Quantcast
Advertisement

Signups open for Pac-wide Softball Tournament

Entries are being taken for the 22nd edition of the Pacificwide Open Interservice Softball Tournament, scheduled for May 24-28 at its longstanding home, Yongsan Garrison’s Lombardo Field FourPlex in the heart of the capital of South Korea.

The tournament is open to the first 16 men’s post-level or open teams, 16 men’s company-level squads and eight women’s teams that sign up and pay their $500 entry fee by May 10, according to a statement sent on Tuesday by Area II’s director of family and MWR Paul Robinson.

As always, space is available for billeting at no cost at the Walker Center for 278 men and 52 women players, although most choose to stay at the Dragon Hill Lodge, which should fill up quickly now that the announcement has been made.

Mail checks and/or money orders to ensure they’re received by May 10 by Michael S. Lee, sports program manager, Headquarters USAGY-DFMWR, Unit 15333, APO AP 96205-5333. There is an exception for those who wish to pay by credit card; that may be done by 2 p.m . May 24 through Yongsan’s Moyer Community Recreation Center.

For more, contact Lee or Tim Higgs at DSN 723-3346 or by e-mail at timothy.p.higgs2.naf@mail.mil or Michael.s.lee39.naf@mail.mil.

The tournament is sponsored by Drash, a military clothier.

Final Pacific high school basketball ratings

Boys
1. Kubasaki, Okinawa (23-15). Second straight Far East D-I title, third on coach Jon Fick’s watch, Pacific-record 11th.
2. Morrison Academy, Taiwan (30-1). 65-1 over last two years, four straight Far East Division II titles.
3. Okkodo, Guam, (17-2). Just missed in bid for Guam’s second D-I title ever.
4. American School In Japan (22-2). Dream of a senior-laden title shattered in upset loss to Kinnick.
5. Father Duenas Memorial, Guam (13-5). Played very much like Okkodo en route to D-I Final Four.
6. Nile C. Kinnick, Japan (19-20). Pulled a couple of stunners en route to Final Four D-I finish.
7. St. Paul Christian, Guam (13-7). Second straight D-II runner-up finish.
8. Seoul American (26-11). Dominant in Korea, came up short in bid for first D-I title in four years.
9. Daegu High, South Korea (19-12). Waiting in the wings in case Morrison or St. Paul faltered.
10. Kadena, Okinawa (18-16). Closed strongly with dominant performance over Faith.

Girls
1. Faith Academy, Philippines (22-4). Sixth D-I title,10th Far East title overall. Grace & Kelly Show exits in fine style.
2. Kadena, Okinawa (22-8). Young D-I runner-up Panthers very much headed in right direction.
3. Daegu High, South Korea (22-2). Terrific effort by a team of mostly sophomores who are staying.
4. American School In Japan (17-2). Effective passing of the torch from one superstar, Bessie Noll, to another, Liz Thornton.
5. Academy of Our Lady of Guam (4-3 at Far East D-I). Strong push to D-I Final Four by island champions after not playing for two months.
6. Yokota, Japan (32-3). DODDS Japan and Christmas Classic champs just missed in bid for first D-1 title since 1991.
7. Seoul American (23-7). Lengthy Far East tournament game, title winning streaks had to end sometime.
8. Notre Dame, Guam (5-3 at Far East D-I). Another decent showing by a team idled since December.
9. Robert D. Edgren, Japan (13-15). Throw out the first nine games; Eagles showed how competitive they could be once Jen Black returned to the lineup.
10. Morrison Academy, Taiwan (13-12). Gradually got stronger as season progressed; just missed in bid for D-II title.

Think your final chapter is better? Think all this is full of hooey? Shout it out! Be true to your school, but remember: You’ve entered THE “No-Hate Zone.”
J

Always respect the referees

A handful of folks have taken umbrage with a piece I wrote on Tuesday about a game in the Far East High School Boys Division II Basketball Tournament that ended in controversy. Some have suggested that I went out of my way to embarrass or otherwise demean the job that they did during and after that game, and that I harbor a special pet, personal dislike for the group of referees who worked that tournament.

Nothing – I repeat – nothing could be further from the truth. Those who know me well, know that I believe referees – along with tournament organizers, coaches and sports journalists – do jobs in which they please 46 percent of the people 50 percent of the time (I say 46 because 4 percent I believe there ain’t no pleasing). That's just the nature of the job: One side wins, they're happy. The other side loses, they blame everybody.

What I wrote on Tuesday should never, ever be construed as a personal attack against officials. Few hold the respect and admiration that I do for referees and officials of all types in all sports, who have as thankless a job as any you’ll find in athletics, other than student-managers.

Referees have a steadily growing amount of abuse heaped on them as the years pass. Some of the horror stories I read about parents, in particular, attacking umpires and other unfortunate arbiters just cross the line as being totally, utterly wrong.

Clearly, there were things that happened during and after Tuesday’s game that I can’t fathom, because I was not there to see them. That said, in my judgment, something had to be written to account for the events with the best obtainable version of the truth I could find from a distance.

Reader Josh Davis, who formerly refereed games at Yokosuka Naval Base, correctly determined that a scorekeeping error can be corrected any time during the game until the referee and scorekeeper have certified the score to be final. Thus, I miswrote when I stated that such errors are not correctable once play resumes.

Any time the human element is involved in any game in any sport, there is always the chance that mistakes can occur. Nobody’s perfect. Least of all me.

I have stood in the tower, on the floor and on sidelines with a flag calling volleyball matches. I have stood behind the plate bearing the “tools of ignorance” calling balls and strikes. I have called balls in and out as a tennis line judge. I once served as a soccer assistant referee during the course of a league championship match, and made the offside call that negated the only goal of the match (boy, did I learn some new words that day).

In each instance, I was scared to death that I might have to make the call upon which the game might turn. Where Tuesday’s game between YIS-Seoul and Edgren’s boys was concerned, I encountered a case of forgetfulness of the respect I learned for officiating during those instances.

***

That said, there was one thing that did disturb me during the course of the Boys Division I Basketball Tournament on Guam, something I took up with the Marianas Sports Officials Association basketball commissioner during the course of the tournament and something he said he would address:

Never under any circumstances should any game official, from the head guy in charge of his team to the scorekeepers and timers at the table, cheer for any team. This was something that occurred frequently when a Guam team would take the court against a team from off-island.

On an island that small and with so many people related to each other, there’s every chance that  officials will be working a game involving a team for which they played or at least went to their school years ago.

Those feelings need to be checked at the door, and kept there even if all one is doing is watching the game from the stands.

After a day or so of watching such a tournament, people visiting from off-island get to know these officials by face. What are they thinking, one might wonder, when they see people who are supposed to be the faces of impartiality taking sides?

Hail to Guam All-Island softball selection Guerrero

Hail and congratulations to Kara Guerrero, a Guam High Panthers senior softball third baseman who was named to the Independent Interscholastic Athletic Association of Guam’s All-Island first team.

The lone Panther named to the All-Island first or second teams, Guerrero helped lead the Panthers to a 4-6 regular-season finish, fifth place out of six teams.

But the Panthers played much better than a 4-6 team on Saturday. Guerrero led the way at the plate, going 4-for-6 with three triples, an RBI and four stolen bases as Guam High surprised fourth-place George Washington 25-15 at Agana Heights.

That helped the Panthers set a semifinal date with league regular-season champion Southern for the right to play in their first island championship game on Saturday.

Honorable mention selections from Guam High were senior catcher Jaeann Duenas, pitcher-shortstop Daniela Hoyos, second baseman-utility player Nia Walker and left fielder Kayla Blend.

Congratulations, Kara!

So, just what DID happen to Ornauer?

The rumour mill spun wildly as I was carried off on a gurney out of the Charles King Fitness & Sports Center last Tuesday, unable to continue the Far East Basketball Tournament march. Many people assumed the worst. One rumour suggested that I’d collapsed and died of a heart attack outside the facility and that Pacific high school sports was a widow.

Not quite. To quote Samuel Langhorne Clemens’ famous aside, reports of my imminent demise have been greatly exaggerated. To paraphrase Paul McCartney at the height of the “Paul is dead” rumours of the 1960s, if I had indeed died, I’d be the last to know.

The truth was, I simply could not continue. Chest pain that simply knocked me off the grid. But it had nothing to do with heart failure or blood clots or broken ribs.

I got sick on Feb. 3, the day I left Okinawa on my latest Pacific sports odyssey. A tickle in my throat, and I knew it was going to be a long month. The illness accelerated during a three-day visit to Misawa Air Base, then again during the DODDS Japan basketball tournaments at Yokota and the Far East wrestling tournament at Yokosuka. Developed a persistent, hacking cough that made it feel like somebody was kicking my chest.

Late on Feb. 17, while packing for the flight to Guam and the Far East basketball, I tripped in my billeting room and fell hard, flat on my face and chest, lacerating my jaw and forehead and aggravating the chest pain. So much that I could no longer cough, and was worried I might develop pneumonia. But I figured I could take care of all that once the Far East basketball tournaments ended.

By Tuesday, I could no longer continue.

Wheeled out of the place on a gurney by paramedics, treated by the doctors at the U.S. Naval Hospital on Guam, where they first ruled out a heart attack, then ruled out pulmonary blood clots, then showed via X-ray I did not have any cracked or fractured ribs. Properly medicated, I was able to finish out the week.

Online reference documents about chest contusions say it takes four to six weeks for them to properly heal. In the meantime, I still suffer from chest pain, but it’s far more manageable than this time last week.

Thanks to all for their prayers and concern. Got calls from as far away as Yokota and Iwakuni from those concerned. Sometimes, it takes something like that to make one realize how many people care. I love you all.

