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Things learned, observed on Day 3.0 of 5th New Year Classic

Musings, mutterings and the occasional schmahts as Ornauer awaits the results of the Kadena-Osan men’s championship game(s) in the Osan Pacificwide Holiday tournament for post-level teams and notes that nothing’s changed at all for the Camp Humphreys women:

-- Well, the team many thought might win the 5th New Year Classic all along, did win it. It just wasn’t as easy as most surmised it might be. Kubasaki’s 58-39 romp over Yokota on Sunday at American School In Japan’s Mustang Valley athletic complex was quite the different outcome from the day before, when Yokota handed Kubasaki its first loss 52-51 and turned what could have been a 21-0 ledger post-NYC into a 20-1 record.

-- The difference between Saturday’s defeat and Sunday’s title joy? Defense, defense, defense and defense, in no particular order. Aimed very much at the guy who served as the Dragons’ chief tormenter in Saturday’s game, orchestrated and choreographed by coach Jon Fick and carried out by two fellers off the bench, Cartes Shelton and B.J. Simmons. On Saturday, Manegan had 21 points. On Sunday? Five points through the first three quarters.

-- If there had been a Most Valuable Player award to give, my vote – and Fick’s – would have gone to guard Ryan Jackson. "He had a phenomenal tournament," Fick said.

-- Note I said "If there had been a Most Valuable Player award to give."

-- No, this isn’t me suggesting that there should have been an All-Tournament team, MVP award, team sportsmanship award, etc.

-- That the New Year Classic even continued this year is due mainly to the efforts of ASIJ athletics director John Smith and his tournament director Tim Thornton. Others couldn’t step forward to take the tournament; Smith and Thornton saw the need and stepped to the plate. A huge thanks to John and Tim for that, awards or no awards.

-- They did provide a nice glass plate for the tournament champion, and individual medals for the players on the top two teams. Nice keepsakes. J

-- That said, this tournament can, will and must continue. It fits the need for a mid-season holiday tournament. Nothing prepares teams for state-championship competition like preparation; the New Year Classic provides invaluable preparation. If ASIJ at some point can’t continue hosting it, somebody must pick it up, and I mean every year.

-- The canaries flying around the gymnasium told me that very likely, ASIJ will retain the tournament for one more year, Dec. 16-18, 2011. The 2012 Christmas break will begin Dec. 21; very likely, you might see the New Year Classic return to its original home, Yokota High School, Jan. 3-6, 2013, and remain there through 2014, when it will be played Jan. 2-5.

-- The canaries also reported that consideration is being given to adding girls teams to the tournament starting when it returns to Yokota. That’s something that should have happened in the New Year Classic’s second year, January 2008. The first Classic was staged merely to get it off the ground and featured the previous four Far East Boys Division I Tournament champions. Time to bring a girls component to the tournament, I say, and I don’t mean wait until it returns to Yokota.

-- Yokota and ASIJ were involved in perhaps the most riveting game of the New Year Classic – and its most controversial, given the nature of the last-second finish, a jumper from the key by Myles Andrews with .4 seconds left to give Yokota a 46-44 win Sunday morning and propel the Panthers to the championship game with Kubasaki.

-- That Yokota was even in the ballpark to compete for a buzzer-beating finish was extremely unlikely, given the Panthers trailed by 10 points with three minutes to play.

-- Anyway, to set the stage, a non-shooting foul was called on ASIJ as time expired, or so it seemed. The game officials conferred and placed four-tenths of a second back on the clock – seemingly not enough time for anybody short of Ralph Sampson himself to catch and shoot an inbound pass as time runs out.

-- Observers were neatly divided along party lines, Yokota supporters saying Andrews shot before time expired; ASIJ fans suggesting that Andrews didn’t have time to catch the ball at his waist, hit the floor, then shoot in that amount of time.

-- My take: Andrews did release the ball from his hand before the buzzer sounded. Whether the clock restarted when it was supposed to rests entire with two people: 1) the referee who holds his hand up in the air until the ball is inbounded, then brings it down to indicate the clock to start, and 2) the clock operator, who is charged with starting the clock the instant the referee’s hand comes down.

-- Whenever the human element is involved, there will invariably be a delay from the point that an inbounded ball hits a player’s hands and when the clock actually starts. That’s just a fact of life. Swimming pools that feature automatic timers are still dependent on the hand that starts the timers at the start of a race. Track and field automatic timers are more scientific; they begin timing when the starter’s gun fires, but does everybody actually get out of the blocks the instant the gun fires?

-- That said, I am absolutely fed up to here with people suggesting that somehow, the referees, because they are affiliated with the military, are biased toward DODDS schools. It was all I could do to keep my own feelings about that in check, and remind people that while so-called "Yokota refs" called that game (two were actually from Zama), from which school did the timekeeper come?

-- Long ago, I came to the conclusion that referees, tournament directors, coaches and sports journalists among other professions do a job in which they please 46 percent of the people 50 percent of the time. The referees spoke their piece; Yokota supporters agreed with the call; ASIJ supporters didn’t.

-- Why 46 percent? Because 4 percent there is no pleasing.

-- Long ago, I also came to the conclusion that for a referee to have a significant impact on any basketball game, he would have to score 36 points, grab 24 rebounds, block six shots, steal the ball 10 times and dish out 12 assists. And I have yet to see any referee do that in 30 years of doing this.

