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Pacific high school basketball ratings, post-semester exams edition

Boys
1 (tie), American School In Japan (11-0) and Seoul American (19-6): Mustangs Idle last week. Alex Torres gave Falcons a spark last Friday off the bench.
2. Kubasaki, Okinawa (13-14): Leapfrogged Kadena thanks to C.J. Crenshaw’s 21-for-24 at the line Friday.
3. Kadena, Okinawa (11-12): Chance to knot Okinawa Activities Council season series comes Feb. 9 at Kubasaki.
4. Morrison Academy, Taiwan (16-1): Off for Lunar New Year break.
5. Faith Academy, Philippines (19-6). Came up just short in Vanguards’ own Hardeman Showcase.
6 (tie). Robert D. Edgren, Japan (11-1) and George Washington, Guam (5-0): Eagles very likely will be seeded No. 1 in DODDS Japan tournament. Geckos showing why they’ve been invited to Far East Division I Tournament.
7, Yokota, Japan (12-6): Solid performance at Iwakuni last weekend.
8. Daegu High, South Korea (11-3): Warriors capped best regular season since 2007-08.
9. Matthew C. Perry, Japan (12-5): Samurai’s shot at top seed likely evaporated last weekend against Yokota.
10. Okkodo, Guam (5-1): Playing very smartly for a relatively new school.

Girls

1. American School In Japan (8-1): Idle last week
2. Yokota, Japan (20-1): Only blemish is that road loss at ASIJ.
3. Daegu High, South Korea (14-0): First unbeaten Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference Division I season in school history.
4. Kadena, Okinawa (15-7): Survived a huge overtime scare against Kubasaki.
5. Nile C. Kinnick, Japan (18-5): Still looking solid after weekend sweep at Sasebo.
6. Faith Academy, Philippines (15-4): Eighth straight win also nets Lady V’s the Hardeman Showcase title..
7. Notre Dame, Guam (season complete).
8. Seoul American (12-5): Falcons on an eight-game regular-season roll as well.
9. Simon Sanchez, Guam (season complete).
10. Seoul Foreign (10-4). Up next, the Asia-Pacific Activities Conference tournament in Beijing.

Think your ratings are more accurate than mine? Shout it out! Be true to your school, and remember: You’ve entered THE “No-Hate Zone.”
J

Updated Pacific's best five basketball players of the past 30 years

Far less discussion this time around than we've had the previous two times we visited this. Guess it's time to stir the ashes and see if we can spark some new debate here in Sports Blog Nation by taking matters into Ornauer's own hands. :)

For those who argue that this list is faulted because it only includes players dating back to 1982, that's the list's whole point: Best players of the past 30 years, from the time Ornauer began covering the Pacific scene.

If this were to include the best of all time, then you'd see names like Tim Griffin of the old Misawa High School (class of 1971), Jackie Creech of Kubasaki (1980), Bruce Young of CAJ (1966) and Todd Hardeman's older brothers, Tom (1980) and T.J. (1978) of Faith Academy, among many, many others.

And yes, that would involve digging back through the archives. And for that matter, anybody seen Don Norton lately? :)

That said ... I will go ahead and update these teams with whom Ornauer feels deserves a spot among these mini-pantheons. Now, you might still find fault with the selections, but face it: That's part of the fun of it.

Here goes. Newcomers in bold:


Matthew C. Perry, boys
Mike Hester, F-G, Class of 1996
Jeremy Eck, C, Class of 2000 (all 6-foot-7 of him)
Justin McCloskey, G, Class of 2000
Nate Albia, G, Class of 2004 (part of the five-player Samurai team in the Class A tournament)
John Ayers, F-G, Class of 2011.
Knocked out: Julio Rodriguez, F, Class of 2007.
Possible newcomers: Sam Cadavos,  Class of 2012, Jon Cadavos, Class of 2015, Jerry Bringley, Class of 1996.

Matthew C. Perry, girls
Nikki Blackman, G, Class of 1988
Vicki Foster, C, Class of 1990
Rebekah Harwell, G, Class of 2012
Cortaza Hall, F-G, Class of 2002
Ashley Taylor, F, Class of 2007
Knocked out: Tia Fluellen, G., Class of 2002.

E.J. King, boys
L.A. Brown, G, Class of 1997
Julius Pangilinan, C, Class of 1997
Jason Cleavinger, G-F, Class of 2001
Draonne Johnson, G, Class of 2005
Keith Williams, F, Class of 2008

Today's question: Who will prevail at the 'Rumble?'

Which team is best and which wrestlers are tops on Okinawa? We'll likely find out this weekend at the 5th "Rumble on the Rock" tournament, featuring the smallest field in its history. And likely the last shot for Kadena and Kubasaki to establish who deserves the title "Kings of the Mat."

So who will win this weekend? Sound off! Be true to your school, but remember: You've entered THE "No-Hate Zone." :)

Today's question: Who will win DODDS Japan wrestling tournament?

Which DODDS Japan school will rise above the rest? Which 13 wrestlers will stand head-and-shoulders above the crowd? We find out Friday and Saturday during the DODDS Japan wrestling tournament, dual-meet competition on Friday, individual freestyle competition Saturday.

Who do you think will take it all? Shout it out! Be true to your school, but remember: You've entered THE "No-Hate Zone." :)

Jan. 26 Home Team: Converting from one wrestling style to another

This week's Stripes Pacific Home Team feature focuses on Zama American Trojans junior transfer Chad Wilder, who's made himself a home at 141 pounds on the wrestling team.