Hail to Teams Eagle-Eye, Trojan and Panther

As always, one person cannot be at four Far East sports tournaments ongoing at the same time, not even somebody as … well … nutso … as I am, who has all the ability of a gold-medal spectator but is not acquainted with Lt. Cmdr. Montgomery Scott, Lt. j.g. Geordi La Forge or anybody else involved with molecular transfer in Starfleet Command.

So, every Far East tournament week, Stars and Stripes’ Pacific does the next-best thing: Recruit teams of able, willing and dedicated students involved in their schools’ journalism and yearbook schools or clubs to be those eyes and ears on the ground at tournaments for Stripes.

They spent much of the last week e-mailing photographs and telephoning in game reports, a vital process made even more so by my sudden, brief pit stop at U.S. Naval Hospital last Tuesday. And the flow of game results didn’t stop even then (though my use of my cell phone in the ER wasn’t too popular with the folks there).

But I digress. This is a win-win situation for everybody involved. It gives Stripes people on the ground at all the tournaments. It gives students a resume builder – “I covered the state championship tournament for the Pacific’s newspaper of record.” Colleges eat that up. Not to mention, students get a bit of time out of class to gain experience they otherwise wouldn’t get in class. And the tournaments get the publicity they otherwise might not get when tournament directors overloaded with tasks must prioritise.

"The students want to do it. We adults need to get out of the way and let them," said Richard Rodgers, one of the student-reporter group overseers.

Here’s a salute to the following:

“Team Eagle-Eye,” Robert D. Edgren High School, Girls Division II Tournament: Natalie Gammel, Kendall Petersen, Taylor Quinn, Rachel Rodriguez, Addie Vannes, D’Yanna Sledge, Daishamarie Frieson and Ally Krussick, under the direction of Robin Eddington and Martina Campbell.

“Team Panther,” Yokota High School, Girls Division I Tournament: Lilly Crown, Austin Halvorsen, Rachel Bloom, Gabi Baker, Caitlin Older, Aryssa Livica and Sumika Morgan, under the direction of Greg Holladay.

“Team Trojan,” Zama American High and Middle Schools, Boys Division II Tournament: Chiharu Gomez, John Limas, Stephen Ferrer, Trisha Dring, Sylvia Dykstra, Maiko Ann Beale, Brenden Sullivan, Kenichi Mishler, Katrina Fuentes, Sheina Marie Staley and Hannah May Greer Hicks, under the direction of Steven and Lee Rabine, Todd Carver and Richard Rodgers.

Thank you to one and all. I’m ever grateful.

Things learned, observed in the Far East High School Basketball Tournaments

Musings, mutterings and the occasional schmahts as Ornauer thanks his stars that he survived the last month:

After all those tournaments that ended in heartbreak, four straight runner-up finishes at the hands of Seoul American and its superstar MVP Liz Gleaves, twice in basketball and once each in soccer and volleyball, Faith Academy’s Grace & Kelly Show could not have had a more fitting ending.

The Vanguards left little to doubt, breaking in front 21-6 and never looking back as they steamrolled Kadena 57-33. It was Faith’s 10th total Far East basketball tournament title, six at the Division I level including four straight from 1997-2000, and four Division II tournament titles. Faith has reached center court of one tournament or the other for eight straight years.

For Kelly Hardeman, the title came on her 18th birthday, and this may have been the best birthday present she’s ever had. 27 points. 18 rebounds. 9 steals. Almost a triple-double. Her guard teammate of four years, Grace Fern, added 17 points and seven steals.

And so the curtain comes down on the Grace & Kelly Show, Far East Tournament titles in their freshmen and senior seasons. With all the heartache they suffered in that unprecedented span of four straight D-I tournament losses, and all the hard work they put in this year to go out champions, they deserve everything.

Kelly becomes the fourth grandchild of legendary Vanguards boys basketball coach Tine Hardeman, now the school’s sports chaplain, to play for a Faith Academy Far East Tournament champion team, joining Elizabeth, Kelsey and Taisha. Only T.J. Hardeman Jr., a sophomore, has yet to win one.

One of the most decorated families in Far East tournament history, Tine’s three sons have also either played or coached on a Far East champion team.

Speaking of family ties, 14 years ago, the former Val Parsons played for a Lady V’s team that won its second straight D-I tournament title and third straight overall, beating host Kadena 45-35 in the last Far East girls basketball tournament held in spring. On Saturday, Joshua Manthe coached the Vanguards to victory … Val Parsons’ husband.

And Faith’s co-coach Walt Spicer could also take some parental pride, in that his senior and sophomore daughters Ashley and Juliana were part of the championship team, with Ashley making the All-Tournament team.

Congratulations, Lady V’s.

***

Okkodo beat Kubasaki 67-63 in the tournament opener, a round-robin contest that sounded the warning shot that perhaps the Bulldogs were in it for the long haul.

The Dragons silenced Okkodo’s shot with the last game of the tournament, a 55-47 comeback triumph with all the marbles on the line.

There was C.J. Crenshaw, the senior captain who seemingly couldn’t miss at the foul line. There was B.J. Simmons, whom a year earlier was ruled out of the trip to Far East because of a heart condition; he was later cleared medically to return. There was Brandon Crawford, whom at season’s beginning didn’t try out for the team, but changed his mind a couple of weeks later.

They and others such as Jarrett Mitchell, Xavier Price and K.J. Sargent, each played key roles in helping the Dragons return to the title podium.

Coach Jon Fick, after just six seasons, now joins a pantheon of Dragons coaches, William C. Bechtel and Don Hobbs, as Kubasaki coaches to win three Far East D-I Tournament titles.

Hobbs is now the DODDS Pacific Far East athletics coordinator.

We now have the Fred Sava Memorial Cup which goes to the coach of the boys D-I champion team. Can somebody tell me the whereabouts of the Bechtel Memorial Trophy, named for the guy who coached three straight Kubasaki champion teams from 1959-61 and first presented to the D-I Tournament MVP in 1984?

And I’m guessing Fick will soon become what they refer to around these parts as a coaching institution.

His strategy for shutting down the Bulldogs was beautiful in its simplicity. They were outsized underneath by Maksever Kepwe and Josh Sebastian underneath; the Dragons simply kept bodies on each. Fleet-footed on defense, they also contested every three-point try by the Bulldogs. And they hit foul shot after foul shot, something that’s clearly become a lost art on high school hoops courts.

Kubasaki’s semifinal 62-54 victory the day before over Father Duenas Memorial almost seemed like a dress rehearsal for the championship game, given how similar Okkodo and FDMS were in terms of style.

***

Saturday’s victory seemed doubly special for Simmons, who unleashed a cascade of emotion down his countenance and engendered hug after hug from teammates. Simmons wanted to be at last year’s Far East in the worst possible way; his heart probably hurt more from that. So you could understand how joyful he was.

***

Just what does pool play mean besides ensuring teams get a shot at the best possible seeding in the playoffs that follow?

Very little, given the final scores of some of the games and the irony of same.

Just days before Yokota and American School In Japan boys engaged in a one-point game on Monday (58-57, ASIJ), the Mustangs utterly declawed the Panthers 74-33 on senior night at Mustang Valley.

Seoul American’s girls, two-time defending champions, beat host Yokota 48-45, then got mercy-ruled five days later in the fifth- and sixth-place game.

That’s besides the varied outcomes of the two Okkodo-Kubasaki games.

***

Speaking of dynasties, how about Daegu High? They lose Kristina Bergman, Gulee Kwon and Angie Robinet to graduation and don’t lose a step, winning their second Division II title in three years and third in school history.

The secret? Push the ball inside to Maleah Potts Cash, and if she stays hot, there’s very little that can be done to stop her. And you can’t just collapse down on her and expect to stop the Warriors, not with Raven Calloway and others hitting from the perimeter.

With all these sophomores coming back next season, the Sarah Wrights and Lari Robertsons and others, if coach Ken Walter can find a suitable replacement for Potts Cash … there may be no stopping this group.

This Warriors group had quite a bit in common with a Morrison Academy boys side that lost much of its core of players from the team that went 35-0 last year, only to come back this year, lose just one game and win 30 and capture its fourth straight D-II crown and sixth overall.

One of these years, coach Dan Robinson and his boys have to hope that the girls volleyball, soccer and basketball teams vote to attend Division I tournaments; I think the Mustangs can be competitive at that level, and I’m sure Robinson does, too.

***

Maybe the most exciting day of the four Far East tournaments was Close-Shave Wednesday. Warren Manegan’s buzzer-beating shot that lifted Yokota to a 45-43 comeback against George Washington. A 14-6 third quarter that propelled Kubasaki’s boys over Simon Sanchez 37-35. Nile C. Kinnick knocking Kadena out of the playoffs in the first round for the first time since 1994, a 43-40 win over the Panthers. Kinnick’s girls barely surviving John F. Kennedy 33-31. Matthew C. Perry’s girls getting their first win over Morrison in 10 years, 40-36 in the D-II tournament at Misawa. D-II girls host Robert D. Edgren needing a 15-10 fourth quarter to outlast Yongsan International-Seoul 59-53. And Daegu’s boys outscoring Osan American 18-10 in the fourth quarter to rally for a 50-47 win.

Or maybe you liked Upset Thursday better? Seoul American’s girls’ 18-game, three-year Far East tournament winning streak ending 57-49 against Guam island champion Academy of Our Lady of Guam. Korea boys champion falling 55-42 against Father Duenas. Kinnick shocking Kanto boys champion American School In Japan 58-55. YIS-Seoul stunning DODDS Japan boys champion Robert D. Edgren 52-45. And siblings John Ilao of FDMS and Gemilie Ilao of Academy teaming up to bring down two favorites.

***

Where post-tournament awards are concerned, there needs to be some sort of consistency, and exceptions made for players who starred in their own right, but were left off the All-Tournament team because of rules governing player selections.