-- Speaking of Yokota, word I’m hearing is that Panther Country will host the first DODDS Japan basketball tournament since 2003 the weekend of Feb. 3-5, 2011. DODDS Division II schools E.J. King, Robert D. Edgren and Matthew C. Perry were to travel to play their DODDS Kanto Plain brethren that weekend; Yokota stepped up and suggested that it simply host a three-day tournament. The first two days will be played at Capps Gym at Yokota High School; play will move the final day to Yokota Middle School, as Capps will be hosting the Kanto Plain Association of Secondary Schools wrestling tournament that day.

70 days.

 

Things learned, observed on Day 2.0 of 5th New Year Classic

Musings, mutterings and the occasional schmahts as Ornauer praises the higher beings over the one advantage to the New Year Classic over the Hong Kong International School Holiday Tournament: No stairs!

-- OK, campers, any notes you took in the run-up on the seven teams in this weekend’s 5th New Year Classic at American School In Japan, particularly those you took in the Hong Kong tournament  … just tear them up and throw them away. I have mine.

-- They’re useless to you.

-- Useless, with a capital U.

-- For the 5th New Year Classic might as well be dubbed the Turnaround Tournament, for all the opposites and near opposites that have occurred thus far.

-- And we may see yet another delay in Ornauer’s initial Pacific high school basketball ratings. Not sure how my database is going to react to the results of some of the games played at Mustang Valley. To wit:

-- Yokota has beaten its nemeses from the Hong Kong tournament, outlasting by a 52-51 score on Saturday the same Kubasaki team that throttled Yokota 57-38 on Nov. 26 in Hong Kong. Saturdays’ verdict came a day after Yokota topped Kadena 67-61, the same Kadena team that blasted Yokota 81-62 on Nov. 30, eliminating Yokota from any chance at placement.

-- So, tell me again, after Yokota thrashed Nile C. Kinnick 63-37 on Tuesday, did anybody see Kinnick’s 53-51 win over Yokota on Friday coming?

-- Didn’t think so.

-- After Christian Academy Japan topped American School In Japan 55-43 at CAJ on Dec. 2, did anybody see ASIJ’s 47-35 win over CAJ on Saturday coming?

-- Didn’t think so. A footnote here from ASIJ coach Aaron Rogers: The first time around, CAJ outrebounded ASIJ and their shots were "falling like candy." So Rogers designed a special 2-3 matchup double-team zone designed specifically to take away Justin Barber’s looks at the basket and cut off his passing lanes. "I told my players, ‘I want all the other guys to beat us; just not No. 13.’ After the game, the players told me, ‘That was nice.’ I said, ‘The coach does make a good decision every once in awhile.’"

-- After Yokota beat St. Mary’s International 36-31 on Dec. 7, did anybody see St. Mary’s 43-38 win over Yokota on Saturday coming?

-- Well, maybe. Any St. Mary’s team given a second chance against anybody should do well.

-- After Kubasaki clotheslined St. Mary’s 67-30 on Nov. 28 at Hong Kong, did anybody see Kubasaki’s last-second 44-42 win over St. Mary’s on Saturday coming?

-- Again, maybe. That’s just St. Mary’s being St. Mary’s. And the rest of the Pacific … well, at least the other six teams in the New Year Classic … seemingly having caught up to Kubasaki, or at least in the same ballpark with the Dragons.

-- "It’s a funny old game," Yokota coach Tim Pujol said.

-- "Unbelievable," ASIJ coach Aaron Rogers chimed in.

-- The point being, I’ve ceased trying to predict anything in this tournament. I’ve already put my Ouija board, crystal ball and tea leaves up for auction at eBay. With any luck, they might fetch me … oh … about four bits.

-- There’s only one "for-sure" in this tournament: Any team can beat any other team on any given day.

-- Case in point: Yokota’s one-point edging of Kubasaki. The Dragons raced to a 19-5 lead, but the Panthers clawed back and led 43-33 after three periods, before Kubasaki roared back and nearly won it. The Dragons had two chances in the closing seconds, but C.J. Crenshaw lost the ball off his foot with 18 seconds left, then Kai Yamaguchi clanged a game-winning try off the front rim at the buzzer.

-- "We knew the first L was coming," said Kubasaki coach Jon Fick after his Dragons lost for the first time in 17 games. "Give Yokota all the credit in the world. They were spirited, motivated, stuck with their gameplan, they deserved to win and they’re a good team."

-- Many times, a loss following a long winning streak is considered a good thing; no longer does such a team have to bear the pressure of holding onto a win string as well as just play ball. "I’m sure in the back of our minds" the knowledge of the win skein was there, Fick said, but "we work on the next play, the next game, regardless of what we’ve done previously."

-- One other noticeable trend is the lack of scoring, which many here attribute to two things: Kanto Plain-style defense and the lack of a shot clock to spur things along. Even Kadena and Kubasaki of Okinawa, two teams known for playing the Okinawa Express run-and-gun style, seemed to have caught the bug – after Kubasaki beat Kadena twice by an average score of 76-60, the teams managed just 35 combined points by halftime of their Saturday pool-play game.

-- That ended up becoming the game of the tournament (so far), with Kubasaki making it three wins in three tries against the Panthers, but the closest of the lot yet – Kadena took the Dragons to overtime before falling 50-47.

72 days.