With that transfer, he had to make the converstion from wrestling collegiate folkstyle at American Heritage in Broward County, Fla., to international freestyle rules used in the Pacific.

That's mainly because there aren't enough National Federation of State High School Associations-certified referees in all areas of the Pacific, while FILA-certified freestyle referees are far more plentiful.

That has caused lengthy debate among Pacific high school wrestling coaches for many a decade now.

Some feel DODDS Pacific should be mirroring what NFHS does in the States and what DODDS Europe does, which is wrestle folkstyle. It's more about technique than freestyle, which limits the number of moves one can use and is all about throws.

Others feel DODDS Pacific should stick with international freestyle. After all, that's the style used at USA Wrestling's de facto national championship Fargo tournament in North Dakota, at the All-Armed Forces level and in the Olympic Games, along with Greco-Roman.

What are your thoughts? Pick a side and sound off!

 

Things learned, observed in Pacific high school basketball Week 9.0.2

The last time Kadena’s girls played this big was the last time the Panthers were winning Far East Division I Tournaments, back in 2007-08, with Aja Walker as its inside force.

For story and photos from Day 2 of the Okinawa-American Shootout, click here. For scores and all-tournament selections, click here.

It took the Panthers four years, until last Saturday, which served as the coming-out party for juniors Eisiah Lawson and Deja Caldwell. They combined for 42 points and 28 rebounds as Kadena built a huge first-half lead, then held off a tenacious Naha Shogyo team 55-54 in Sunday’s shootout final at Foster Field House.

So now, you can’t count on Kadena relying on outside shooting of current star guard Maria Vaughan and departed guard Desirae Seals and the inside play of tenacious, but still not-very-tall Anissa Fitz.

Now, the Panthers have a huge inside presence. Focus on the guards, they feed it inside to the Panther Pillars for easy layups. Collapse inside defensively on Caldwell and Lawson, kick it outside to Vaughan and her sister, Alicia, for perimeter shots.

You can take away only so much.

The boys’ side saw equally workmanlike effort on the inside as Kadena finally broke a three-year finals drought and won the Shootout gold for the first time since 2008. Preston Harris, Josh Dyer and Savon Woodie combined for 29 rebounds as the Panthers avenged their tournament-opening loss to 2011 island champion Konan, beating the Shisa 73-67 in a see-saw final.

Two weekends of tournament education, over. Class dismissed. Now, we’ll see if Okinawa has what it takes to challenge perceived Far East Division I Tournament favorites American School In Japan for the boys and girls gold next month.

Pacific high school basketball ratings, semester exams edition

Boys
1, American School In Japan (11-0): Still rocking their opponents by solid margins.
2. Seoul American (17-6): Closing in on another unbeaten Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference Division I season; point production will pick up when Bryant McCray returns to the lineup.
3. Kadena, Okinawa (11-11): Preston Harris picked it up and Panthers won four of five in Okinawa-American Shootout.
4. Kubasaki, Okinawa (12-14): Finished fourth in the shootout, but could have easily placed higher.
5. Morrison Academy, Taiwan (16-1): Another weekend sweep heading into Lunar New Year break.
6. Faith Academy, Philippines (16-5). Split a pair of weekend contests.
7. Robert D. Edgren, Japan (9-1): Dispatched a Japanese team handily.
8. Matthew C. Perry, Japan (12-3): Off last weekend.
9, Yokota, Japan (10-6): Surprising loss to Kinnick last week.
10. Daegu High, South Korea (10-3): Taking aim at second seed in the KAIAC D-I tournament.
Dropped out: Taejon Christian International.
Note: Expect some shuffling in the ratings the next couple of weeks as Guam's season ramps up.

Girls

1. American School In Japan (8-1): Mustangs continue to roll.
2. Yokota, Japan (18-1): Rebounded smartly after first loss to ASIJ.
3. Daegu High, South Korea (13-0): First Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference Division I tournament top seed in school history.
4. Kadena, Okinawa (14-7): Big players Lawson, Caldwell delivered big for Panthers in Okinawa-American Shootout.
5. Nile C. Kinnick, Japan (15-5): Brown, Stith still playing the Ms. Inside-Ms. Outside combo.
6. Faith Academy, Philippines (11-4): Unbeaten since the first of the year.
7. Notre Dame, Guam (season complete).
8. Seoul American (10-5): Might be ready to challenge Daegu for top spot in KAIAC D-I tournament.
9. Simon Sanchez, Guam (season complete).
10. Seoul Foreign (10-3). Could play big-time spoiler at KAIAC D-I tournament.

Things learned, observed in Pacific high school basketball Week 9.0.1

Members of Okinawa's Haebaru High School Rotties girls basketball team enjoy a slice of Americana on Saturday during the 6th Okinawa-American Shootout at Camp Foster, Okinawa. Aside from fellowship, the tournament afforded the American military and Japanese communities a chance to exchange cultures and forge stronger friendship ties.

Sixth time we’ve seen the Okinawa-American Shootout for DODDS Okinawa and Japanese teams, fifth straight year at the Foster Field House, after it enjoyed its infancy at Kadena’s school complex in January 2007.

For complete scores and photos from Day 1 of the Okinawa-American Shootout, click here.

It continues, organizers say, to remain popular with both sides, “the two communities coming together,” says Keith Richardson, who works for Marine Corps Community Services and serves as an unofficial liaison between DODDS Okinawa, Kubasaki and Kadena High Schools, and the Okinawa Basketball Association. Richardson is also a Ryukyu Golden Kings assistant coach in Japan’s bjLeague.

“We’re guests in their country, but we’re inviting them into our house,” Richardson said.