Example: Warren Manegan, Yokota. His buzzer-beating three-pointer mentioned earlier had to be one of the shots of the tournament, and he piled on the points like there was no tomorrow. Yet, his Panthers didn’t finish in the top 10 so he wasn’t selected to the Boys D-I All-Tournament team.

At that same tournament, it was decided by the coaches that the Most Valuable Player must come from the champion team. Yet at the Girls D-II tournament, the MVP, Rebekah Harwell, came from the fourth-place team, Matthew C. Perry.

Going strictly by definition: Player.most.valuable.to.their.team. I couldn’t care less what place the team finished. Anybody remember Andre “Hawk” Dawson earning the 1987 MVP for the last-place Chicago Cubs? I remember Brieanna Carroll garnering Girls D-II MVP honors for a SEVENTH-place Pusan American team in 2004. Then there was Melissa Calkins of Trinity Christian School of Guam, taking MVP for a fifth-place team.

If their play merits selection to the All-Tournament team, by all means, consider players from EVERY team.

***

Celebration of the tournaments: Kubasaki’s boys dogpile underneath the basket was at once scripted as it was spontaneous, done at the behest of a photographer who wished to see something different. Boy, he got it.

***

Eatery of the Week: Besides the Shima Shack at Yokota, there was the concession at the Boys D-I Tournament at Charles King Fitness & Sports Center. Make your own smoothies, choosing whatever types of fruit you wanted? You’re kidding, right? Gen-yoo-wyne hot cups of chicken noodle soup and New England clam chowder? Shut the front door, a’ready!

***

That, among many other reasons, should be a strong lure for Guam to continue hosting at least one of the Division I Tournaments. Organizers Diana Toves and Bertha Herrera did far better a job than can be reasonably expected for people directing tournaments for the first time. They realized they did not have all the answers, so they did the right thing: Ask a lot of questions. And they learned along the way. The adjustments made to the schedule were the right ones and did not involve a great deal of hoop jumping. The hospitality room was among the finest I’ve seen at any Far East tournament, as was the post-tournament banquet. And Diana and Bertha listened. Not to mention, the weather – as always on Guam – was utterly marvelous.

***

IT’S COLD UP HERE!!!!!

***

How odd it was to see Larry McNair, who for 12 years was Kubasaki’s No. 2 in the Junior ROTC department, cheering passionately for Okkodo, the school where he works now.

A retired Marine Corps master sergeant, McNair, now 60, works at Okkodo, the barely 5-year-old school located in Dededo. He left Kubasaki four years ago and spent a year in his native Texas with his wife, Terry, before coming to Guam. While McNair works at Okkodo, Terry works at Guam High.

“This sure brings back a lot of memories,” said McNair, whom you’d think would have felt somewhat conflicted cheering against his old school, but clearly now bleeds Bulldog.

McNair has two children in the military now. His son Larry is a Marine chief warrant officer third class assigned to Camp Courtney on Okinawa, while Kristi, a star defender on Kubasaki’s 2008 Far East D-I Soccer Tournament title team, is an Army first lieutenant in Kuwait.

***

Fashion statement of the tournaments could be found at the Boys D-II Tournament on different teams, but with the same colour. Khalil Williams of Robert D. Edgren and Zama American’s Mike Duncan could be seen wearing pink-trimmed shoes, out of respect for those suffering from breast cancer and those fighting to find a cure for the disease and other cancers.

A close second was a D-II girls display of unity exhibited by Morrison Academy’s girls, as observed by members of Team Eagle-Eye, student-reporters watching and Taylor Quinn photographing. Each Mustangs girl sported a braid in their hair and matching black socks. After a victory over Zama American, Morrison’s Shana Heading told Quinn that the Mustangs did it out of team unity and that it was a team decision, that all the players did it.

Things learned, observed Days 1-2 of Far East High School Basketball Tournaments

It wasn’t the way Robert D. Edgren’s boys wanted to win their Day 2 pool-play contest against Yongsan International-Seoul, Eagles coach Andre Thibert said after Edgren survived the Guardians in double overtime, 45-42, a game in which a scorebook points controversy ended up sending the teams back onto the court after the game was seemingly over.

YIS-Seoul appeared headed for a certain victory, leading by two points after one overtime, 37-35. But Edgren was awarded two more points when the officials and scorekeeper went to verify the game’s outcome and the teams were told to return to the court and continue play.

“It’s not the way we wanted to win,” Thibert said. “Just the way things worked out. I feel badly for them.”

“Nobody likes to have a discrepancy like that,” tournament director Steven Rabine said.

Though upset with the outcome, Guardians coach Daniel Hale said, “I’m not going to protest the game. … I don’t think anything is going to change.”

DODDS tournament bylaws generally do not allow protests nor permit games to be replayed during the course of a tournament. National Federation of State High School Associations rules for basketball state that an error of any type is not correctable once play resumes from the point where said error occurred.

The scorebook had the game tied 4-4 after one period, Edgren leading 11-10 at halftime, YIS-Seoul up 26-20 after three periods and the score tied 30-30 after regulation.

After the first overtime, with the game seemingly in YIS-Seoul’s hands, Edgren’s players were packing their things and even had “one foot out the door” for lunch, Thibert said, when the officials and the scorekeepers conferred to verify the game’s outcome and credited Edgren with two more points.

Problem was, according to the coaches and tournament director Steven Rabine, Edgren should have been credited with the points during the first quarter if they should have been credited at all, which would have changed the entire dynamic of the game’s late stages. The game’s officials could not be reached for comment after the game.

“Obviously, our whole strategy changes” depending on who’s leading and whether Edgren had been credited with the two points, Hale said. If the game is tied, “we’re going to go for more points. If we’re leading, then we’re going to stall out the remaining time.”

Hale also said he took issue with the way the clock was being managed, that it wasn’t being stopped and started properly, and he voiced his concerns to the game’s referees to no avail. They even had to use new officials to play out the second overtime, as the game’s original crew had departed the gym following the first overtime.

“It’s an issue,” Hale said, adding that he would take it up with Rabine before the week is out.

“I really don’t know what to make of it,” said Rabine, who is directing his first Far East tournament. He added that the outcome could end up affecting tournament seeding, which teams would play which in the double-elimination playoffs starting Wednesday. “Maybe they’ll get another chance at each other,” he said.

Asked if the outcome might influence his desire to play in another Far East tournament – the Guardians won the event in 2008 – Hale said, “A lot of things run through your mind when something like this happens.”

Now, those are the Mustangs we remember!

Now, those are the American School In Japan Mustangs we remembered from December. The run-and-gun, helter-skelter, press-and-transition, half-court-trap gang that gave its first 13 opponents fits before Yokota surprised ASIJ 50-44 on the Panthers’ home court a week ago.
 
Put Yokota up against ASIJ on senior night at Mustang Valley and the tables turned completely. ASIJ refused to bow to Yokota’s attempts to stall time. “It could have been a 60-minute shot clock and it wouldn’t have made any difference,” Yokota coach Tim Pujol said.
 
The result – a 74-33 ASIJ romp reminiscent of the two games the teams played in the Holiday Classic two months ago. And most definitely, a warning shot of things perhaps to come when the teams convene in the first game of the Far East Division I Tournament on Monday on Guam.
 
ASIJ = Kanto Plain champions at 9-1. Yokota takes second at 7-3.
 

Things learned, observed on Days 3, 4 of Far East High School Wrestling Tournament

Musings, mutterings and the occasional schmahts as Ornauer pats his wounded forehead and realizes what wrestlers go through on the mat sometimes:

Seated beside each other in the bleacher section of the sprawling second-floor gymnasium in the George I. Purdy Memorial Fitness & Sports Center, Yokota coach Brian Kitts and his St. Mary’s International counterpart, Ian Harlow, discussed future Far East High School Wrestling Tournaments, and kidded each other about international schools’ involvement in same.

“If we host it, we’ll bar them again,” Kitts said, jokingly. “Well, just St. Mary’s. The others can come.”

“When we pull up to the gate, the guards will tell us, ‘No, you can’t come in,’” Harlow chimed in, holding his arms X-shaped in front of him.

The two spoke a day after Harlow’s Titans once more demonstrated that the road to a Far East Division I title goes through the international school nestled in the woods of Setagaya Ward on Tokyo’s southwest outskirts.

Harlow, his middle-school assistant and former three-time Far East champion Shu Yabui, and the Titans have become a runaway Far East title express train. In just their second year back after DODDS Pacific policy prevented international schools from participating at Far East from 2004-2010, the Titans have won every team championship there is to win.

And they may be just beginning. Though the Titans will lose five senior starters – their best wrestlers, by Harlow’s and Kitts’ account – they do return Far East champion Jeff Koo (168) along with contenders Kaimi Miyazawa (108), Kentaro Hayashi (115), Ray Okuno (101), Tomo Moriya (148) and Sean Ward (215). Behind them are a cadre of JVs and middle schoolers all hungry for a slice of that title pie.

Thus, once more, the Pacific wrestling establishment is on notice: You want to beat the Titans? Better step up your game. The return of the international schools has been institutionalized. They’re not going anywhere. They have nine Far East tournament team titles and counting, and who knows? They may be just getting warmed up.

***

Things went pretty much as expected in most of the weight classes during the individual freestyle tournament, and also in the dual-meet tournament. Some random thoughts about the things expected and unexpected.

To start with, in the dual-meet Division I quarterfinals, there was Seoul American beating Kubasaki. First time in five years. And quite a surprise, considering the amount of mat preparation the Falcons get heading into Far East. More on that later.

While St. Mary’s won the individual freestyle by a record-setting runaway 39 points, the dual-meet final might as well have been an instant replay of last year’s, when the Titans survived Kadena. Nile C. Kinnick gave the Titans everything they had on Thursday, even tying it 25-25 on Aaron Stravers’ decision at 180 pounds. But Sean Ward at 215 and heavyweight icon Chidi Agbo each posted victories to give St. Mary’s an eight-point margin.

