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Things learned, observed in Pacific high school winter sports Week 12.0

When it comes to seeding teams for this week’s Far East High School Basketball Tournaments, not all the top seeds were created equal.

The Girls Division II Tournament at Robert D. Edgren features an unusual bracket, in which the top two seeds, defending champion Daegu High of South Korea and No. 2 Morrison Academy of Taiwan, will play first-round games, while No. 7 Matthew C. Perry of Japan and No. 8 Yongsan International-Seoul will await the winners of those first-round outcomes.

Chris Waite, the tournament director, gave his rationale for the unique setup to DODDS Pacific Far East athletics coordinator Don Hobbs, who accepted the explanation and approved the bracket, Hobbs said by phone Sunday after consulting with Waite earlier in the day.

“We’re going with the bracket as he set it up,” Hobbs said.  “We’ll give it a try, we’ll see what happens and we’ll evaluate it later.” The format and seeding were to be spelled out at a pre-tournament coaches meeting Sunday evening at Edgren.

Daegu faces International School of the Sacred Heart of Tokyo and Morrison takes on Osan American in the first round. The Game 1 winner then plays Perry and the Game 2 winner against YIS-Seoul.

The seeding and format raised some eyebrows among the tournament’s coaches. “I’ve never seen anything quite like this,” said Perry coach Victor Rivera, who despite having to play one less game than Daegu said he didn’t like the format.

“It does seem odd,” coach Mimi Long of No. 3 seed E.J. King said.

The rest of the Far East High School Basketball Tournament field features boys Division I at Kubasaki, girls at Yokota and boys D-II at Zama American. Teams tip off at 8 a.m. in D-I and 9 a.m. in D-II on Monday, with the D-II tournaments concluding Wednesday afternoon and the D-I tournaments on Thursday evening.

For the first time since 1986, the tournaments begin without the luxury of pool play to help seed teams into their respective playoff brackets. That process was done in advance, with pool play having been dropped as one of the cost-cutting measures imposed by DODDS Pacific in early December.

Tournament organizers and Hobbs accomplished that daunting task without the benefit of having teams play each other to demonstrate how well or poorly they’re doing and who merits what seed. Organizers used varying methods, to include win-loss record, history of each conference at Far East, past performance, head-to-head results where available and others.

“It isn’t perfect, but it’s close,” girls D-I tournament director Tim Pujol said last week.

Those formulas produced Daegu High as the top seed of both the boys and girls D-II tournaments. Following the boys top seeds were four-time defending champion Morrison, YIS-Seoul and host Zama American. The girls seeds were almost a mirror image, with E.J. King replacing YIS-Seoul at No. 3.

In the Boys D-II tournament, each of the top four seeds got first-round byes. In D-I, the boys top seed is another defending champion and the tournament host, Kubasaki, which has won the title the last two years on Guam and now gets a chance at a three-peat on its home court. American School In Japan follows at No. 2, as are the Mustangs in the girls D-I bracket, with Kadena, last year’s runner-up, as the top seed. With 15 teams in the D-I tournaments, the only teams getting first-round byes are the top seeds.

The question now, as I’m sure many a coach has discussed and debated, whether the seeding selections were accurate. Did Hobbs and Waite, boys D-II honcho Steven Rabine, girls D-I poobah Tim Pujol and boys D-I chieftain Fred Bales get it right, or did they whiff on it big time or somewhere in between?

Which teams will prove worthy of their seeds? Which teams will come from out of nowhere, a 12th-seed lightning bolt out of a clear sky and shock the world? Which teams will clearly demonstrate that their top or near-top seed wasn’t warranted in the least?

It all begins Monday.

-- Yokota: Despite a bit of a rough patch during January and early February, the Panthers can still be dangerous, especially around this time of year. Sophomore Ke’Ondre Davis, considered by observers to be a work in progress, stepped up big in Yokota’s prime-time 51-49 win Friday at Capps Gym. The victory gave American School In Japan the Kanto Plain Association of Secondary Schools championship without stepping on the court, as Kinnick fell into a second-place tie with Zama American with three losses each; ASIJ has just two.

-- Nile C. Kinnick: Will the real Red Devils please stand up? After manhandling Christian Academy Japan on Tuesday, they hit the road against a Yokota team they’ve beaten twice and lost yet another heartbreaker at Capps Gym.

-- Seoul American: Both boys and girls teams appear primed to at least give people problems, if not make a deep run at the D-I titles; the boys haven’t won one in five years, the girls in two. The questions: Have the girls been tested enough, and can the boys show they won’t let a half-court slowdown by the opponents throw them off their game?

-- Daegu American: Transfer star Anfernee Dent’s knee is a concern; one could see he was having trouble finishing as he ran upcourt with the ball. One can see that the girls team is still working hard to replace departed center Maleah Potts Cash. They’re trying, but that’s a difficult task. The fact that both teams finished out of the title running at KAIAC 5CD usually bodes for a good performance at Far East D-II; that’s exactly what happened to Daegu’s girls last year, taking the D-II title after failing at KAIAC.

-- Osan American: Good teams waiting to happen, especially on the boys side, with their talented threesome of Derrick Merriwether, Marlon Cox and Manasseh Nartey. The girls survived a tight 35-34 finish with International Christian-Uijongbu; some signs of life there.

Top performances
-- Jasmine Thomas earned KAIAC 5CD Most Valuable Player honors, 25 points, 11 rebounds and five steals to power Seoul American past Seoul Foreign 55-28 in the tournament final.
-- Olu Akinbayo, a junior also described as a work in progress by his coach, scored 50 points and pulled down 33 rebounds in three games to garner the boys MVP award, with Seoul American outlasting YIS-Seoul 47-42.
-- Ke’Ondre Davis scored the winning basket on a tip-in at the buzzer in Yokota’s edging of Kinnick. He finished with 12 points.

Who’s hot
Can Seoul American’s KAIAC gains translate into D-I title glory?

Who’s not
Can Daegu right itself in time to be competitive at D-II?

The $64,000 question
Can anybody prevent Faith Academy’s boys, American School In Japan’s girls and both of Morrison Academy’s  teams from making it an international-school sweep of all four Far East hoops titles?

 

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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.)

 

Aug. 29: High school football is back and Dave talks about the prospects of DODDS teams in Japan.

May 30: Recapping ASIJ's and Zama's Far East baseball championships that capped the Pacific high school sports school year.

May 23: A look back at the Far East track championships and a look ahead at the ongoing baseball finals.