The tournament, featuring six Japanese teams listed in the top 10 among Okinawa basketball programs, helps them get ready for postseason competition in Japan’s main islands next month, and it also helps Kadena and Kubasaki prepare for Far East Division I tournaments. “Each gets to see a different level of play,” Richardson said.

Japanese teams play relentless man-to-man, full-court pressure, run the court hard and shoot three-pointers plentifully since they don’t have the size to compete with Kadena and Kubasaki inside.

The tournament also continues to help mitigate a dire circumstance faced by Kadena and Kubasaki back in 2003, when a group of parents protested what they termed a “lack of opportunity” for those two schools to get the same sort of in-season competition that schools in Japan and Korea enjoy.

“It’s something that could have been done so many years earlier,” Richardson said, adding that once he’d liaised with athletics director Fred Bales of Kubasaki, “we didn’t realize how much they needed the games. We need them (Japanese) more than they need us.”

Thus, the 64 or so basketball programs on the island “have been gracious enough to help fill those gaps,” Richardson said, adding that with one phone call, a team will “bend over backwards” to give Kubasaki or Kadena a game.

***

Not only are the American teams gaining a wealth of conditioning and knowledge playing against their Japanese counterparts, they’re even starting to sound like them during warmups. Japanese teams engage in various chants and cheers designed to motivate and encourage their teammates, something that Kubasaki, last year’s Far East Boys D-I Tournament champion, picked up on a year ago.

“It’s sort of like you’re taking a test in school and you have classmates around you, going, ‘You can do this!’ or ‘Hey, great answer!’” Kubasaki coach Jon Fick said.

Kentrell Key, Kubasaki’s center last year who’s now playing for NCAA Division II Elizabeth City State (N.C.), was the guy who started that routine last season, Fick said.

“It’s one of the cultural things the guys picked up on. Kind of a unity thing, sort of like in baseball or softball, keeping everybody involved even if you’re on the bench. Positive reinforcement,” Fick said.

***

Sometimes, it takes longer for some teams to see the lights inside their heads switch on.

A season ago for Kubasaki’s girls team, which went 4-25 on the season, it was a double-overtime 48-45 defeat against Hong Kong International that made them realize they could play good basketball.

This year, the breakfast at Epiphany’s occurred a whole month earlier.

The Dragons are just 2-18 this season, but fought like tigers through two overtimes before succumbing to Chatan 89-81. Kubasaki led by five points with a minute left in regulation before Chatan forced bonus basketball.

it was by far the best game the Dragons played all season. By far. And you could see in their faces -- boundless joy in some who knew the moment had arrived, disappointment and even a few tears in others who realized they could have won the game.

It could be the start of something really big. I somehow think the next two times the Dragons face their archrival Kadena, the Panthers shouldn’t sleep on them, for they might just surprise them.

Now, that’s not to say the Dragons are in complete 180-degree turnaround mode and are a threat to reach Center Court at Yokota on Feb. 25.

Although stranger things have happened. A one-win Kubasaki team in 1987 entered Far East at Kadena a heavy underdog, but rolled unbeaten all the way to the final, where the Dragons held a four-point lead after three quarters on Kadena before finally falling.

We’ll see what this does.

***

Old home week it was Saturday at the Foster Field House, when we saw not just one, not two, not three, but four former Osan American High School teachers and coaches in the house supporting their new school, Kubasaki.

-- Tony Alvarado coached the Cougars to their first and only Far East Division II football title in 2005; he now works as Kubasaki’s defensive coordinator under head coach and athletics director Fred Bales.

-- Johnny Windhom coached Osan cross country for nearly a decade; he’s now a Dragons track and field assistant.

Things learned, observed in Pacific high school basketball Week 8.0+, wrestling Week 5.0+

At long last, it’s happened.

Something that the great 2005-06 team of Kelli Cox, Tamara “Tank” Hancock and the late, great Lynnette Grant didn’t do.

Something that the great 2009-11 teams of Kristina Bergman, Angie Robinet and Gulee Kwon didn’t do.

Something that the great 1997 team of Nancy Canlas, LaTasha Thompson, Suzzane Hutchison, Jennifer Harpham, Kelli Adkins and the “Bash Sisters” Kelley Squires and Kelly Simonton, only did in the postseason but not the regular season.

They were thought to be rebuilding. Instead, they’re contending, and they took the first step Wednesday, winning 42-35 at Taejon Christian International, improving to 12-0, their best regular-season record through that many games.

In doing so, the Daegu High Warriors captured their first regular-season Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference Division I title.

It’s a young group, but an experienced young group, built for now and for the future. Sophomores Sarah Wright, Kierra Pineda and Lari Robertson, among others, have joined seniors Maleah Potts Cash, Leanne Quizon and transfer Rae Rae Calloway to form the “next ones,” a group of Warriors who aren’t so much concerned about following the footsteps of their predecessors.

They’re planning on writing their own ending.

They’ll enter as favorites the KAIAC postseason tournament Feb. 10-11 at the site of one of the biggest triumphs in school history, their 53-46 overtime win Jan. 6 at Seoul American.

Sidebar to this – since 1993, Seoul American has won 18 of 19 KAIAC tournament titles and until Wednesday had won 19 straight KAIAC regular-season titles.

The only team besides Seoul American to win one?

Daegu American, back in that 1997 season.

Can they make it a KAIAC regular-season and tournament sweep?

We’ll find out in three weeks.

***

It had to happen at some point. Yokota’s girls had gotten off to a 17-0 start, but looming on that calendar was a date with the American School In Japan Mustangs, they of the 6-1 start and of two uber-athletes who are good in virtually any field of play, junior Bessie Noll and sophomore Liz Thornton.

