Things learned, observed in Pacific winter sports Week 3.0
Published: December 5, 2011
Musings, mutterings and the occasional schmahts as Ornauer stumbles and bumbles toward the start of the New Year Classic (this year for both boys and girls) and toward the holiday break, which this year he’ll sorely need:
Time was when the only two sheriffs on the Okinawa high school boys basketball block wore black and gold (nine-time Far East Division I Tournament champion Kadena) and green and white (10-time champion Kubasaki).
Best look out, for there’s a new group of basketballers in town. They wear black with white trim. They’re very much like Kadena’s and Kubasaki’s Japanese counterparts, in that they run the floor, press like crazy and shoot like it’s nobody’s bid’ness. But this bunch also has height. And they have a shooter wearing No. 4, about whom Will Rogers might have remarked: “He never saw a shot he didn’t take.”
I speak of the Zion Christian Academy Lions. Prior to Friday, they were better known for their track exploits, specifically the girls distance runners such as Sarah Wilson and Teauna Baker.
But it turns out Zion’s boys are a track and cross-country team with a serious basketball problem. Mashu Wakita, Akira Shavers do more than rack up long-distance times, and Craig Hollins – gad, has HE trimmed weight and gotten svelte and quick! – is far more than just a discus thrower and shot putter. And that Markese Bohanon! Can that kid shoot or what?
In just their first varsity basketball game in school history, Zion threw a major scare into the reigning Far East D-I champion Dragons on Kubasaki’s home court. Trailing by 20, the Lions roared back to get within 87-85 in the final seconds before settling for a 91-88 defeat.
In time, they’ll get even better. And if they can develop depth beyond their starting five, they’ll have more staying power.
Memo to Zama American athletics director Tom Allensworth, Far East Division II Tournament director: Invite the Lions to Far East. Like, now. Like, yesterday.
I guess this year, we won’t be counting Kubasaki’s consecutive victories to start the season, as we did all the way into the New Year Classic at American School In Japan. That went by the boards Wednesday, when Chatan hit a buzzer-beating three-point basket to squelch a Kubasaki rally from a 14-point second-half deficit. Chatan beat the Dragons 86-84 in just the third game of the season for Kubasaki.
Kadena gave Chatan some American payback a couple of nights later, and it was the Panthers’ new folk who stepped up to the plate in their season-opening 86-73 win at Chatan. Preston Harris (22 points), Derrick Taylor (14) and Jalen Amos (10).
It may have seemed like a one-sided outcome, but there was a silver lining for Kubasaki’s girls in their 68-27 home loss to Naha Commercial. It was the fourth quarter, in which the Dragons scored 17 points, Sydney Johnson netting 11 of those points of her 13 total. And their heads weren’t down after being dominated by their Japanese counterparts. After the game, the two teams posed for photos and enjoyed snacks and cold drinks together. Fun afternoon.
Speaking of ASIJ, it didn’t take long for new coach Brian Kelley’s heroes to make an opening statement – last Tuesday on the road, they poured it on against Zama American, with the Mustangs’ Big Three of Sam Hopkins (27 points), Hayden Jardine (12) and Sam Olson (10) leading the way. Not bad for three football players.
But Zama answered right back three nights later on the Trojans’ home court against a Robert D. Edgren team that sported Japan’s best record last season (25-6). David Coleman’s 19 points helped Zama burst ahead by eight after one quarter, then hang on to beat the Eagles 60-55.
And Jacob Sterry and the Eagles answered the challenge one night later, again on Zama’s home court. The lanky senior scored 19 points and Edgren downed Nile C. Kinnick 53-48.
Side note here – Those two games, and Zama’s and Kinnick’s girls victories over Edgren at Zama, got off to very late starts and the last games didn’t get over with until 11 p.m. I understand Saturday’s late starts due to SAT exams, but … why couldn’t Edgren’s teams have left Misawa Air Base at 9 p.m. Thursday instead of 5 a.m. Friday? The Eagles arrived at Trojans Gym at 3 p.m., with the first games slated to start an hour later. A 7 a.m. arrival would have given the Eagles a chance to sleep prior. Somebody needs to revisit the bus departure schedules.