At the D-II level, Robert D. Edgren made it a clean sweep of the team titles for the second time in three years. Not bad, for a school that only gets three or four in-season DODDS Japan tournaments and some local competition with whatever Japanese schools want to visit Misawa or vice versa.

The Eagles, with their core of three, Matt Bernal, Cody Scherrer and James Bowman, having three years or more in the program, dethroned Zama American 40-20 in Thursday’s final.

As far as the individual tournament, take Darnell Vinson of tiny E.J. King, for starters, in the 180-pound division, which was strong top to bottom with luminaries such as Zama American’s Mitchell Harrison, Kinnick’s Stravers, Kadena’s Tyler Putt among others.

“I had my doubts, because that weight class has such a wealth of competition,” said Vinson, who won the gold at 180 on Wednesday after coming up just short the past two years. “But at the same time I said it’s Far East. It’s all or nothing.”

Justin Duenas of Kadena capturing gold at 101 pounds? Expected, yes. What was not expected was Shaira Espino of Simon Sanchez reaching the semifinals and coming one bout victory away from becoming the first girl to reach a Far East weight-class final.

Steven Walter of Kubasaki had an unexpectedly tough road back to his second straight gold medal, beating Miyazawa for the second straight year to win at 108. Quincy McCants of Kinnick captured gold at 115; what wasn’t expected was whom he beat, Hayashi instead of Zama’s Eric Otero, who took third.

Then there was Brett Hammontree at 122 pounds. Wrestling with a broken right middle finger most of the season? Are you KIDDING me? And beating somebody of American School In Japan’s Callan Murphy’s cachet for the gold? Did NOT see that coming, especially after Hammontree missed most of last season with a knee injury.

Yuma Fuseya of Christian Academy Japan winning at 129? Expected, especially dethroning St. Mary’s Soma Yoshida in the semifinals, but Fuseya had one tough road to hoe in the finals, outlasting Seoul American’s Robert Rhea in a three-period decision.

Both 135 and 141 went as expected, with Yokota’s Trenton “Tractor” Traylor pinning Bowman, and Zama’s Chad Wilder outbattling St. Mary’s JP Kwak in two periods.

One could classify 148, where Kinnick’s Zach Lacaria rallid to pin Daegu’s Xavian Washburn in 54 seconds, as a surprise, until one remembers, Daegu, along with Osan and Seoul American, did not get a whole bunch of mat preparation for Far East, only the six tri-meets they wrestled against each other. A bit of fund raising and participation in last month’s “Beast of the Far East” and “Rumble on the Rock” tournaments in Japan and teams get a taste of what Far East is like.

St. Mary’s Brendan Hymas winning at 158? Yeah, I could see that; pretty wide-open competition there. Did not see Koo avenging his Kanto Plain finals loss to Yokota’s Stanley Speed at 168. Thought Harrison would prevail at 180; guess that’s why they wrestle the bouts on mats instead of online. I also did not see freshman Jack Barnes of Seoul American putting up such a good fight to the silver at 215 (Kubasaki’s Fred Suniga won the gold).

Sorely missed at this year’s tournament: Daniel Saintil of Daegu, last year’s 215-pound runner-up. Had he made it to Far East, “you’re talking five-point throw city,” said his coach of last year, Luke Spencer.

As for Wilder, he became just the fourth Zama wrestler to win the tournament’s Outstanding Wrestler honor, but the second in two years behind three-time Far East gold medalist Michael Spencer and the third in seven years. And it’s the first time a D-II wrestler has been accorded the OW award two straight years, and the third in six years.

To the U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka corpsmen who volunteered their services at the Far East Tournament: Thanks for the patch-up. I promise not to make the next fall so bloody spectacular. And to Jandi Johnson: Thanks for the emergency supply stock and the tasty lunch!
J

Things learned, observed on Day 2 of Far East wrestling tournament

If this was the World Cup futbol tournament, the upper bracket of the heavyweight division of the Far East High School Wrestling Tournament would be the celebrated “Group of Death.”

And what a road defending champion Chidi Agbo of St. Mary’s International School had to hoe this week. Just to get a chance at a gold-medal repeat, Agbo first had to survive a three-period decision against Yokota’s Jesse Hogan – which many tabbed Tuesday’s “bout of the day” – and on Wednesday faced an opponent as hungry to beat him as anybody else, Kadena’s Gabe Ahner, who lost to Agbo in both the freestyle and dual-meet finals, clinching each team title for the Titans.

“It’s like I’m wrestling the finals today,” Agbo said before taking the mat against Hogan, whom he survived 3-0, 3-3 big point, 1-1 last point. It took a very late lift and takedown by Agbo, before teammates and spectator surrounding the mat and screaming with all the urgency of a gold-medal bout, which is what it resembled.

“It’s an interesting top side of the bracket, fun to watch,” Titans coach Ian Harlow said. “It could be the difference in total (team) points for the tournament.”

How did Hogan, one of the favorites to reach the final against Agbo, get into that situation? Losing by first-period pin to unheralded David Costello of host Nile C. Kinnick.

“When people lose matches they should win, that’s what happens,” Hogan’s coach, Brian Kitts, said. “Anything can happen at Far East.”

“It’s sad that it had to happen that way, but that’s the way things go,” Harlow said.

***

While Agbo survived to reach Wednesday’s semifinal, 2011 Far East tournament champion Thomas Cioppa of Kadena wasn’t as fortunate, losing a two-period decision to Callan Murphy of American School In Japan. The two had met at last month’s “Beast of the Far East” tournament, with Murphy winning in three periods.

Murphy’s reward was a semifinal date Wednesday with Guam island champion Bryan Taijeron of Guam High. “Whatever happens, happens,” Murphy said. “I’m going out to win.”

***
Other results I didn’t see coming involved Shaira Espino of Simon Sanchez, pinning Guam High’s Victoria Davis at 101 pounds. Should Espino win her semifinal bout, she would become the first girl to reach a Far East gold-medal final.

At 108, reigning Far East champion Steven Walter of Kubasaki got a good scare from Kinnick’s Brandon Yoder before prevailing in two periods.

At 180, Darnell Vinson of E.J. King pinning Zama American’s Mitchell Harrison. Wow!

How about 148-pounder Xavian Washburn’s chances at bringing home Daegu High’s first gold medal in school history?

I can’t make up my mind which is the tougher weight-class final four:

-- 129, with reigning Far East champion Soma Yoshida of St. Mary’s, Christian Academy Japan’s Yuma Fuseya, Robert D. Edgren’s Cody Scherrer and Seoul American’s Robert Rhea?
-- 122, with Murphy, Taijeron and Osan American’s Brett Hammontree?
-- 141, with Zama’s Chad Wilder, Kubasaki’s Zach Standridge and St. Mary’s JP Kwak?
-- 168, with St. Mary’s Jeff Koo, Yokota’s Stanley Speed and Seoul American’s Jonny Porter?

While much of the talk at the officials’ table revolved around 141, I’m leaning toward 129. The winner of that weight class should be named the tournament’s Outstanding Wrestler.

***

Almost sneaking past us under the radar was the Far East tournament’s individual freestyle meet reverting back to the single-elimination format that had been used on and off since the 1996 Far East at Kinnick, the first one to employ something other than a true international freestyle format.

For the last four years, starting with the 2008 tournament at Kubasaki, Far East had employed a double-elimination format that gave wrestlers a second chance if they lose an early-round bout. In fact, DODDS Pacific officials had expressed their intent to make the double-elimination format permanent.

Whether a case of miscommunication or lack of passdown from the Osan American High School organizers of the 2011 Far East meet at Camp Humphreys, South Korea (all of whom are gone now), and despite the lack of an outcry from anybody, the issue should be raised at the next Far East athletics council meeting in April on Okinawa, and the format should be standardized forever, one way or the other.

***

… and believe it or not, DODDS Pacific’s athletics coordinator Don Hobbs sat there, going page-by-page through the Far East wrestling tournament program and COUNTED the number of countries, states and U.S. territories represented.

“I don’t know if you’ll find a more international tournament like this, except for the Olympics,” Hobbs said after counting 11 countries, 33 states and two territories.

What are they, you ask?

*deep breath*

Japan, Myanmar, Nepal, England, South Korea, Philippines, Peru, Nigeria, Canada, Ireland and the United States.

*deep breath*

New Jersey, Texas, Pennsylvania, Virginia, California, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Mississippi, Colorado, Michigan, Idaho, Iowa, Hawai’i, Illinois, Florida, Arkansas, Louisiana, Kansas, Washington, Missouri, New York, Nevada, Georgia, Tennessee, South Carolina, Alaska, Arizona, Alabama, New Mexico, Maryland, Delaware, North Dakota and Minnesota.

ANNNNNNDDDDD …

Puerto Rico and Guam.

***

Perhaps the most taken for granted and thankless jobs there are at a Far East tournament are those reserved for student volunteers who spent much of the week as timers and scoreboard keepers. They probably get yelled at more than anybody else – “HOW MUCH TIME LEFT?” and “THE POINTS ARE WRONG!” – just as the many involved with athletics who do jobs in which they please 46 percent of the people 50 percent of the time.

Nile C. Kinnick High School juniors Sheila Rojo and Khaimook Grosshuesch raised their hands to volunteer to work the table at Mat 4, “because we wanted to help the school out,” Grosshuesch said.

Clearly, the tasty carrot is the getting out of class aspect, which is why most volunteers are the upper crust of students who can handle the books as well as the stopwatches. “We get out of class, but we have to make up the assignments later,” Grosshuesch said.

What are the biggest challenges of keeping time and the flip-down scoreboard?

“Being precise about the timing,” Rojo said.

“Keeping up with the referee” as he signals points, sometimes in bang-bang fashion as wrestlers turn each other over, Grosshuesch said.