The Panthers’ winning streak came to an end Tuesday at Mustang Valley, where ASIJ led pretty much from start to finish, smothering Yokota senior guard Erika Ettl with three defenders in a 48-36 triumph.

So now, the Mustangs and Panthers are knotted atop the Kanto Plain Association of Secondary Schools regular-season standings.

And Stripes for the first time in ASIJ history has both the boys and girls teams rated No. 1 in the Pacific at the same time.

Yokota is still minus the services of sophomore Trinity Davis, out with a knee injury; she’s expected back in time for next month’s DODDS Japan tournament, and should give the Panthers an athletic complement to Ettl. Plus, the Panthers still have post players Kathryn White and Sydney Glover, the latter who’s becoming an inside force.

Kinda makes me wonder … how Glover and Yokota would be doing if Glover, who missed early part of the season due to illness, had been healthy the entire time?

Regardless, she could be a difference-maker down the stretch for Yokota.

***

Jacob Sterry, Malcolm Mack, Alan Thurmond and the Robert D. Edgren Eagles boys basketball team keeps on winning; took two games from a very sound Zama American team. And the Eagles won the Division II title in last Saturday’s dual-meet wrestling tournament at Zama.

You think February might be a good time to be a male athlete wearing green and gold? I sure think so.

***

Ian Harlow might as well have been a prophet after his St. Mary’s International Titans, reigning Far East Division I team champions, face additional pressure with every in-season tournament they win. So far, that includes the “Beast of the Far East” tournament at Yokosuka Naval Base, and Saturday’s duals at Zama.

Fast forward to Wednesday, when the Titans outpinned Nile C. Kinnick 4-2 and escaped with a 31-29 Kanto Plain dual-meet triumph over the Red Devils. It was a Titans team wrestling without Sean Ward, their 215-pounder who missed Wednesday’s duals due to illness.

“Little things,” Kinnick coach Gary Wilson said. Little things such as winning too many bouts by decision and losing too many by pin. If a few go in the other direction, Wilson said. Kinnick just might have come away with the victory.

***

With St. Mary’s, Yokota and Kinnick performing as well as they have so far this season, playing gnip-gnop with the in-season tournament titles, and with Zama on the rise in Division II, that Far East tournament Feb. 13-16 at Yokosuka has a chance to become the Kanto Invitational.

***

With every passing week, as they pass each and every test and surmount each challenge, can there be much doubt that ASIJ’s boys, who are running away with the Kanto Plain, and Seoul American, kings of KAIAC D-I, stand a very, very good chance of meeting for the Far East D-I crown on Feb. 25 on Guam?

What a matchup that would be, too. Mustangs first-year coach Brian Kelley’s free-wheeling, wide-open style of offense against the well-polished, well-worked-on differing defensive looks that Falcons coach Steve Boyd will throw at them.

ASIJ’s big three on the inside, Sam Olson, Sam Hopkins, plus the ever-elusive guard play of Ken Yajima, against the Falcons’ irresistible force in the middle, Tomiwa Akinbayo, his wingman Bryant McCray and the guard play of newcomer Tariel Stewart.

Unless somebody’s got some weaponry out there I wasn’t made aware of, that could be your championship pairing.

***

They banged around against bigger, quicker, more aggressive adult players in last weekend’s Martin Luther King Invitational Basketball Tournaments, Okinawa’s at Camp Foster, Korea’s at Camp Humphreys.

That was part I of the most rigorous two weeks of the season for Seoul American’s, Kadena’s and Kubasaki’s boys and girls  teams, the most decorated in the Pacific with a combined 33 Far East Division I Tournament titles.

Now comes the speed education for Kubasaki and Kadena. Come Saturday and Sunday, the four teams will tangle with Okinawa’s best in the 6th Okinawa-American Shootout. Nishihara, the reigning girls island champion, and last year’s boys champion Konan and current boys leader Oroku, headline a group of eight Japanese teams rated somewhere in the island’s top 10.

Although lately, their Japanese counterparts have shown a bit of zone defense from time to time, for the most part, these teams play man-to-man pressure for 40 minutes (they’ll play this tournament by international rules, 10-minute periods and a 24-second shot clock).

They run like scared jackrabbits, be it on offense, defense or transition.

And talk about an ability to shoot three-pointers. You could blindfold these guys, put them in the parking lot and they’d at least hit the rim.

Over in Korea, Seoul American’s boys and girls, the Falcons only got the big, physical part of that rigorous training course. But there’s a reason they’ve won seven Far East D-I Tournament titles and have 11 Center Court appearances to their credit since 2003 – they’ve spent quite a bit of time banging bodies with post-level teams since first entering the Osan Pacificwide Holiday Tournaments in the mid-2000s and later the Camp Humphreys MLKs.

Once these two weekends are done, you can imagine how much the game will slow down for the Falcons, Dragons and Panthers, compared to how fast things were back in November when the season began. It’s a huge difference. The numbers bear it out.

40 days.

Can prep hoops teams make it post-level leagues?

It might not seem possible, given that high school-aged players are much younger, smaller and not as quick as their adult counterparts.

But during last weekend’s 18th Martin Luther King Invitational Basketball Tournament on Okinawa, players on open teams said both Kubasaki’s and Kadena’s boys teams could  hold their own.

“They would do very well,” said former All-Marine camp qualifier Tony Moses of Smoke Check of the Panthers and Dragons, who have 19 combined Far East Division I Tournament titles to their credit.

