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.