Things learned, observed on Day 1.0 of 5th New Year Classic

Musings, mutterings and the occasional schmahts as Ornauer starts crafting the letter that begins: "Dear Santa, I can explain.":

-- What a difference three weeks makes. Losers by an 81-62 score to Kadena on Nov. 29 at the Hong Kong International School Holiday Basketball Tournament, Yokota turned the tables Friday, Day 1 of the 5th New Year Classic at the American School In Japan, beating that same Kadena team 67-61. The difference: Two words: Warren Manegan. The junior guard had gotten injured on Nov. 22 at Sasebo Naval Base during a DODDS Japan weekend series at E.J. King, but in his first two games since returning, averaged 23 points, sorely missed by the Panthers during his absence. "It’s nice to have Warren back in the lineup," Yokota coach Tim Pujol said. "We’re just beginning to find out what kind of a team we can be."

-- So explain why Yokota went from shoving Nile C. Kinnick down the stairs 63-37 on Wednesday to trailing the same Red Devils team 11-1 after one quarter and 23-11 at halftime en route to a 53-51 loss?

-- "It’s a weird game, ORNY," Kadena coach Robert Bliss said. "Just like golf."

-- "We were sleepwalking in the first half," Pujol said.

-- After a lackluster effort the first time they met Yokota, coach Robert Stovall had Kinnick take a page from the football team, asking it the same two questions at halftime that he asks the football team after every game: 1) Are you proud of how you played? and 2) Did you play with passion? "We answered the questions at halftime," Stovall said. "It was the intensity. In the second half, Yokota had the outside shots and they had those the entire evening last game."

Guess, just like with anything else, you have to play the games on the court, not on a stat sheet or a standings ledger or by rough-and-ready reckoning. Also goes to show you what kind of a tournament this one is going to be, as will Far East in two months on Guam. You never know what will happen until the games are played.

-- Another example of an anomaly on the surface was St. Mary’s International’s 36-34 edging of previously unbeaten Christian Academy Japan. The Knights had been bludgeoning teams up until Friday’s defeat, and St. Mary’s did what it typically does – without the shot clock, they slowed the tempo, stalling out the last three minutes.

-- American School In Japan gave unbeaten Kubasaki a close scare, going up by as many as five points in the second half before Kai Yamaguchi scored eight straight points to rally the Dragons to a 55-46 win over the host Mustangs. So, too, did Christian Academy Japan, trailing Kubasaki by 10 points but hitting three straight three-point goals to cut it to one, only to have two costly turnovers on inbound passes be the Knights’ undoing.

-- From the "you never know what you’re going to see" category comes a rather large ASIJ lineman wearing a Syosset Braves Football t-shirt. Leo Benus. From my neck of the woods; Syosset is a blue-collar community in central Nassau County on Long Island. I’m from about 20 minutes southwest, Merrick, on the south shore. My Bellmore-Kennedy High School played Syosset in the Section VIII South Shore Division I playoffs in November 1973, with the Braves rallying from a 7-0 second-quarter deficit to trip my beloved Cougars 22-7, behind the quarterbacking of future North Carolina star Matt Kupec and running backs Ron Sedia and Kevin Mannix. "You don’t see too many Long Islanders out here," said Benus, who has lived in Tokyo most of his life, but whose parents have Long Island ties; his father hails from Plainview, his mother from Lindenhurst.

-- Bliss had one of those moments as he entered the gym and encountered Brian Mutschler, an American School In Japan assistant baseball coach and physical education teacher. The same Mutschler whose father, Duane, 68, was Bliss’ basketball coach at Stillwater Area High School in Minnesota. "What are the odds of that?" Bliss said of Duane Mutschler, who to this day still officiates high school football games. "What a small world."

-- Then, there are those little things that provide comfort, yet at the same time make this old guy feel just a tad homesick for his 22½ years spent in Tokyo prior to becoming an Okinawa beach bum for life. Like, the leaves turning colour, something you don’t see on Okinawa. Or how about a moonrise at 2 p.m. Friday over Tokyo? You don’t see one of those very often in this city.

-- They should make Domino’s the official pizza of American School In Japan. With as many pies consumed (I counted 45 empty boxes) as we saw on Friday’s first day of the New Year Classic, Domino’s must be ever grateful for the close proximity of ASIJ’s Chofu campus in Tokyo’s Western suburbs.

73 days.

Memorable moments from Pacific sports in 2010; what is yours?

Surely, everybody has a moment or five they will treasure as their most memorable on the Pacific interservice and high school field of play during the last year.

Soon, Stripes will publish its own list of Top 10 memorable moments. Thus, we'd like to ask:

Which one is yours?

Daegu American football winning the school's first Far East Division II title in any boys sport since 1990?

Shariff Coleman, Thomas McDonald and Kadena grinding up the Far East Division I football field for a second straight year?

Liz Gleaves winning an unprecedented three straight MVP awards in Seoul American's girls unprecedented Far East Division I basketball, soccer and volleyball title trifecta?

Yokota Warriors football team ending a 16-year U.S. Forces Japan title drought?

Okinawa's Yard Busters' bats awakening at the right time and bashing their way to a Pacific-wide Open Softball Tournament title last Memorial Day?

I'm sure I left out several of your favorites, but let's face it, that's part of the fun of it.

So, sound off! Let your voice be heard. It might sway Stripes toward a Top 10 moment that we'd not even considered.

Basketball ratings coming soon

Normally, you'd have seen Pacific high school basketball ratings in this space by now. Rather than take shots in the dark too early and misrank teams unnecessarily, this year, SportsBlog Nation will see the first such rankings after the New Year Classic ends on Sunday. Apologies for the delay. Keep an eyeball on this weekend's action from Mustang Valley.

Should in-season tournament trips be funded by DODDS?