“They rebound, they attack, they play hard, they don’t get intimated, they go strong and they don’t give up. I have a lot of respect for them. I like the way they play. They just shouldn’t sag and get lazy. I’ll have to go to the high school games and check them out.”

Justin Brown, a civilian who plays for men’s champion Warriors of Kinser, agreed with Moses.

“They’re no slouches,” Brown said. “They play well as a team. They just have to get used to getting pushed around, and to the more aggressive (adult) style of play. A little more work and they’ll be good.”

To a man, the people I asked about that subject said the record of the high school teams in the Okinawa and Korea MLK tournaments belied their abilities. Kubasaki boys were the only team to win a game against adults; they, Kadena’s and Seoul American’s boys and girls and Osan American’s boys went 1-18 in the combined round-robin/double-elimination tournaments.

In years past, some of the better high school teams played their way into the tournaments’ final day of play, Monday. Not this year. But to hear the adult players talk, the high school ballers did earn one thing – respect.

***

Where Kadena’s and Osan’s base teams were concerned, things came in twos.

Kadena’s Lady Ballaz got a second straight Most Valuable Player award-winning performance from Charmain Walker and easily handled their high school opponents, beating Kadena High School 73-19 in Monday’s championship game.

Meanwhile, Kadena’s men took a second straight runner-up finish, as Brown, Trevor Highsmith, tournament Most Valuable Player Terrence Terrell and former Kubasaki guard Kai Yamaguchi needed but one final game to dispatch the Falcons 72-51.

Over in Korea, Osan made it a clean sweep of the MLK titles at Camp Humphreys’ Super Gym and MP Hill Gym.

Osan’s women handled host Camp Humphreys handily, 59-39 in the title clash. But Osan’s men had a much rougher go, surviving Camp Casey 63-62.

***

And yes, that was chalk on the floor of Court 2 of the Foster Field House, where the Okinawa MLK took place. It rained much of the weekend, and the winds turned late Sunday into early Monday, coming out of the southeast, which brought humidity to the central part of the island.

Humidity and the aging un-air conditioned Foster Field House tend to conspire to turn Court 2 into a virtual ice-skating rink. To combat the conditions, tournament organizers Corey Carter and Robert Shadley broke out bags of chalk and spread it over the court.

Nary a complaint did I hear about the court conditions.

***

Sure hope the abbreviated fields at both Humphreys and Foster aren’t a sign of things to come.

Pacific high school basketball ratings, post-MLK edition

Through games of Jan. 17, 2012:

Boys
1, (tie) American School In Japan (9-0) and Seoul American (15-6): Looks like Mustangs haven’t missed a beat in throttling Christian Academy Japan; Falcons more than held their own in their games at the Camp Humphreys Martin Luther King Tournament. ASIJ and Seoul American will likely play gnip-gnop with the top two spots.
3. Kubasaki, Okinawa (10-11): Pay no attention to the sub-.500 record; most of the losses came against adult competition.
4. Morrison Academy, Taiwan (14-1): Swept their four games in a weekend tournament at Taipei American School.
5. Faith Academy, Philippines (15-4). Won Monday in their first action since the first of the year.
6. Kadena, Okinawa (7-10): See Kubasaki.
7. Robert D. Edgren, Japan (8-1): Swept a weekend pair from a fairly solid Zama American team.
8. Matthew C. Perry, Japan (12-3): Cadavos and Cadavos prevail again.
9, Yokota, Japan (9-5): We’ll see how well they do now that Eldridge is back in the lineup.
10. Taejon Christian International, South Korea (9-3): Won’t be coming to Zama for Far East D-II.
Dropped out: Zama American.
Note: Expect some shuffling in the ratings the next couple of weeks as Guam's season ramps up.

Girls
1. American School In Japan (7-1): Handed Yokota its first loss in 18 games.
2. Yokota, Japan (17-1): Might we possibly see an all-Kanto Plain Far East D-I Tournament final on the Panthers’ home court?
3. Daegu High, South Korea (12-0): First Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference Division I regular-season title in school history..
4. Kadena, Okinawa (10-7): See Kubasaki and Kadena boys; four of seven losses came against adult teams.
5. Nile C. Kinnick, Japan (14-5): Brown continues to deliver for the Red Devils.
6. Faith Academy, Philippines (9-4): Two victories in two games since the start of the year. And Kelly Hardeman is back and healthy.
7. Notre Dame, Guam (season complete).
8. Seoul American (8-5): See Kadena; three of five losses to adult teams.
9. Simon Sanchez, Guam (season complete).
10. Seoul Foreign (8-2). Don’t be surprised to see the Crusaders make a deep run at an Asia-Pacific Activities Conference tournament title.
Dropped out: Yongsan International-Seoul and Seisen International

MLK hoops tournaments dwindling, especially on Okinawa

It gets worse for interservice sports in the Pacific.

For the first time, the Martin Luther King Invitational Basketball Tournaments, at Camps Foster and Humphreys on Okinawa and in South Korea, are in-country affairs.

Far East Creative Expression festival winners

Her grandfather was coach of a Kubasaki High School girls basketball team hosting one of the very first tournaments I ever covered for Stars and Stripes, in May 1982.
Six years later, I saw Robert Driggs' daughter, Kristi, play for the Dragons.

Now, Robert's granddaughter, Kaci, is winning awards, but ones away from the basketball courts. The Kubasaki junior earned third place in ceramics during this week's Far East Creative Expression festival at Okinawa's Onna Arts Center, near the posh Kafuu Resort on the island's western shores.