Thank you, and the so many others, for what you do.

Things learned, observed on Day 1 of Far East High School Wrestling Tournament

The kid battled the veteran, and a returning Far East Wrestling Tournament gold medalist at that, for position in their 108-pound round-robin bout on Monday. Freshman Brandon Beaumont of Robert D. Edgren and reigning weight-class champion Steven Walter of Kubasaki fought for the advantage, then came crashing down together, side by side.

For full-field results of every last pool-play bout on Monday, plus KAIAC Division II basketball tournament and conference awards and photos of Monday's Kinnick vs. Zama boys basketball game at Atsugi, click here.

Opportunity knocked. And Beaumont simply did what any wrestler presented an opportunity would do – he covered his quarry, pinning Walter in 1 minute, 47 seconds.

Humble and unassuming, Beaumont himself seemed overwhelmed by what he’d done.

“Somewhat of a surprise,” he said. “I guess what happened, happened.”

“He’s a good kid,” coach Justin Edmonds said. “They’re all good kids.”

Granted, the victory occurred during pool-play, and didn’t relegate Walter in any way to a knockout round or diminish his chances at a repeat title in any way.

But Walter wasn’t the only one to rediscover that staying at the top can sometimes be harder than getting to the top.

Brett Hammontree of Osan American scored just as big an eyebrow raiser, a two-period decision over Thomas Cioppa of Kadena in which Hammontree started out slowly, but scored two three-point throws in the second period to finish him off.

It was a great way for Hammontree, a 122-pounder, to return to the Far East circuit; he missed most of last season with a knee injury and was hungry to get back on the mat.

“He’s a good wrestler,” Hammontree said of Cioppa. “He gave it his all; I just gave a little more.”

The lesson to be learned by both the reigning champions and those who would want to bring them down? “You have to bring the same attitude as you did the year before,” Hammontree said.

Those who figured to make deep runs at a first gold medal also found some roadblocks on Monday’s opening day of the 35th Far East High School Wrestling Tournament.

Nile C. Kinnick’s 180-pounder Aaron Stravers, who had gone a pedestrian 1-4 against Mitchell Harrison of Zama American, not only beat Harrison but pinned him for the first time.

“I think I have a chance now, definitely,” Stravers said.

Girls enjoyed their moment in the sun as well. Shaira Espino of reigning island champion Simon Sanchez won a pair of round-robin bouts, but refused to look too far ahead nor pronounce herself a contender for the 101-pound weight title.

“I wouldn’t want to say anything,” said Espino, who won silver at the Guam All-Island meet two months ago. “Each match, I pretend it’s my first match.”

Neophyte programs such as Matthew C. Perry of Japan, which brought just two wrestlers to Far East, also reveled in the spotlight when Connor Hadlock, a 158-pounder, recorded the first bout win in school history by pinning Steve Parotte of Daegu High in 1:19.

“It feels great,” Hadlock said. “Getting here and winning one just now, it’s awesome.”

Four years ago, Craig Bell, a student at Perry, won the 122-pound gold medal, but was technically listed as a member of E.J. King’s team and scored team points for the Cobras. In 2004, Adam Krievs, who divided his senior year between Kinnick and Perry High Schools and wrestled at Far East unattached, won a bronze at 180.

UPDATED Pacific high school basketball ratings, pre-Far East edition

UPDATES with new girls top 15.

Boys
1. Kubasaki, Okinawa (17-14): Dragons capture second straight OAC season series title.
2. Seoul American (22-7): Bounced back from first high-school loss to win KAIAC tournament title.
3. American School In Japan (13-1): How to contend against the Mustangs? Slow the pace!
4. Morrison Academy, Taiwan (20-1): Far East is next for the Mustangs.
5. Robert D. Edgren, Japan (17-2). Eagles keep soaring after DODDS Japan tourney title.
6. Kadena, Okinawa (11-13): Panthers fall victim to second-hald Dragons rally.
7. Faith Academy, Philippines (19-6). Vanguards open against Seoul American at Far East.
8, Yokota, Japan (18-7): Played well all weekend until the final quarter against Edgren in DODDS Japan final.
9. Okkodo, Guam (9-1): Bulldogs shining atop the Guam heap.
10. George Washington, Guam (8-2): Geckos have dropped two of last three.
11. Daegu High, South Korea (13-9): Lost in KAIAC final; could still contend for Far East D-II title.
12. Matthew C. Perry, Japan (13-9): Didn’t fare well at DODDS Japan; could be a Far East D-II darkhorse.
13. Yongsan International-Seoul, South Korea (13-6): Strong regular season, KAIAC tournament finish.
14. Zama American, Japan (13-11): Trojans could be standing at the cusp of Far East D-II title contention.
15. Taejon Christian International, South Korea (12-6). Not the best showing for the Dragons, but their best season in years.
Dropped out: Father Duenas Memorial, Guam.

Random observations—Seoul American will likely use the first two days of Far East, pool play, to gauge if Bryant McCray is back all the way from an ankle sprain. They’re close to where they want to be. … Take the air out of the basketball, especially with no shot clock. That may be the way to neutralize ASIJ’s full-court game. History shows that formula works, and St. Mary’s International set the template for that. … Trailing 47-34 after three quarters against Yokota in the DODDS Japan final, it looked as if the Robert D. Edgren boys’ “great at home, not-so-great on the road” reputation was safe. Then the Eagles blew that reputation to smithereens, outscoring the Panthers 21-6 in the final period. Not only can they win on the road, they can do it in pressure situations. … Shut down C.J. Crenshaw and you have a fighting chance to stop Kubasaki. Problem with that is, nobody’s been able to lately.

Girls
1. Yokota, Japan (24-1): Panthers swap places with Mustangs based on second straight DODDS Japan tournament title.
2. American School In Japan (10-1): Not that much of a gap between ASIJ and the top.
3. Kadena, Okinawa (16-7): Second straight OAC season series sweep in the books.
4. Faith Academy, Philippines (15-4): Far East D-I tournament next.
5. Seoul American (17-5): Falcons bypass one of their two regular-season tormentors.
6. Daegu High, South Korea (16-2): From regular-season champions to KAIAC tournament bronze medalists.
7. Nile C. Kinnick, Japan (22-7): Not a very good week at DODDS Japan.
8. Zama American, Japan (12-10): Don’t look now, but this team has really come out.
9. Seoul Foreign (17-7). Nice KAIAC tournament run to end season
10. Notre Dame, Guam (season complete). See Faith.
11. Yongsan International-Seoul (14-7): Closed the KAIAC tournament by ousting Seoul Foreign and regular-season champion Daegu High.
12. Simon Sanchez, Guam (season complete).
13. Morrison Academy, Taiwan (8-9): That record might not mean much come Far East D-II. Mustangs always pride themselves on defense.
14. Okkodo, Guam (season complete).
15. Academy of Our Lady of Guam (season complete).

Random observations—They may not be as athletic as the Liz Gleaves-Jordan Elliott-Desintee Harrison teams, but Seoul American is primed to make a run at a fourth straight Far East D-I tournament final berth. … Trinity Davis showed no signs of discomfort from that leg injury suffered in January and Yokota is playing that much better for it. … Beating Kinnick 51-49 in the DODDS Japan tournament? Are you kidding me? Zama went 4-2 for the week, and coach Mark Millington is talking about how the team is bent on “hanging the (D-II) banner” instead of rebuilding as it was in November. … Something’s just not right in Red Devil Nation. … Daegu need not far too much about its middling KAIAC tournament performance. Many a DODDS team that finished third in that tournament went on to win the Far East D-II title. … So much – for now – about the talk that Kubasaki was ready to take down Kadena. But that says more about respect for the Dragons than anything. The Panthers were very concerned going into last Thursday’s game at Kubasaki, and their play showed it. Don’t expect Kadena to look past any foe the rest of the way.

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

Yokota’s Ettl to play college basketball in N. Dakota

“All those shots in the driveway,” Yokota coach Paul Ettl said, helped his daughter Erika take the first step up to a higher level of ball.

The All-Far East senior basketball guard has signed a national letter of intent to play point guard and shooting guard at Valley City State University in North Dakota. Between athletic, academic and diversity student aid, Ettl will get “nearly a full ride” to play for the Vikings of the Dakota Athletic Conference. They’re 15-13 overall and 0-4 in conference with two regular-season games left.

Ettl has been the face of Yokota girls basketball for four seasons, leading the Panthers to a third-place finish in the Far East Division I Tournament last February at Naval Station, Guam, and DODDS Japan championship in her senior year.

“I’m excited, looking forward to see what the next level is like,” Ettl said.

Ex-Kinnick track star Serfoss running for Villanova

His star came and went quickly, both for Kadena in 2008 where he was named Outstanding Freshman, and 2009 and 2010, where he set school records in the intermediate and high hurdles before moving on to Syracuse High (N.Y.) for his senior year.

Cory Serfoss is now making a name for himself at Villanova, a Division I school in the Big East Conference. Give a peek at his bio page. Nice to see an ex-Pacific star shining brightly at the next level!

One-sided Kadena girls win over Kubasaki not what it seemed

Thursday’s 58-28 drubbing by Kadena over Kubasaki may have seemed like more of the same between the two girls basketball teams throughout the Okinawa Activities Council regular season. Everything is not what it seems, though, with regard to the teams’ regular-season finale.

Kadena knew it was up against a much improved Dragons team, coach Willie Ware said. Not only had Kubasaki taken the Panthers to overtime on Kadena’s home court the last time they faced them, Sydney Johnson scored 36 points in the Dragons’ 65-60 home loss on Monday to Kitanakagusuku. And Kadena had to play the season finale in the Dragons’ Den.

Thus, it was with a newfound sense of urgency that the Panthers took the court against a Dragons team playing with a “newfound confidence,” Ware said. It may have been a 30-point victory, but it was nothing like their previous encounters.