Question: Should DODDS teams be funded to take in-season trips to non-Far East tournaments, as happens once per season in the Asia-Pacific Activities Conference and Interscholastic Association of Southeast Asian Schools circuits?

No question, especially for Kadena and Kubasaki, events such as the Hong Kong International School Holiday Tournament and this week's New Year Classic is a refreshing break from playing against just each other and the teams they see all the time in their respective league play.

Still, if you fund those trips, then other sports will call out for their own form of fiduciary reward, as would the drama team, the band, the open-mike/talent show folks who are extremely talented in their own right and deserve something along those lines as well.

In any case, what are your thoughts? DODDS-funded Christmas-stocking stuffer or team do-it-yourselfers?

Kadena-Kubasaki: Why is it the fiercest rivalry of all?

It's like Republicans vs. Democrats, right-wing talk radio vs. left-wing talk radio and Ohio State vs. Michigan, only on a Pacific high school sports sort of level.

Of all the heated high school rivalries in the Far East, it's always Kadena and Kubasaki that gets rave talk above all others. The schools are just a couple of miles apart, with the former viewed as an Air Force school, the other a Marine Corp school, people who know each other well, friends off the field or court but fierce combatants on it.

Let's hear your view as to why Kadena-Kubasaki is the region's biggest rivalry.

Things learned, observed in Pacific winter sports season Week 4.0

Musings, mutterings and the occasional schmahts as Ornauer hits the stretch for the run to the 5th New Year Classic high school basketball tournament at American School In Japan, followed by his customary, traditional flop face-first on the ground in exhaustion:

-- They wear blue and gold. They play soccer pretty dawg goned well – so well, they can now proclaim in one loud voice: "We are the champions!" Yep, Guam High has vaulted to the top of the mountain that only Notre Dame had scaled the last five years. On Saturday, Meagan Speck scored in the 20th minute and fellow All-Island first-team member Melanie Strudthoff, the wall in goal, made it stand up as the Panthers shocked the Royals 1-0 in the finals of the Independent Interscholastic Athletic Association of Guam’s playoffs at LeoPalace Resort in Yona. First island title for the Panthers since 2003.

-- What a nice going-away present for Speck, too. She leaves the island at the end of the week, transferring to Fort Bragg and will do her senior year in North Carolina. Guam High’s loss is Carolina’s gain. She is being looked at by stateside universities already, as are some of her teammates; Meagan, I’m sure, we’ll be seeing in the women’s College Cup someday.

-- And what a bloody shame we won’t see the Panthers’ lineup intact for the Far East Division I Tournament in May on Okinawa. That stingy defense will still be there, with Strudthoff the last line of defense, but losing Speck, with her 11 goals and six assists, might be a lot to ask.

-- A big salute to Jacob Sterry and Alan Thurmand (19 points each) and Robert D. Edgren’s boys basketball team, which captured its first in-season Western Japan Athletic Association tournament title on Saturday, outlasting John Ayers and Matthew C. Perry 60-54 in the tournament final at Osaka International School. The Eagles girls weren’t as fortunate, falling for the second time in their WJAA tournament at Canadian Academy to Yokohama International 38-29.

-- Back up north in cold-snow country, the mat action was hot in the Robert D. Edgren DODDS Japan Invitational. Two Far East weight-class gold medalists, 2009 champion Devin Day of Yokota at 135 and two-time champion Michael Spencer of Zama American at 168, laid waste to their opponents, with Day’s gold medal one of six for the Panthers who walked away with the team title 89 points to 69 for host Edgren.

-- And there was that girl again, Yurie Tanaka, Zama’s 108 pounder, who won two bouts and the gold and ran her winning streak to open the season to six bouts – a Pacific record for one season for a girl.

-- Somehow, I’m betting that Austin Cyr of Kubasaki will have much to say about who will rule the roost at 108, be it he, Tanaka or somebody else. Cyr looked solid in winning his bout on Wednesday as Kubasaki swept the two-dual-meet preseason series with defending Far East dual-meet team champion Kadena, winning 33-28 a week after edging the Panthers 31-29.

-- Kubasaki looks mighty solid at most of the lower weights, Steven Walter at 101, Nick Barker at 115 and Kevin Orr at 122, while Matt Payne at 180 is the strongest hope the Dragons have at the upper weights. Most of Kadena’s "Murderers Row" from last year remains intact, with brothers Aaron and Gabe Ahner at the two top weights and former Zama wrestlers Jacob Bishop and Cory Peckins at 148 and 158.

-- Speaking of winning streaks, Kubasaki’s boys basketball team went and did it again, with Kai Yamaguchi scoring 18 points and Kentrell Key chipping in with 16 as the Dragons won big at Koza 104-55 and running its ledger to open the season to 12 straight games. The last time Kubasaki did that was its 1987-88 unbeaten Far East Division I Tournament title season. Don Hobbs coached that team; he is now the DODDS Pacific Far East Athletic Coordinator, and keeps a couple of photos of that team around his work area at Torii Station.

-- Saturday’s win came four days after coach Jon Fick got his first regular-season win over Kadena on his watch, which began with his surprise Division I-title rookie 2006-07 season. Kubasaki had beaten Kadena in the 2007 Okinawa-American Shootout and the 2008 New Year Classic, but not since the late Chris Sullivan coached the Dragons had Kubasaki won an Okinawa Activities Council regular-season game with Kadena.

-- Leave us pronounce the Panthers far from dead, though. Especially after Friday’s 98-62 throttling of MIrai Tech at the Panther Pit. Kadena (8-4) got 29 points and 14 rebounds from Jason Sumpter and four other players finished in double figures.