Pacific high school basketball ratings, New Year's edition

Once more, for the Idon'tknowhowmanyth season, Ornauer goes out on a limb to rate the Pacific's best high school basketball teams, New Year's edition following the holiday break. And heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeere we go:

Boys
1, Seoul American (12-4): Back to the Falcons' usual commitment-to-excellence standard; getting fire-testing from adult teams, too, both in company-level ball and this weekend's Martin Luther King tournament at Camp Humphreys.
2, American School In Japan (8-0): Clearly a dominator through December; pretty good bet to meet Falcons in the Far East Division I Tournament final on Guam in February.
3. Kubasaki, Okinawa (8-5): Rough start, but has won its last two games by a combined 61 points.
4. Morrison Academy, Taiwan (8-1): Still good, though not the overwhelming superpower the Mustangs were last year. Oh, how I wish we could have seen them play at Kubasaki last April.
5. Faith Academy, Philippines (14-4). Strong, solid and deep, but this may be now or much later for coach Robby Nichols and the Vanguards.
6. Kadena, Okinawa (6-4): Looked solid in December; shot back down in that second half Friday at Kubasaki.
7. Matthew C. Perry, Japan (11-2): Thought maybe their 10-1 start might have been a bit flukey after Friday's home loss to Nile C. Kinnick; righted themselves on Saturday. They're for real, even without departed rebounder Malik Hale.
8. Robert D. Edgren, Japan (6-1): May be even better than last year's version which came so close but so far. Many of the same components are back, along with a new-old coach in Andre Thibert.
9 (tie), Zama American and Yokota, Japan (8-5 each): An entry. Zama won at home over Yokota before the Panthers rebounded to finish second in the Holiday Classic.
10. Taejon Christian International, South Korea (7-2): Could be a darkhorse threat if they could travel to Far East Division II at Zama.

Girls
1. Yokota, Japan (12-0): Got some serious testing and survived every threat during the Panthers' Christmas Classic last month. Senior Erika Ettl looks to be on a mission.
2. Daegu High, South Korea (9-0): Not as surprising as one might think, given their overtime win Friday at two-time Far East Division I Tournament champion Seoul American.
3. American School In Japan (3-1): Bessie Noll continues to post double-digit average scoring; not bad for a baseball player.
4. Nile C. Kinnick, Japan (13-4): Between senior Ms. Inside (Emily Stith) and freshman Ms. Outside (De'Asia Brown), this may be one Red Devil of a season.
5. Kadena, Okinawa (6-3): Showed plenty of promise in the Christmas Classic, has its own Inside-Outside combination in Eisiah Lawson and Mariah and Alicia Vaughan.
6. Faith Academy, Philippines (7-4): Another possible last-stand Vanguards team, which will bid longtime stars Grace Fern and Kelly Hardeman (who injured an ankle over the holidays) farewell in June.
7. Notre Dame, Guam (season complete).
8. Seoul American (5-2): Maybe as strong a team on the inside as the Falcons have had in six years; Mecca Perkins and Jasmine Thomas are shot-blocking machines. But nowhere near the guard play they've had the past three seasons.
9. Simon Sanchez, Guam (season complete).
10 (tie). Yongsan International-Seoul (5-1) and Seisen International, Japan (4-1): May be the best Guardians team the school has ever had, while the Phoenix may be rising once more since their Division II title seasons of 1998-99.

Disagree? Think you can do better? Shout it out! Be true to your school, and remember: You've entered THE "No-Hate Zone." :)

Pacific's Best Five basketball players of the past 30 years

We first tried this the first year that SportsBlog Nation came to being, with some very lively discussion, especially the last couple of years.

Feel free to chime in with any names you feel are deserving. Here's the latest list, which was posted last January along with possible new candidates:



Matthew C. Perry, boys
Mike Hester, F-G, Class of 1996
Jeremy Eck, C, Class of 2000 (all 6-foot-7 of him)
Justin McCloskey, G, Class of 2000
Nate Albia, G, Class of 2004 (part of the five-player Samurai team in the Class A tournament)
Julio Rodriguez, F, Class of 2007
Possible newcomer: John Ayers, Class of 2011, Sam Cadavos,  Class of 2012, Jon Cadavos, Class of 2015, Jerry Bringley, Class of 1996.

Matthew C. Perry, girls
Nikki Blackman, G, Class of 1988
Vicki Foster, C, Class of 1990
Tia Fluellen, G, Class of 2002
Cortaza Hall, F-G, Class of 2002
Ashley Taylor, F, Class of 2007
Possible newcomer: Rebekah Harwell, Class of 2012.

Catching up with: Craig Barnum, scoring specialist for near-miss Far East tournament teams

He came to two Far East tournaments a charismatic, effervescent, upbeat and pleasant personality with Jack Armstrong All-American Boy good looks and a penchant for outside shooting that made his Robert D. Edgren teams in 1982 and Yokota in 1983 a threat to win every time they set foot on the court.

Craig Barnum’s Eagles came up short in the 1982 small-schools tournament final, though he was recalled a week later to play in the Far East Tournament All-Star Game against a Japanese team that the American side defeated rather handily.

It was Barnum’s senior year when he made the biggest statement – and also came up short again, this time at the large-school level.

During that 1982-83 regular season, his Yokota Panthers beat everybody in sight except American School In Japan in a Kanto Plain Association of Secondary Schools season in which teams played a triple round-robin schedule of 15 games. Yokota beat ASIJ the first time they met, but lost the next two, setting the stage for one of the greatest Far East Tournament finals of all time.