Down south at Sasebo Naval Base, Yokota’s defending DODDS Japan champion boys and girls teams got off to solid starts, taking two games each from E.J. King, the girls behind the inside and outside play of Trinity Davis and Erika Ettl. And the boys didn’t seem to miss guard Warren Manegan too awfully much (stayed behind to take SATs), and just imagine how much better they’ll be when he’s back in the lineup?
How many times have you seen brothers post triple-doubles in the same game? That was the case at Kobe, where Jon and Sam Cadavos turned the trick in points, boards and assists to spark Matthew C. Perry to an easy sweep at Marist Brothers International. The second day, the Cadavos brothers and two others, Malik Hale and James Kerr, each posted double-doubles.
And the girls won two more games, and showed they’re not just the Rebekah Harwell show. Sophomore Courtney Beall averaged double figures in rebounds and freshman Briana Drake scored in double figures in Saturday’s game.
All told, the Samurai boys and girls are a combined 11-3, the best start in school history. In preceding seasons, one team or the other would start out strong, but never both teams this strongly at the same time. The girls have won five straight since dropping their first two at E.J. King.
Want to keep an eye on somebody on the girls side? De’Asia Brown, a freshman, tossed in 27 points as the Red Devils girls throttled Edgren 61-31. Brown will bear considerable watching throughout her years at Yokosuka Naval Base. She’s a star in the making.
Among other teams getting off to rousing starts, Seoul American’s boys opened by winning their first three games. Tomi Akinbayo did much of the damage over those three games, but I mean that performance during Saturday’s 93-59 win at Seoul Foreign by Bryant McCray … 29 points, 20 rebounds, six steals. Plus the steady play of Mark Elliott. When people say the Falcons are back, they know what they’re talking about. I’m hearing many folk suggesting they’re the “team to beat” this season.
Daegu American’s boys didn’t have it quite as easy as the Falcons, but they still won the week by a total victory margin of five points, one of the wins coming in overtime at Taejon Christian International. Darius Wyche usually has the hot scoring hand, but the steady inside play of Richard Buck (averaging 17 points and eight rebounds) helped make the difference.
On the wrestling mats opening weekend, DODDS Japan tournament at Edgren and the initial DODDS Korea tri-meet at Osan American, the usual suspects broke out of the gate smartly.
But especially where Korea was concerned, the three teams nearly filled all their weight classes, unlike a year ago when Osan was barely half full and Daegu High fielded just three wrestlers. The wrestling was “a whole lot better this year” than the season-opening three-way last year, Daegu coach Luke Spencer said.
Seoul American won its two dual meets, with Robert Rhea, last year’s fifth-place 129-pounder, scoring two victories. “Robert’s worked on some counter moves,” Spencer said. “He’ll be tough to beat.”
Much of the talk revolved around Osan’s new heavyweight, “Tiny” Tim Cuthbertson. “He moves well,” Spencer said. “He impressed the heck out of me.”
Yokota edged out Nile C. Kinnick 139-136 to win the Edgren tournament and won four weight classes despite leaving a handful of starters behind. Trenton Traylor, Stanley Speed, Ed Peterson and Jesse Hogan won weight golds for Yokota, as did Marcus Boehler of Kinnick. Wrestling at 122 pounds, Boehler was “outstanding,” Yokota coach Brian Kitts said of the Red Devil star trying to become just the third to win a fourth Far East weight-class gold.
Edgren won four weights and reigning Far East Division II champion Zama American won a pair of golds.
The first big test for Kanto Plain schools comes Saturday in an invitational tournament at American School In Japan, where Kitts feels it will come down to his Panthers against the reigning Far East Division I champion St. Mary’s International Titans. “We’ll know who by next weekend,” Kitts said.