-- Just how strong is too strong? Seoul American’s boys and girls teams have each won their first five games ending with a running clock, as mandated by the Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference whenever a team gets a 40-point lead or more on an opponent. The clock runs and all starting players must give way to the bench.

-- Surely, it dressed up the Falcons’ win-loss ledgers nicely. But for starting players, key ones such as Tomiwa Akinbayo and Bryant McCray for the boys and Jordan Elliott, Destinee Harrison, Mecca Perkins and Liz Gleaves for the girls, how can they get in a full 32-minute to prepare for the KAIAC and Far East Division I Tournaments in February?

-- Looks as if they’ll have to schedule more games with adult teams outside of league play; Seoul American’s boys already play in Yongsan Garrison’s intramural league and have split six games with adults. The Martin Luther King tournament at Camp Humphreys, featuring post-level teams – and where Seoul’s girls finished second a year ago – might also beckon the boys and girls this time.

-- Or perhaps Osan American, whose boys, featuring Jeff Tinsley, are unbeaten, and the girls, who always have a reputation for winning given their pedigree, might give Seoul American a test at Falcon Gym on Thursday. And then, there’s Daegu American, whose girls have reeled off five straight wins since starting the season 1-1; the Falcons go on the road to Daegu on Jan. 7.

-- Nile C. Kinnick’s basketball teams generally don’t play under their own roof; mostly at the Fleet Gymnasium, or the George I. Purdy Fitness & Sports Center across the street from the school. So Saturday’s game, when the Red Devils took the court in their home gym against Christian Academy Japan, winning 49-34, it represented a departure from past practice, and perhaps a sign that more games will be played at Kinnick’s true home.

-- CAJ’s boys remain unbeaten, thanks to a thrilling last-second 50-49 win at Kinnick, which featured five fourth-quarter three-point goals by the Knights, including Jared Johnson’s game-clincher with two seconds left.

-- Kubasaki’s girls haven’t won a game yet, but they’re showing signs. A Dragons team that hasn’t a single senior has produced D’An Hurst, a tenacious inside player who averages 18 points and 12 rebounds per game and might be the team’s "next one" following super scorer Gabby Falco, who graduated last spring. Bianca Johnson’s back after taking last season off. And Marquis Brown is proving to be a threat inside as well.

-- Kadena’s girls’ three-game winning streak came to an end emphatically against Itoman, the island’s top Japanese girls program, 74-49 at the Panther Pit. Just a matter of putting two good halves together against these Japanese teams, then Kadena might start to show something more, coach Mike Ochoa said.

78 days.

 

Flag-football rivalry games: Army wins the day.

Another year of Army-Navy flag football rivalry games has come and gone, and while Annapolis holds sway over West Point, having won nine straight in the service academy rivalry series, Army continues to be king of the gridiron in the Pacific, taking two of three games and holding a comfortable 32-13 series lead Pacific-wide.

The latest installments of the series came Saturday, when defense ruled the fields:

-- Antonio Houston and Luke Hicks each picked off two Adam Edmonds passes and the sailors broke a six-year losing streak to the soldiers in Okinawa’s Commander’s Trophy series, routing Torii Station’s Knights 27-3 and bringing the trophy, won by Army 16 of 20 previous times, to Fleet Activities Okinawa for the first time since a rainy, windy encounter in 2003.

-- In a turnover-plagued contest at Yokosuka Naval Base’s Berkey Field, Richmond Slan stepped in front of an Anthony Seaman pass and returned it for a touchdown, as Army snapped a two-year losing streak to Navy 26-19. Antoine Holden also intercepted a Navy pass, and Angel Cendejas, off a play-action flea-flicker, fired a pass to Jacobie Brydson for a touchdown to end the first half and give Army the momentum. Navy still leads that series 5-4.

-- On Dec. 4, the Peninsula Trophy’s 15th renewal took place, one week earlier because of cold-weather concerns. This time, it was offensive and special-teams heroics, particularly from one Gerard Oxendine, that made Army victorious, 12-6 in overtime. He returned a kickoff 90 yards for one touchdown, then in overtime caught Adrian Williams’ near-length-of-field heave in stride on the last play of overtime, an 80-yard miracle finish. It was Army’s 12th win in the series.

Combatants on the field, but comrades in arms off the field. See y’all again on Dec. 3 and 10, 2011.

 

Pacific high school wrestling season preview

Wow, so many coaching changes, one would think it's a game of musical chairs. Only two returning Far East Tournament gold medalists this season, but they're two-time gold medalists. International schools welcomed back to Far East. How that may mean a season-long rivalry between St. Mary's Kelly Langley and Kinnick's two-time Far East champion Marcus Boehler at 122 pounds. And how a girl at Zama American, Yurie Tanaka, began the season 4-0 at 108 pounds. Click here to read more and here to get a team-by-team lowdown and significant season dates.

Guam High girls strikers reach IIAAG title match

They're in the finals for the first time since winning the league in 2003!

Hayley Savoy scored in the 25th minute and keeper Melanie Strudthoff’s save in the 38th minute helped it stand up as Guam High blanked St. John’s 1-0 in Thursday’s Independent Interscholastic Athletic Association of Guam girls soccer tournament semifinal.

Guam High (10-1-2) will face Notre Dame, a 2-0 winner over the Panthers during the regular season in Saturday’s championship at Leo Palace Resort Field 1. Kickoff is 7 p.m.

