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.