Yokota vs. ASIJ. Hardscrabble vs. rich kids, military vs. corporate, no love lost between the schools. It was so loud at Yokota’s Main Fitness & Sports Center, I still have the headache. Not a place in the stands featured somebody dressed as an empty seat. The bands were out. The cheerleaders were out.

Barnum and the Panthers had a chance to win in the closing seconds, but he missed the jump shot to seal it. Then Henrik Gistren played hero for ASIJ, hitting two foul shots as ASIJ went on to edge Yokota 53-48 in overtime.

Nearly 30 years later, Barnum is “living the dream,” as he calls it, in the restaurant business out of Columbus, Ohio. He operates his own company and three outlets with more than 200 employees under the banner “CLB Restaurants,” reflecting his initials, led by what he calls his growth vehicle, Matt the Miller’s Tavern. He’s building a fourth restaurant in Carmel, Ind., and plans to build more every year.

Married with three children, Barnum owns a home on Oahu in Hawaii, and says he gets out there at least three times a year.

Barnum says he thinks about his time in Japan “all the time.” Misawa, he says, was the special place – quiet, isolated, golf course, lake, camp grounds, motorcycle trails, snow, the ice festival in Hokkaido. “It was really a unique place,” Barnum said, recalling how basketball practice would take place at 6 a.m. before school and how walking in the snow to the gym was “always a treat. The challenge was staying awake before lunchtime and I was scolded many times for falling asleep in geometry class.”

Barnum says he plays basketball three times a week to this day. “I did play one year in college and quit – dumbest decision I ever made. I try and tell the young kids I play with that if you have an opportunity to play college athletics, do it and stick it out – it only happens once in your life. Still love to play, but the body is beginning to fall apart – ankes and knees. Advil comes in handy.”

Thanks for the line, Craig! *smile*

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.

Things learned, observed in Pacific high school wrestling week 4.0

Musings, mutterings and the occasional schmahts as Ornauer hits the ground running again, this time on the “Beast” mats, one weekend of Winter Wall-to-Wall down, seven to go:

-- Titanic message (or was it?): A month before they defend their Far East High School Wrestling Tournament Division I team titles at Yokosuka Naval Base’s George I Purdy Fitness & Sports Center, the Titans of St. Mary’s International School on Saturday across the street from Purdy put the rest of the Pacific on notice: “The road to the Far East title goes through us.”

Rich in returnees, including what coach Ian Harlow referred to as a “once-in-a-lifetime talent” in heavyweight Chidi Agbo, the Titans won three gold medals and outdistanced host Nile C. Kinnick 55-38 for the team title in the annual “Beast of the Far East” Tournament at Kinnick’s Devil Dome. Yokota also had 38 points, but just one gold compared to Kinnick’s two; Kadena placed fourth.

But was it really the stern warning shot that it may have appeared to be on paper?

Before we rush to the front of the line and shout: “Let’s just stop now and give the Titans the trophy,” let’s remember that “Beast” in recent years has been held in early January, right around the time school lets back in after the 2½-week Christmas break.

Prior to the mid-2000s, “Beast” was held later in the month, after the Kanto Plain, DODDS Korea and Okinawa Activities Council got some league activity under their belts and could put on something of a show before the red- and white-clad Red Devils masses.

American School In Japan, for example, was a shell of itself; the school doesn’t let back in until Tuesday, and most of the regulars were still out on break. And those who were at “Beast” were seeing their first action since mid-December.

Then, there are the vagaries of life on the mat, and in school itself, which can change the complexion of a team seemingly at the turn of a dime. “You could have an injury, an ineligibility and a girlfriend all in one day, and there goes a quarter of your lineup,” Yokota’s longtime coach Brian Kitts says frequently.

My take: Let’s wait until the Kanto Plain Association of Secondary Schools finals, scheduled for Feb. 4 at St. Mary’s – and to be held in the new Titan Dome for the first time.

-- Four-time gold-medal dream gone? Don’t write it off yet: Should Marcus Boehler have played football or stayed with cross country?

That’s one of the $64,000 questions which made the rounds in the Devil Dome on Saturday. Boehler, a Kinnick senior, is a three-time Far East tournament gold medalist and the hope this season was he would become just the third four-time champion and the only one not from Kubasaki.

That changed the first night of the DODDS Japan and Kanto Plain football season. Boehler had gone out for football, ostensibly to place kick and punt (Boehler’s first love is soccer), but coach Dan Joley also had Boehler lineup on the secondary and as a wide receiver. In Kinnick’s 39-26 come-from-behind win Aug. 26 at Zama American, Boehler separated a shoulder, and it’s been giving him problems since.

He tweaked the injury during a tournament last month at ASIJ; the question now is, will he come back at all? Boehler hasn’t been at practice, I’m told, but is still in the weight room, still runs to stay in shape and is slated for a visit to the orthopaedist at Yokosuka later this month.

So, in theory, it is still possible for it to happen. And there is precedent for wrestlers to hold out most of the season, then come back and win Kanto and Far East gold riches.

Rae Canlas, a 115-pounder who had been bugged by balky elbows in the 2002 season, sat most of 2003, returned to win gold in the Kanto tournament at ASIJ, then helped lead Yokota to its first Far East team title in 25 years.

Whether he achieves the four-gold dream or not, expect Boehler to be 100 percent for soccer this spring. He’s planning to play soccer for an Iowa community college next year, with the hope of someday transferring to Iowa State to play Division I ball in the Big 12 Conference.

As to whether he should have played football or not … hey, some people are more brittle than others. Boehler separated a shoulder; another player might not have. It’s nobody’s fault. One can get hit by a car walking across the street. Nobody should assess blame, not to the football coach, not the parents (who are two of the best people walking this Earth) or anybody else.