The match was cut short when Savoy collided with Knights goalkeeper Rayann Tiann; after a delay waiting for an ambulance, Tiann was taken to a local hospital. By coaches’ agreement, the match was called off in the 50th minute.

Strudthoff pitched her seventh shutout in 10 matches this season, channeling her innermost Jessica Charles, the keeper who backstopped Guam High's 2003 campaign.

Things learned, observed around the area on Tuesday, Wednesday

Musings, mutterings and the occasional schmahts as Ornauer digests the latest revelations in Pacific high school sports:

-- Revelation: Kubasaki's boys basketball team is for real. The Dragons' 79-54 home win Tuesday over Kadena proved it, just in case there was any lingering doubt about the fastest start (11-0) on coach Jon Fick's watch. Kubasaki had not beaten Kadena in a regular-season Okinawa Activities Council game since the late Chris Sullivan coached the team in 2005-06; the Dragons had beaten the Panthers twice in tournament competition, the 2007 Okinawa-American Shootout and the 2008 New Year Classic. How far can the Dragons take this? Time will tell, but it's a good bet that this team will make a deep run at its first OAC title in five years and the second Far East Division I Tournament title on Fick's watch (he won in his first season, 2006-07).

-- You think seniors Kai Yamaguchi and Kentrell Key don't want redemption for the past couple of sub-par seasons? You know they do.

-- Revelation: Kadena's girls basketball season is starting to mirror last year's. The Panthers started 0-9 a season ago en route to to a surprise Division I Tournament bronze-medal finish; this year's edition of the Panthers opened 0-5, but something happened during their visit to last month's Hong Kong International School Holiday Basketball Tournament. All the light switches went on in a 68-41 rout of Yokota, and Kadena hasn't stopped since, winning three straight.

-- Revelation: With every passing bout, Yurie Tanaka of Zama American appears to be more for real as a 108-pound wrestler. On Tuesday, she ran her season record to 4-0 with each of the wins by pin; the latest, a pin in 3:10 over Haruka Onozaki, helped the Trojans beat their old coach, Ian Harlow, in the Kanto Plain Association of Secondary Schools season-opening 36-26 win at St. Mary's International.

-- Revelation: Expect this year's OAC mat rivalry between Kadena and Kubasaki, the most decorated programs in Far East Tournament history, to be as closely contested as you've seen in years. Strong at the lower weights and with Matt Payne at 180 pounds, Kubasaki took both preseason scrimmage dual meets with Kadena, 31-29 on Dec. 1 at Kadena and 33-28 on Wednesday at the Dragons' Den. But this is still a formidable Panthers team; new 141-pounder Tyrell Crutcher upset Kubasaki's Jon Goddard, and the Panthers still have half of their 2010 Murderer's Row, the Ahner brothers Aaron and Gabe at 215 and heavyweight, plus 148-pounder Jacob Bishop to contend with.

-- Noteworthy for Kadena is the presence of Cory Peckins, a senior who's wrestling for his third school in three years; he wore Osan American teal and black as a sophomore and Zama American black, white and maroon as a junior.

Guam High girls strikers 2 wins away from 2nd IIAAG title

Guam High on Tuesday continued inching toward the second Independent Interscholastic Athletic Association of Guam girls soccer tournament championship in school history. Meagan Speck notched the match's lone goal, in the 50th minute, and Melanie Strudthoff pitched her sixth shutout in nine matches as the Panthers eliminated Academy of Our Lady of Guam 1-0 at Panthers Field. Up next: St. John's at 4:15 p.m. Thursday at Leo Palace Resort Field 3 in Talofofo, in the Panthers' bid for their first IIAAG title since 2003. And this season's numbers read very much like those of that goalkeeper Jessica Charles-led 2003 team. The Panthers are 9-1-2 this season, including Tuesday's quarterfinal win; they've allowed five goals, three in the field and two penalty kicks; they've pitched seven shutouts; Strudthoff has stopped three penalty kicks; and among their 22 goals, seven different Panthers have scored, Keep it here to find out how the Panthers do in their second Final Four appearance.

Guam High girls strikers scaling new heights

Chad Albe has watched Guam High's girls soccer team grow and mature since his daughter Brittany was a freshman in 2005-06. Here's Guam High's assistant coach's take on a Panthers squad that went 7-1-2 to finish second in the Independent Interscholastic Athletic Association of Guam and put three players, junior Meagan Speck and sophomores Alexis Vermeire and Melanie Strudthoff on the IIAAG All-Island first team:

"They are the very best I have ever seen. This is the first year I have had the pleasure to help coach them, other than coaching a small handful of them in club soccer. However, I want to give credit where credit is due. Their new coach, Rhoda Bamba, is the link that has brought it all together. She is a former Guam National Team player/standout and one of the most talented coaches I have ever seen or had the privilege to work with. She knows how to get the most out of them, so expect big things from her and these girls this season and every one after."

Not since 2003, when the Panthers, behind goalkeeper Jessica Charles, went unbeaten, won the IIAAG crown and reached the Far East Division I Tournament final (they lost 2-0 to Kubasaki) has a Guam High team rode such a high tide. Keep an eyeball on 'em.
 

Things learned, observed in Pacific high school basketball Week 4.0

Now, onto hardwood doings:

-- If Tomiwa Akinbayo’s performance in Seoul American’s first two games are any indication, the Falcons are once again a threat to capture top honors in Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference Division I as well as the Far East Division I Tournament following a sub-par 11-17 2009-10 campaign. Akinbayo, in his second year with the Falcons, averaged 18.5 points, 14 rebounds and 5.5 blocked shots as the Falcons won 82-40 at Taejon Christian International and 67-25 at Korea International. If this holds up, call last season a blip on the radar screen; it was coach Steve Boyd’s only sub-.500 season in his nine-year tenure at Seoul American.