“Our defense was on target. The girls came out focused,” Ware said. “Kubasaki is not a pushover any more. We didn’t want to come in unprepared and get steamrolled. We created turnovers and got layups in transition.”

Kubasaki's boys, meanwhile, got a 32-point performance from C.J. Crenshaw and battled back from a seven-point halftime deficit to beat Kadena 76-67 and clinch the OAC season series three games to one.

The next time the two teams might meet would be in the Far East Division I Tournaments, the girls Feb. 20-25 at Yokota and the boys at Naval Station, Guam.

Major leaguers to visit U.S. bases during season-opening trip to Tokyo

Looks like Major League Baseball fans of all ages at Yokota Air Base and Camp Zama will see a special group of visitors come late March when the Seattle Mariners and Oakland A’s come to Tokyo to open the 2012 season, officials told Stripes on Thursday.

Oakland plans to send a handful of players to Yokota on March 25 and the Mariners to do likewise on March 26 to Zama for handshake, photo and autograph sessions. Keep an eyeball glued to your base’s commanders’ access channels and Facebook pages for details.

NOW, who’s No. 1?

The answer: There will be a new No. 1 atop Stripes’ boys basketball ratings early next week.

The question: Who will it be?

The first warning shot: Tuesday at Capps Gym, where the homestanding Yokota Panthers, playing American School In Japan for the first time with the luxury of no shot clock, played stall ball the first two periods, got a huge game inside from A.J. Eldridge, and held off the Mustangs 50-44, ASIJ’s first loss in 14 games.

That may have been easier done, though, than Yokota’s 48-41 victory the very next night at home over Christian Academy Japan.

Two reasons for this:

1) Yokota spent a great deal of emotional energy beating ASIJ, something palpable in the crowd’s behavior on Wednesday. The Panthers admittedly came out flat against CAJ.

2) Everybody knows where they stand against ASIJ, which prides itself on open-floor fast-break, press-and-transition ball. CAJ? The Knights are this year’s Forrest Gump box of chocolates team: You never know what you’re going to get. If CAJ’s firing on all cylinders, look out. And that’s what makes the 4-9 Knights so dangerous.

Right now, ASIJ still sits atop the pile, followed by Kubasaki, which hosts No. 4 Kadena on Thursday, and Seoul American, which plays in the Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference Division I Tournament this weekend at Seoul Foreign. Even Yokota (15-6) might have an outside shot at the top if the Panthers can win the DODDS Japan Tournament, also at Capps Gym, this weekend.

What does SportsBlog Nation think? Who’s going to be the new No. 1? Shout it out! But remember, you've entered THE "No-Hate Zone." :)

Plans underway for 22nd Pacificwide softball tournament Memorial Day weekend

Start making those flight arrangements to Inchon International Airport and those reservations at the Dragon Hill Lodge. The 22nd Pacificwide Open Interservice Softball Tournament is on.

Jeff Jackson, vice president for business development for DRASH, a military clothier, said via Facebook message that he’s worked with Yongsan Garrison command and the tournament will happen May 25-28 at the Lombardo Field FourPlex on Yongsan’s south post.

The format stays the same as last year, Jackson said. That means an open- and post-level teams tournament, plus one for company-level teams and one for women. The men’s open tournament will feature pool play plus two double-elimination brackets with the winners squaring off in a best-of-three final.

Entry fee is the same as last year, $500. While the entry deadline is May 10, “that may slide one way or the other” as DRASH and Yongsan command finalise details. For information, e-mail
jjackson@drash.com or phone 914-806-3473 for now. DRASH plans to set up a tournament Facebook page. Once a point of contact within the garrison is established, Jackson says he’ll provide it.

Guardians boys finally get long-awaited win over Seoul American

Yongsan International School-Seoul had its beginnings 22 years ago as International Christian School-Seoul, part of the Network of International Christian Schools. Something in the title must have been translated to read “Seoul American High School boys basketball team’s personal piñata.”

Never in its long history, not after converting to YIS-Seoul seven years ago, had the Guardians defeated the Falcons. In fact, seven years ago, the Falcons helped christen the new school by beating the Guardians by 60 points.

Until Friday. 45-39 at YIS-Seoul. Streak and a long piece of history over.

YIS-Seoul held all Falcons players except Tomiwa Akinbayo to four points or fewer (Akinbayo had 21), while holding SAHS as a team to 29-percent field goal shooting. Raymond Lee led three Guardians in double-figure scoring. Jon Bai just missed a double-double with 11 points and eight rebounds.

“It was certainly a team win,” coach Daniel Hale said of his 8-5 Guardians.

“We had a definite gameplan and we executed. We kept the turnovers low and took the right shots at the right time. Today, they fell. Our defense is solid. It has been all season. Our offense stepped it up. And our seniors really put team before themselves.”

The win, Hale said, goes out to “all the players who have come through the program and the coaches who have spent so much time developing this program.” One of them, Steve Epps, won a Far East Division II Tournament title in 2008 at the Guardians’ helm.

“God deserves the glory, and that’s where the boys want the glory to go,” Hale said.

Former Guam High striker Speck to walk on at UNC-Charlotte

Among the many who signed national letters of intent to play sports at the university level is Meagan Speck, formerly a striker for Guam High who on Feb. 1 put her commitment to North Carolina-Charlotte on paper.

She joins the 49ers out of Terry Sanford (N.C. ) High, where she paced the Bulldogs to the Mid-South Conference regular-season title with 45 points and earned Cape Fear region Player of the Year honors.

Speck scored 29 goals in two seasons and in December 201, she along with All-Island midfielder Lexi Vermiere and goalkeeper Melanie Strudthoff powered Guam High to its second Independent Interscholastic Athletic Association of Guam island championship in school history, joining the Jessica Charles-backstopped 2003 team.

Things learned, observed in Pacific high school wrestling Week 7.0, basketball Week 11.0

Musings, mutterings and the occasional schmahts as Ornauer rues beginning the annual reporter recruiting pilgrimage with a head cold:

Can there be any doubt that Yokota, Nile C. Kinnick and defending team champion St. Mary’s International will enter next week’s Far East tournament as the favorites to finish 1-2-3 in the Division I standings?

The question is, in which order that will occur.

Kanto Plain Association of Secondary Schools teams have risen back to prominence the last couple of years at Far East, after years of domination by Okinawa and Seoul American. Kanto went six years, 2004 to 2010, without a Far East; now, look.

Kinnick, led by Elijah Gamble, won the Kanto Plain finals tournament title two years ago, and went on to capture the Far East individual freestyle team title and might have won the dual meet also were it not for Gamble dislocating an elbow.

A season ago, Yokota won the Kanto finals, but St. Mary’s won both Far East team titles.

Last Saturday, four Panthers earned gold medals and three more got silver as the Panthers repeated their Kanto finals crown, four points ahead of St. Mary’s. Almost a mirror image of last year.

While that may not be the most scientific gauge, that a Kanto title automatically means a Far East title, it is becoming a trend.

And with St. Mary’s, Yokota and Kinnick playing gnip-gnop with the in-season tournament top three placements, Kanto is starting to resemble the SEC West of Pacific high school wrestling.

Still, there’s a lot of pride left out there in the form of Seoul American, which won all but one dual meet this DODDS Korea season, plus the very much decorated DODDS programs on Okinawa, Kadena and Pacific team title record-holder Kubasaki. If they can get their injury- and illness-riddled houses in order by the time Far East comes along, it could be a wild ride.

Weight by weight last week in the Kanto finals:

101 needed to be a round-robin; only three wrestlers competed there. Champion Shintaro Clanton of Yokota will likely have his hands full against Kadena’s Justin Duenas at Far East.

108, Kaimi Miyazawa of St. Mary’s faces a tough chore in Kubasaki’s reigning Far East champion Steven Walter.

115, love how Kinnick’s Quincy McCants and Zama’s Eric Otero have battled back and forth. That German suplex McCants threw in the semifinals! Thing of beauty.

122, Callan Murphy of American School In Japan, Chantz Yazzie of Yokota, Tristan Wells of Kubasaki, Kadena’s reigning Far East champion Thomas Cioppa, Osan American’s Brett Hammontree; the competition gets more sturdy as the weights go higher.

129, what a battle royal between reigning Far East champion Soma Yoshida of St. Mary’s, his bane Yuma Fuseya of Christian Academy Japan, Sean Mathis of Kubasaki and Robert Rhea of Seoul American. Could be this season’s version of last year’s World War 215.

135, Kubasaki’s Austin Cyr vs. Yokota’s Trenton “Tractor” Traylor for the gold. Epic.

141, Zama American’s Chad Wilder’s gold to lose.

148, somebody’s going to have a tough fight on their hands with Xavian Washburn of Daegu High in Korea.

158, veterans such as Alex Banks of Kinnick and Brendan Hymas of Kinnick going up against youth in Dominic Shea or Damien Reese of Kadena.

168, Jonny Porter of Seoul American, Stanley Speed of Yokota, Jeff Koo of St. Mary’s, could be interesting.

180, Mitchell Harrison of Zama American, his gold to lose. Chasing him will be Aaron Stravers of Kinnick, Joe Durham of Seoul American and Tyler Putt of Kadena.

215, gut tells me Jake Jackson of Yokota vs. Fred Suniga of Kubasaki for gold.

Heavyweight, another weight that could easily resemble World War 215. St. Mary’s Chidi Agbo will defend gold against adversaries Gabe Ahner of Kadena and Jesse Hogan of Yokota, amongst others.

Can there be any question which day wrestlers at Far East are looking forward to most? Feb. 15, the day of the last weigh-in before the dual-meet portion of the tournament ends. No more worry about cutting weight. No more worry about what to eat or drink. Sbarro Café and any other eatery on Yokosuka that purveys pasta should set up a special Far East tournament buffet just for the participants; you don’t think they’re all gonna gorge on spaghetti that evening?

