Things learned, observed in Pacific high school basketball Week 7.0
-- Warriors on the warpath, channeling 1997 team: The similarities are so striking, it borders on the frightening.
Fifteen years ago, Daegu American’s girls basketball team appeared to be suffering “rebuildingitis.” The core three players from the 1995-96 team, Hwa Jin Cho, Angela Calhoun and Ju Young Park, had graduated, leaving behind a scrappy bunch that, while it had ability, wasn’t the experienced lot of its predecessors.
And it showed, then-Warriors coach Tim Pujol recounted to me in a late-night Friday phone conversation. Early in the Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference season, the Warriors tried to stay with the Seoul American Falcons in a contest of speed, quickness and skill. I think Pujol said the final score was 84-25 Falcons.
He learned his lesson. The next time the teams played was in the KAIAC tournament in April 1997, hosted at the Warriors’ second home court, Kelly Fitness & Sports Center on Camp Walker.
Rather than try to match the Falcons’ speed and athleticism, Pujol borrowed a page from Osan American coach Bruce Barker’s playbook … the four-corner slowdown.
Players such as forwards Latasha Thompson and Suzzane Hutchison, center Julie Madaio and guards Kelly Adkins and Nancy Canlas remained patient, not daring to play the Falcons’ game, but play theirs. The result – a 35-30 victory over Seoul American. And the next day, the Warriors beat Seoul Foreign to capture the league tournament title.
Fast forward to Jan. 6, 2012. Of the Warriors’ team that won the Far East Division II Tournament title two years earlier, just a couple remain, with the … wait for it … big three of center Kristina Bergman and guards Gulee Kwon and Angie Robinet having graduated.
Not to mention, coach Michelle Chandler departed for a new assignment to Sigonella, Sicily, and the Warriors are already on their second coach since. Ken Walter, the school’s athletic director, took the reins when Ed Hearn stepped aside last month for undisclosed reasons.
This new Warriors crew, featuring transfer Raven Calloway and holdover Sarah Wright, did something that the 1997 team did not – beat the Falcons on their HOME court at Falcon Gym, 53-46 in overtime last Friday. It took monster games from Wright (31 points, 11 steals), Calloway (11 steals, 13 rebounds) and center Maleah Potts Cash (14 rebounds), but they got ’er done, as Larry the Cable Guy would say.
A dream scenario, Wright said later.
First time the Falcons have lost two KAIAC regular-season games since 20 years ago, when guard Sumi Pyo, forward Julie Anderson and the Seoul International Tigers were on their way to a Pacific-record three straight Far East D-II Tournament titles and a 46-game winning streak spanning three seasons.
-- Dragons on the rebound: It was far from the start that Kubasaki’s boys enjoyed last season en route to the Dragons’ Pacific-best 10th Far East Division I Tournament title, going 6-5 including a middle-of-the-pack finish in last month’s Holiday Classic at American School In Japan.
But coach Jon Fick’s charges turned on the jets the day school reopened. A month earlier, Kubasaki had barely scraped past Zion Christian Academy 91-88 on the Dragons’ home floor. On Jan. 3, it was a much different story, with defense and deadeye shooting lifting Kubasaki past the Lions 107-63.
But that was just the beginning. After a tight first half, the Dragons broke things open in the third quarter, and Brandon Crawford, back after missing the team’s first few games, looked like a difference-maker, scoring a team-high 26 points as Kubasaki evened its Okinawa Activities Council season series with Kadena at 1-1, scoring a 76-59 win at home.
They take that 8-5 mark into this weekend’s Martin Luther King Invitational, along with Kadena’s boys and girls and Kubasaki’s girls. Seoul American’s boys and girls will do the same at Camp Humphreys’ brand of MLK hoops.
-- DODDS Japan D-I vs. D-II weekend games inconclusive: Pretty hard to tell whether Division I or Division II schools had their way in the first weekend of long-haul games between DODDS Japan teams at the outlying schools.
As expected, Zama’s boys and girls each dispatched E.J. King quite easily at Sasebo Naval Base. As expected, Yokota’s girls got two wide-margined road wins at Robert D. Edgren, as did Nile C. Kinnick’s girls get a two-game sweep at Matthew C. Perry.
What was not expected, perhaps, was Edgren’s boys sweeping Yokota with ease. And Kinnick’s boys won the first of two games Friday at Matthew C. Perry, but lost the second game; the thought had been that the Samurai’s 10-1 start was the result of playing inferior Western Japan Athletic Association talent, but at least based on their first encounter, the two teams came out even.
Thus, I wouldn’t draw any conclusions from the unexpected. Let’s see how they do in next month’s DODDS Japan tournament at Yokota, and other regularly-scheduled matchups the rest of the way.