-- If Friday’s and Saturday’s games with TCIS and KIS, 59-22 and 58-15 victories, are any indicator, Seoul American’s girls are, in fact "head and shoulders above all of us," said Daegu American coach Michelle Chandler before the KAIAC season began. It raises the question, when is a team too talented for the rest of its opposition? The twin mercy-rule victories do give plenty of playing time to those who don’t start the games, but it certainly limits the playing time for those who do start and who need the minutes to prepare for Far East Division I Tournament competition. My guess is, coach Billy Ratcliff and the Falcons will enter next month’s Martin Luther King Invitational tournament for post-level teams and play as many games with women’s teams as possible so Liz Gleaves, Destinee Harrison, Jordan Elliott, Mecca Perkins and the rest of the front-line players can get the testing they need.

-- Nice bounceback for Daegu; after their losses last month at Seoul Foreign, the Warriors rebounded to beat the Crusaders at home, the girls 50-37 behind Kristina Bergman’s and Maleah Potts Cash’s scoring-rebounding double-doubles (17 and 10, 15 and 10) and the boys 47-42 behind little big man Darius Wyche’s 16 points and Tre Griffin’s 14 rebounds. Daegu’s girls trailed by 14, then scored 41 points in the second half. Might be the kick-start to the season that the Warriors need.

-- Heading into Tuesday’s first head-to-head meetings of the season, Kadena at Kubasaki, it’s becoming clear who one must stop if you’re going to stop the Panthers’ and Dragons’ boys teams. Kadena’s post players, seniors Skylar Warren and Jason Sumpter and sophomore Jaylen Street are emerging as a "big three" presence inside, combining for 68 points in the Panthers’ 86-79 win Friday at Chatan. And even with 6-foot-6 Kentrell Key sidelined by a groin problem, Kubasaki demonstrated solid depth with its 98-65 win Saturday at Koza. Xavier Price’s 18 points and 10 rebounds were key to that triumph.

-- No Chase Dariso? No problem for Matthew C. Perry’s boys, who have broken out of the gate at 6-3 thanks largely to senior John Ayers, who has switched from shooting guard-small forward to point guard to replace Dariso, the two-time All-Far East guard who transferred after last school year. Ayers posted a double-double of 36 points and 15 rebounds in Friday’s 60-58 win over E.J. King, assisted on Ryan Schmidt’s game-winning shot in the Samurai’s 41-39 win over Nile C. Kinnick, then on Saturday poured in 19 points to help beat Kinnick 53-52. A 4-0 weekend in Samurai country.

-- So much has changed at St. Mary’s International School in Tokyo, yet so much remains the same. In two years, the aging campus which had opened its doors more than 50 years ago has been transformed into an ultramodern facility, complete with a field-turfed outdoor facility and a spanking new indoor complex, basketball court with an elastistic floor that the three-time Far East Division I Tournament champion Titans now call home, and a 25-by-15-meter swimming pool where the International Buccaneers, comprised of swimmers from St. Mary’s and Seisen International Schools, will host the American Swim Council of Japan’s Junior Olympic meet March 12-13. Once all the banners and records boards go up, it might resemble the old St. Mary’s athletic facility in appearance. But one thing that has not changed: The NOISE! St. Mary’s old gym was viewed by many as the toughest place for an opposing team to visit, at least a 10-point home advantage for the Titans. Trust me; it still is. Get those middle-schoolers and elementary-school pupils in the place whooping it up and it sounds like the old place all over again.

-- Coming off the court after St. Mary’s 54-48 victory on Friday, Zama forward Jon Neyland told his teammates: "If we’d played the rest of the game like we played the fourth quarter, we’d have won." St. Mary’s led 30-16 at halftime, but the Trojans, using a full-court 2-2-1 zone press, staged a frenzied fourth-quarter rally to cut the gap to three before St. Mary’s hit two clutch shots to put it away in the closing seconds. The point being: Don’t sleep on this Zama team. They’ll be heard from at the Division II Tournament in February at Daegu.

-- Up in cold country, even without graduated guard Ashley Hawkins, Robert D. Edgren’s Eagles girls remain a force to be reckoned with, if their DODDS Japan weekend sweep of Zama is any indicator. Hawkins' successor Jen Black averaged 18 points, while Sabrina Cavazos scored 20 points on Saturday and Sydney Collier 14 on Friday as the Eagles swept the Trojans 44-26 on Saturday and 48-29 on Friday.

-- Eatery of the week: St. Mary’s concession stand, which featured something I’d never seen before in all my years of covering high school athletics in the Pacific: Hash-brown potato patties. I’m a big fan of one of the world’s most versatile foods; never did I ever imagine seeing that. Tasty, too.

83 days.

