tournament at Canadian Academy in Kobe. Small wonder she was named Most Valuable Player of the Far East D-II Tournament.

-- Basketball games of the quarter: Yokota senior guard Warren Manegan experienced a very Dickens-like two days at the Far East Boys D-I Tournament on Guam, the best of times and the worst of times. His three-point goal as time ran out gave the Panthers a 45-43 first-round playoff win over George Washington. But the next day, the Panthers were eliminated in the quarterfinals on a buzzer-beater by Aaron Blas as eventual runner-up Okkodo edged Yokota 61-59 in overtime.

-- Wrestling dual meet/bout of the Quarter: It was almost an instant replay of last year’s Far East gold-medal dual, as St. Mary’s International repeated its title by edging host Nile C. Kinnick 33-25 in a result that was far closer than the final score indicated. The Titans needed the last two bouts to break a 25-25 tie and stay ahead for good. Sean Ward, St. Mary’s 215-pounder, won a close two-period decision over Kinnick’s Ian O’Brien to put the Titans ahead to stay.

-- Best Newcomer/Wrestler of the Quarter:
Zama American Trojans junior 141-pound wrestler Chad Wilder went 35-1 overall this season with four titles and one second in five tournaments after transferring from American Heritage in south Florida. He lived up to his billing as "the next one," the logical successor to Zama's three-time Far East champion Michael Spencer, by winning at 141 pounds and being named the tournament's Outstanding Wrestler.

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Ornauer on AFN

 

Stars and Stripes reporter Dave Ornauer talks about the Pacific sports scene on AFN Radio. (Click on right arrow to play file.)

 

Oct. 17: The Nile C. Kinnick football team can ensure its fans have good seats for the Far East Division I final with a win over Kadena on Saturday.

Oct. 3: Dave Ornauer talks about the weekend's key football matchups, including Matthew C. Perry at American School In Japan.

Sept. 12: Dave Ornauer highlights Nile C. Kinnick's win over Zama, 30-0, during high school football last week, discusses other games throughout the Pacific.