Speaking of eateries … As forecast, eatery of the week goes to St. Mary’s hospitality room. Coach Ian Harlow promised an international cuisine; the staff more than delivered. Wheat cakes and sausage for breakfast? Are you kidding me? Then, there were the Kenyan curry, fried rice, chicken wings, three types of fried chicken, sushi and turkey sammiches.

No doubt who the most vocal fans in the Titan Dome were: Aryssa Livica, Katelyn Sult, Sarah Hamner and Clari Madsen of Yokota High, cheering on their faves.

Great slogan on the back of the Zama American Trojans’ hoodies: Pain is temporary; pride is forever. Nice.

The wood floor in the Titan Dome was donated to St. Mary’s in honor of the late, great basketball coach Fred Sava. It’s time, though, that they take steps to rename the gymnasium the “Sava Memorial Hall” in his honor. He deserves it.

Brian Kitts, Yokota’s teddy-bear coach, gets the award for garish footwear of the tournament hands down, the knee-high lined boots. If he were coaching Kinnick and wearing red … well, you get the idea.

Such a shame that in the Kanto Plain, there were only two heavyweight wrestlers, Agbo and Hogan. Neither could get much of a workout in practice. And they’d only wrestle each other in the final bout of four tournaments this season and once in their regular-season dual meet. Not much of a season.

On the hardwood, senior C.J. Crenshaw continues to pile up big numbers for Kubasaki, which has vaulted over the .500 mark at 13-14 with three straight wins over high school teams. Crenshaw has averaged 29.7 points in that span, including a 21-for-24 foul-shooting performance in an 86-70 win at Kadena.

Then there’s the human fly swatter, Mecca Perkins of Seoul American. The 6-foot junior has stepped up her defensive game this season, with no fewer than seven blocked shots per game, by improving her footwork and first step toward shooters to bat the ball away at the point of release without fouling, says coach Jesse Smith. That’s translated into a nine-game winning streak against high school foes since losing to Seoul Foreign on Dec. 3.

21 days.

Pacific high school basketball ratings, post-Super Bowl edition

Boys
1. American School In Japan (13-0): Two huge wins and Seoul American loss helps Mustangs widen the gap at the top.
2. Kubasaki, Okinawa (15-14): C.J. Crenshaw continues his torrid scoring pace.
3. Seoul American (19-7): Loss to Yongsan International-Seoul first in the schools’ history.
4. Kadena, Okinawa (11-12): Big road battle at Kubasaki looms on Thursday.
5. Morrison Academy, Taiwan (16-1): Far East is next for the Mustangs.
6. Faith Academy, Philippines (19-6). Same for the Vanguards.
7. Robert D. Edgren, Japan (13-1). Mack, Sterry, Thurmond and Co. keep rolling.
8. George Washington, Guam (7-1): Geckos finally cooled off after red-hot start.
9, Yokota, Japan (13-6): Not gonna sit still for Eagles ruling the Capps roost in the DODDS Japan tournament.
10. Daegu High, South Korea (11-3): KAIAC Division I tournament next.
11. Okkodo, Guam (7-1): Bulldogs matching Geckos at top of respective divisions.
12. Matthew C. Perry, Japan (12-7): Games against D-I opponents haven’t been kind to Samurai. Maybe missing Hale more than they think?
13. Yongsan International-Seoul, South Korea (8-5): Enters ratings based on historic win over SAHS.
14. Taejon Christian International, South Korea (9-4). KAIAC D-I tournament next.
15. Father Duenas Memorial, Guam (6-1). Looking like the Friars of old.

Girls

1. American School In Japan (9-1): Down time didn’t hurt Mustangs.
2. Yokota, Japan (21-1): Next time Panthers, Mustangs meet might be at Far East D-I tournament Center Court.
3. Daegu High, South Korea (14-0): KAIAC D-I tournament next.
4. Kadena, Okinawa (15-7): Next big test Thursday on the road at Kubasaki.
5. Nile C. Kinnick, Japan (21-5): Monday showdown at Yokota could be telling.
6. Faith Academy, Philippines (15-4): Far East D-I tournament next.
7. Notre Dame, Guam (season complete). See Faith.
8. Seoul Foreign (15-5). Asia-Pacific Activities Conference tournament title in hand; KAIAC next?
9. Seoul American (13-5): Nine-game winning streak vs. high school opponents.
10. Simon Sanchez, Guam (season complete). See Faith, Notre Dame.

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

Ex-Zama QB Jorgenson commits to N.C. FCS school as receiver

Arguably the greatest memory we have of Mike Jorgenson in the Pacific was on Nov. 7, 2009, when he passed 6-for-11 for 111 yards and sneaked for three touchdowns to pace Zama American to its first DODDS Pacific outright Far East boys team title in 30 years. The Trojans beat Daegu High 46-38 in the Far East Division II football title game at Daegu’s Camp Walker.

Following that championship, Jorgenson transferred to Battlefield High in Virginia, where he captained the Bobcats in his senior year, won a Virginia Class 6A state championship in his junior year and was a state semifinalist in his final campaign. He also plays basketball for Battlefield.

Next people will see of Jorgenson will be as a slot receiver in the spread formation employed by Campbell University, an NCAA Division I-AA (Football Championship Subdivision) school in Buies Creek, N.C., part of the Pioneer Football League. Jorgenson signed his national letter of intent on Wednesday, national signing day in the States.

He’ll join a Camels program that went 5-3 in league play and 6-5 overall in the 2011 season.

Jorgenson’s father, Craig, credits a scouting-recruiting outfit called NCSA for placing Mike with Campbell. Like other similar placement sites on the Internet, NCSA lends the sort of exposure to athletes in situations similar to Mike’s, having spent much of his high school life overseas.

“They educate kids on the athletic recruiting process through Web-based and teleconference-based instructional tools,” the elder Jorgenson said. “And maybe most importantly, it gives kids an honest athletic and academic evaluation of where they will succeed at a college.”

Never too early, he says, is it to start the recruiting and placement process. In a way, Craig says, DODDS athletes have something of an advantage because they get exposure to varsity athletics early in their careers, and NCSA only wants varsity film, stats and accomplishments for their evaluations.

Things learned, observed in Pacific high school wrestling Week 6.0

It was the smallest field on record in the 5-year-old “Rumble on the Rock” wrestling tournament. Just three teams, venerable host Kubasaki and its Okinawa archrival Kadena were joined this time around by the event’s first entrant from Guam, Father Duenas Memorial, which finished fourth in Guam’s regular season and postseason tournament two months ago.

For complete results of Friday's dual-meet tournament, click here. For complete results of Saturday's individual-freestyle tournament and the DODDS Japan finals at Yokota, click here.

Might seem like the tournament is on its last legs?

Don’t bet on it, say the events founder and organizer Fred Bales, Kubasaki’s athletics director, and Friars coach Terry Debold.

Debold formed back in October the first of what he hopes to be many Phoenix Open Invitational tournaments, named for Father Duenas Memorial School’s new Phoenix Center in Dededo. He plans to reciprocate Bales’ invitation to the “Rumble” tournament with one of his own to Kadena and Kubasaki for the second edition of the Phoenix.

Debold says he plans to hold the thing over the Christmas break, which would be right after the Guam season and smack in the middle of Kadena’s and Kubasaki’s campaign. Very much like Kubasaki used to do years ago when coaches Jeff Pellaton and Terry Chumley were at the helm, flying the Dragons to the old Eagle Open, staged by Guam wrestling patriarch Neal Kranz and held in late December every year.

But not only that. Debold, in a pre-“Rumble” meet speech on Friday to the masses gathered at Kubasaki’s Dragon Dome, promised Bales and the “Rumble” organizers that he plans to recruit as many Guam teams as he possibly can for next January’s “Rumble” and bring whomever he can with him.

That would be nothing short of marvelous. A win-win for a “Rumble” tournament that very nearly met its extinction this year.

The first three years of “Rumble,” St. Mary’s International, American School In Japan and Christian Academy Japan were regular guests because the door to DODDS Pacific Far East tournaments remained closed to them. That changed last school year, and the three didn’t feel as urgent a need to attend “Rumble.”

DODDS had enough funding last January to be able to fly Seoul American, Daegu High and Osan American to Okinawa for “Rumble.” But that funding dried up, and while Bales sent out a passel of invitations, only one team – Debold’s Friars – accepted.

For Kadena and Kubasaki, a “Rumble” field expanded with Guam teams means plenty of in-season competition against wrestlers they don’t normally see.

Guam wrestlers, especially those planning to attend Far East, where international freestyle rules reign, instead of collegiate folkstyle wrestled on Guam, get a chance to narrow their playbook and get used to employing head-in-arm holds, gut wrenches and leg laces, and leave Granby rolls, guillotines and split scissors on the sideline. Nothing but trouble, those folkstyle moves are, in a freestyle tournament.

It would help Guam return to the days when folks such as Dylan Pablo of Guam High, Tim Becker of Simon Sanchez and so many other past luminaries could have more than half a chance at winning Far East gold again.

And it makes me excited for “Rumble” next year. Not to mention, seeing if there’s a way I can be at the second Phoenix Open, where Kadena and Kubasaki wrestlers must “unlearn” a lot of the freestyle moves they know and delve into the intricate world of collegiate folkstyle wrestling.

***

Best blossoming rivalry: Thomas Cioppa, reigning Far East tournament weight-class champion, of Kadena, and Tristan Wells of Kubasaki.The two sophomores have squared off seven times, with Cioppa winning four, including three straight during "Rumble." While the 180-pound and 135-pound weight classes loom as this year's equivalent to last year's "World War 215," these two will likely go at it, hammer and tongs, during Far East in two weeks.