-- Eagles soaring, Trojans still on the march: Aside from Yokota and Kinnick, always-dangerous Kadena and Kubasaki, with its Pacific-record 21 team titles, keep an eye on Division II contenders Robert D. Edgren and defending Far East champion Zama American. Both are young, but Edgren did post the highest finish at “Beast” among D-II teams, led by 215-pound champion Matt Bernal , while the Trojans have veterans plus enough experienced youngsters to have staying power.

-- Alums vs. champs? Why not? Anybody who was at “Beast” probably saw the plethora of graduates, both recent and not-so-recent, who wore singlets for a variety of teams in years past. Old-fashioned, down-to-goodness heroes such as former Far East champions and contenders Joey Wood of Kinnick, Aaron Ahner and Jacob Bishop of Kadena, Michael Spencer and Yurie Tanaka of Zama, even St. Mary’s assistant Shu Yabui, a former two-time Far East champion who looked as if he could don a singlet and still do some damage.

Which got me to thinking … How about at next year’s “Beast,” we suit up those alumni and put them up against the tournament’s champions in exhibition bouts prior to the closing ceremony? As hungry as those alums were – Spencer was at matside with Trojans coach Steve Scott, wearing knee pads, a singlet and wrestling shoes – you might see some dy-no-mite action.

-- Welcome back, Falcons! Very, very good to see Seoul American Navy blue and white singlets back matside for the first time in six years. Just four wrestlers made the trip on very short notice, accompanied by second-year Falcons coach Chris Dickinson (son of former U.S. Congressman Bill Dickinson of Alabama).

It’s a foot in the door – a VERY big foot in the door – for the Falcons and other DODDS Korea teams to participate in future “Beasts.” Now that it’s been done, the three DODDS schools, Seoul, Osan and Daegu, can lobby their administrations and district to put the event on the district calendar, as does DODDS Okinawa.

Then, they can begin the process of fund raising, car washes, bake sales, visit the local tailor shop, the officers wives’ club, anybody who might be willing to lend a hand for what would be a win-win for all concerned. Win for the teams who’d get valuable preparation and face somebody besides themselves. Win for the “Beast” whose numbers have dwindled lately. And win for Far East, which would have better-prepared teams on the mat.

-- Wither next year’s Far East? That’s the other $64,000 question making the rounds after word slipped out that if DODDS is seeking billeting support from Yokosuka Naval Base for future Far East tournaments, it should look elsewhere.

That’s the major reason why Far East softball has been moved to Naval Air Facility Atsugi in May. That’s a major reason why after only one year at Yokosuka, the chances of Far East wrestling moving elsewhere (most likely Yokota High School) are 99.9999999999999 percent.

Begs one question, though … Why would ANY base NOT want to host a Far East tournament? Talk about a feather in the cap of whomever is in that base’s administration.

Catching up with: Former Osan stars Emily, Matthew Albonetti

Another voice heard from in the States, John Albonetti, whose children made their mark upon Osan American High School sports in the late 2000s and early 2010s.

Emily Albonetti, 21, is assigned to the 6th  Intelligence Squadron as an airman first class at her old home, Osan Air Base, and  is a volunteer wrestling coach at Osan American High School, where she made history as a girl wrestler in a predominantly boys game.

Albonetti in February 2008 at Okinawa's Camp Foster became the first girl wrestler in Far East Tournament history to:

-- wrestle another girl, Champaigne Tatman of Robert D. Edgren,
-- win a Far East tournament bout against both a boy and a girl,
-- win a Far East bout by pin,
-- place in the top six in her weight class, and
-- score standings points for her team.

Albonetti is approaching her mid-tour and then will transition to Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., around May or June 2012.

Her younger brother, Matt, along with teammates Billy Bortscheller, Nathan Baldevia and Jason Griess, helped the Cougars capture their historic 2010 Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference Division I boys volleyball regular-season and tournament titles.

Matt, 17, attends Shadow Ridge High in Las Vegas, and is playing volleyball for the Vegas Volleyball Club (competing in California) and preparing for the Vegas-area high school season, which begins this month.

John, good to hear from you and about the Osan stars!

Catching up with: Former Zama stars Mike and Todd Jorgenson

This in from Craig Jorgenson, father of former Zama American star quarterback and basketball player Mike and his younger brother Todd, and how they've done since leaving Japan 18 months ago. Mike quarterbacked the Trojans to their first Far East Division II football title in November 2009 at Daegu American.

+ Michael completed his high school football career this past season. Following his championship with Zama in 2009, his Battlefield Bobcats won the Virginia 6AAA state championship his junior year, and this year their team was a state semifinalist, losing to the eventual champion. Captain of the Battlefield Bobcats football team senior year.

+ Michael is being actively recruited by seven Division I-AA (football championship subdivision) schools, a handful of D-II schools and several D-III schools on the east coast. Will probably play tight end or wide receiver in college.

+ Plays basketball for Battlefield, both junior and senior seasons. Came in second place during the recent Bulldog Bash Holiday Tournament in Chantilly, Va., averaging eight rebounds per game.

+ Todd now over 6 feet tall and captain of the Battlefield junior varsity asketball team. Won second straight Osbourn Park Yellowjack Holiday basketball tournament. Averaging nine points, six rebounds and five assists per game as the sixth man for the Battlefield JV squad this year.

+ Fun fact: In honor of their basketball coach at Zama, Tom Allensworth, both boys ensure a player on the team makes one final, perfectly executed lay-up at the end of pregame warm-ups.


Thanks for the catchup, Craig! :)

 
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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.