***

The scoreboard read 25-22 Seoul American. But the official final score was actually 16-9 Daegu High over Seoul American in what had to be one of the most unusual outcomes of a dual meet in DODDS Korea history.

The dual occurred during the penultimate DODDS Korea tri-meet of the season at Daegu’s Camp George, between Osan, Daegu and Seoul.

According to Daegu athletics director Ken Walter and Falcons coach Chris Dickinson, it was discovered after the dual meet that the Falcons wrestlers about mid-way through began hitting the mat out of sequence.

The coaches had been wanting their wrestlers to go against people they’d not wrestled before; but each side’s wrestlers went on against those they thought they were supposed to wrestle, ones they’d wrestled against throughout the season.

“By rule, those matches had to be scratched,” Walter said. “It was a strange chain of events.”

Never again, I hope.

***

It would be nice, one year, for DODDS Japan’s outlying wrestling schools, Robert D. Edgren, E.J. King and fledgling first-year program Matthew C. Perry, to get a shot once more at wrestling in this weekend’s Kanto Plain Association of Secondary Schools finals. Even as exhibition teams.

That had been the case until 2007-08, the year that the Kanto Plain constitution was rewritten to read that only Kanto schools could compete in league in-season and finals tournaments. This occurred following a controversy in a December 2006 tournament at Yokota, where some international school boys wrestlers refused to go up against a DODDS girl wrestler, sparking a gender-discrimination complaint by a parent.

Rewriting the constitution does maintain the integrity of the Kanto Plain league and its rules. And I know as much as anybody else that league rules are league rules.

But it hurts the outlying schools, which only have three in-season tournaments as Far East preparation, compared to six for the DODDS and international Kanto schools. That’s a rather significant advantage for them and a significant disadvantage for the Cobras, Samurai and Eagles in terms of experience level and preparation. Nothing beats mat time, many a coach will tell you.

***

Eatery of the week – Dragon Inn at Kubasaki High School, you’ve done it again. The pasta and meat sauce dinner served ($5 a pop and WORTH it) during Friday’s dual-meet portion of the “Rumble” hit the spot the way such a meal should hit the spot. Did not sample the taco rice on Saturday; I like taco rice, but it doesn’t like me.

In-the-running-for-next-week’s Eatery of the Week – Coach Ian Harlow of St. Mary’s International, host of Saturday’s Kanto Plain Association of Secondary Schools wrestling finals, has promised his tournament’s hospitality room will feature an array of delectable international treats to satisfy the taste buds.

In-the-running-for-the-week-after-that’s Eatery of the Week – The indoor version of the Shima Shack at Yokota High’s Capps Gym, host of the DODDS Japan basketball tournament scheduled for Feb. 9-11. Named for Yokota High’s Mr. Everything, Glenn Shimabukuro, the Shima Shack features so much to please the palate. Chicken bowl. Shima cakes. Shima rice. And standards such as hamburgers, hot dogs, cans of Coca-Cola, etc.

Any challengers? *smile*

Today's question: Aberration or a sign of things to come?

Is it a sign that Kubasaki's girls basketball team is finding itself at just the right time? Or were the two overtime games they played in a six-day span just an aberration, a blip on the radar screen? Pick a side and sound off! :)

Things learned, observed in Pacific high school basketball Week 10.0

Musings, mutterings and the occasional schmahts as Ornauer turns the page on the calendar and sees a road map with the name Far East all over it starting mid-month:

Dragons breathing fire – For most of the game, it looked like the same ol’, same ol’ for Kadena’s girls basketball team, seizing a 36-21 lead after three quarters at home in last Friday’s third installment of the Okinawa Activities Council season series.

After all, the Panthers had clawed the Dragons in their previous three meetings by an average 25.4-point margin and a maximum 31-point margin. And Kubasaki had not beaten Kadena since a 51-47 overtime victory Dec. 8, 2009.

So, for certain, Kadena would cruise to a season series-clinching victory, yes?

Balderdash, or words to that effect, said Kubasaki sophomore Sydney Johnson.She and the Dragons then went on a tear, outscoring the Panthers 21-6 to knot the thing at 42-42 in the closing seconds.

And Johnson had a chance to win it in regulation. Her 18-foot jumper from the left side looked like it had a chance. A good chance. And it did everything but go in. Around the rim, around, around and around, then it fell out.

Much to the relief of the uber-anxious Kadena crowd. And the disappointment of the Kubasaki faithful which had trekked from Camp Foster to eyeball the proceedings.

The air sort of exited the Dragons’ balloons from that point, as Kadena outscored Kubasaki 13-3 in the extra session.

But each side’s fans got quite the surprise. This was nothing like anything either had seen in more than two years.

How did this happen?

Rewind to six days earlier, when the Dragons girls took Chatan, a Japanese team rated in the island’s top 10, to double overtime before fading 89-81.

The reaction was mixed on the surface, but unified below it. Guard Nicholle Rentas was all smiles, as if to say she knew they could do this. On Johnson’s face, a cascade of emotion, frustration knowing that the team came oh, so close, but oh, so far.

Now, within six days, the Dragons have gotten within an overtime of victory. But in other respects, they earned victory. This is a vastly different ballclub than began the season in November.

Watch and see how well they do come Feb. 9, when the teams meet again in the fourth and final OAC series installment for the season. And watch and see how they do at Far East Division I, Feb. 20-25 at Yokota. So what if they’re 2-20? It’s all about how you finish, especially where Far East is concerned.

***

Black back, Davis returns – The weekend and the early part of this week saw its share of players returning from short- and long-term injury when the players were needed the most.

Jen Black had been sidelined the last 12 months by a torn knee ACL, suffered during the Far East Division II tournament last February at Camp Walker, South Korea. It also meant she couldn’t play her passion, which is soccer. And as it turned out, much of the season was truncated because of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami (can she be given a medical redshirt?).

But I digress. Back in uniform she was for Robert D. Edgren last Saturday at Sasebo Naval Base, where she led the Eagles to their first win in 10 games this season, 41-30 over E.J. King.

“I was worried I wasn’t going to be of much help to the team,” Black said by telephone Wednesday about her concern that she could take a wrong turn on the court and aggravate the injury.

It marked the first time she and her freshman sister, Vanessa, were on the court at the same time, something Jen said she had dreamed about.

On Tuesday, Yokota welcomed back to the lineup sophomore Trinity Davis, who had been sidelined since December by a knee contusion. She responded with 11 points and eight rebounds as the Panthers won 46-38 at Zama American.

“They’ve markedly improved, night and day from two months ago,” Panthers coach Paul Ettl said, adding that Davis is “not 100 percent yet, but I don’t know that we win that game without her.”

***

A different Mood – Also in attendance at that Yokota game was longtime DODDS educator and administrator Darrell Mood, who was in a quandary about for whom to cheer.

He’s in his fourth year as principal of Yokota High School, but in the last week, he was named acting principal at Zama, where his predecessor, Candice Wojciechowsky, stepped down at the end of the first semester.

“It was hard,” Mood said of watching the game between his current schools. “I saw them (Panthers) off the bus. I tried not to cry. Zama is a great school, it has great kids, great support, great parents. I’ll be home soon.”

***

Stith in the shadows – Sometimes, a player’s contributions, no matter how valuable, can end up being overshadowed by the accomplishments of that player designated the team’s star or featured player.

Nile C. Kinnick freshman guard De’Asia Brown has gotten the lion’s share of attention so far this season for the Red Devils, who’ve gone 19-5 thanks in part to Brown’s averaging 25 points and just under 10 assists per game.

In the shadows, behind the scenes, the work of senior center Emily Stith, more noted for her volleyball prowess, has gone largely unnoticed. But she’s averaged 14 points and 12 rebounds this season, forming a Ms. Inside-Ms. Outside tandem with the more heralded Brown.

But it’s not just Stith’s on-court contributions as it is her leadership off the court. Sort of becoming a coach within the rank and file, a coach on the court, a mentor, a leader among peers who’s involved in so many team things that don’t show up in a scorebook.

I’m sure volleyball coach Al Garrido would be the first to the plate to sing the praises and contributions of Stith to the Red Devils’ Far East D-I Tournament runner-up effort in November at Seoul American. Stith’s work for the basketball team might not be as noted, but it’s no less important.

***

Torres time – Still struggling to find their offensive groove with senior forward Bryant McCray still sidelined with an injury, coach Steve Boyd and Seoul American turned to senior reserve Alex Torres , who dialed up long distance for the Falcons in their 54-24 win Friday at Korea International.

He went 4-for-6 from behind the arc, scoring 17 points off the bench. “He really gave us a spark,” Boyd said. “We needed it.”

The Falcons are just a win over Yongsan International-Seoul on Friday away from completing yet another unbeaten regular season on Boyd’s 11-season watch over Falcon Nation. Torres added nine points and five assists on Saturday as Seoul American beat Seoul Foreign 58-44.

On the girls side, Rae Rae Calloway netted 16 points, Lari Robertson pulled down 13 boards and Sarah Wright recorded eight steals as Daegu High racked up the first unbeaten regular season in school history, downing Seoul International 50-15.

Seoul American boys, Daegu High girls, top seeds in the Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference Division I Tournaments, girls at Seoul American, boys at Seoul Foreign … check.

***

No. 1 seeds, but – One bit of advice I would impart on the Warriors girls and the Falcons boys: Don’t sleep on your opposite numbers. Daegu’s boys and Seoul American’s girls – the reigning two-time Far East Division I Tournament champions – are quite hungry and would love nothing more than to send y’all tumbling off that lofty perch.

So, too, might Edgren’s boys take heed to watch out for hungry Yokota, Matthew C. Perry and Nile C. Kinnick teams that have taken their lumps against the Eagles. And Yokota’s girls should have their hands full dealing with Stith, Brown and Kinnick.

26 days.

 
Advertisement

 

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.)

 

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.

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.