 

Things learned, observed at Japan preseason wrestling tournament

Former sumo yokozuka (grand champion) Akebono is flanked left to right by Robert D. Edgren High School wrestlers Josh Wardell, Terri Swedberg, Aaron Houston, Matt Bernal, Keith Johnson, Andrew Knowles, coach Justin Edmonds and Habu Earney during Edgren's journey home from the Japan high school preseason wrestling tournament at Yokosuka Naval Base. The wrestlers had a chance to hang out and get some photos taken with Akebono. Akebono, 41,whose birth name is Chad Rowan, hails from Waimanalo, Oahu, Hawaii. He became the first non-Japanese wrestler to achieve sumo's highest rank in January 1993. One of the tallest and heaviest wrestlers ever at 6-foot-8, 510 pounds, Akebono lasted eight years at yokozuna, and won 11 Emperor's Cups in 12 years and finished second 12 more times in sumo's makuuchi, or most senior, division. After he retired in 2001, Akebono briefly worked for the Japan Sumo Association, but gave it up two years later and then dabbled in mixed martial arts and currently wrestles professionaly in Japan. Akebono in 1998 married the former Christine Kalina, a 1989 graduate of Yokota High School. Her father, Don, is a retired career DODDS civilian who helped open Yokota High School in 1973 and served as its longtime guidance counselor.

Musings, mutterings and the occasional schmahts as Ornauer recounts a full day of surprises, returns and chance encounters during the Japan high school preseason wrestling tournament at Yokosuka Naval Base:

-- In years past, the statement made by girls wrestlers on Japan’s mats was usually: "We are here." Yurie Tanaka, a Zama American senior, on Saturday changed that quote to: "We are here to win." At least she is. The 108-pounder became the talk of the Japan high school preseason tournament Saturday at Yokosuka Naval Base, when she pinned three opponents, including freshman Callan Murphy of American School In Japan in 1 minute, 35 seconds in the gold-medal bout. It goes to show you what hard work can do to improve one’s standing; coach Chris Iredale said Tanaka was the only Zama girl who worked out with Iredale and several Trojans teammates in the offseason and part of the summer.

-- That said, don’t sleep on Melody Brown at 115 pounds nor Reina Staley at 122. They might surprise you, too.

-- I’m still hoping that someday, the thinking that wrestling a girl is a lose-lose situation for a boy opponent – if he loses, he lost to a girl, and if he wins, well, he was supposed to win; she’s a girl – will eventually evaporate. Girls have been on Japan’s mats since 1998-99 and in Korea since the mid-2000’s. By now, people like Tanaka, and history-making predecessors such Jacquelin Steele and Alyssa Rodriguez of Robert D. Edgren and Emily Albonetti of Osan American, should be viewed as "wrestlers" or "opponents," not "girls wrestlers." We’ve had women coaches out here for years, Terry Chumley at Kubasaki for one, April Scott at Edgren for another, and nobody said a thing. Let’s give girl wrestlers the same respect. They’ve worked just as hard as their boys counterparts.

-- Anybody notice that Zama finished third in the tournament and Edgren fourth? Tells me that the battle for the Division II team title in the Far East Tournament in February at South Korea’s Camp Humphreys could be a dandy.

-- All that said, bear in mind that Saturday was an SAT day, as well as JROTC students preparing for this week’s rifle-marksmanship Far East competition at E.J. King School; thus, several starters were missing from everybody’s lineup. St. Mary’s International tied with Yokota in the points standings at 79 each, with St. Mary’s breaking the tie with six total golds to Yokota’s three. But both coaches, Ian Harlow and Brian Kitts, said it was way too early to use this as a gauge. We’ll see if Saturday’s Edgren tournament is more of a fair shakeout to see where people truly stand.

-- One thing that should help the Trojans get even better is the return of Steve Scott, a retired Army sergeant first class who had been at Zama on and off for nine years before spending the last 2½ in Texas. He’s back now and helping out Iredale, the same way he did his predecessor, Harlow, now at St. Mary’s. "He has a lot of experience," Iredale said of Scott, whose son Jacob will wrestle at 101. The Trojans won’t have nearly the same lineup they did two years ago – half the Trojans are first-year wrestlers – but with the likes of two-time Far East champion Michael Spencer (168) in the lineup, the Trojans should make a lot of Division II noise.

-- "Absolutely. Love it," the elder Scott said of his return to Zama.

-- One small-school wrestler worth noting is Darnell Vinson, one of two returners at E.J. King, which like Zama is fielding a very young group of mostly first-year wrestlers. But it’s the Cobras’ largest group in at least five years, and Pete Soto is the new man in charge. Nowhere to go but up for the team, and Vinson, at 180, will also make some noise.

-- Much discussion at Nile C. Kinnick’s gymnasium, revolved around the return of international school teams to the DODDS Pacific Far East Tournament fold. DODDS closed the door to international schools in individual-discipline tournament s such as wrestling, cross country and tennis in September 2004; that ban was overturned at last spring’s Far East Activities/Athletics Council meeting. I, for one, was against the ban from the beginning; having schools such as St. Mary’s and ASIJ, with its combined 10 Far East Tournament team titles, gives the tournaments more of a "true" state championship feel and atmosphere. Here’s hoping that the return of ASIJ, St. Mary’s and Christian Academy Japan will help other programs such as Morrison Christian Academy in Taiwan and Faith Academy in the Philippines, formerly regulars at Far East tournaments, kick the tires, light the fires, pull the singlets and mats out of mothballs and revive their programs.

-- The two returning Far East weight-class champions, Marcus Boehler of Kinnick and Michael Spencer of Zama, produced mixed results. Spencer left little to chance, pinning CAJ's Shogo Higashi in 15 seconds to win at 168. But Boehler began his season the way he ended last season, with his bout under video review -- with a different result than last time. Unlike his 2-0 decision over Kubasaki's Nick Barker at last year's Far East, Boehler lost in two periods to Kelly Langley of St. Mary's, including a hotly contested 4-3 second-period defeat; Langley was awarded a late point when the mat officials ruled Boehler stepped out of bounds. Kinnick coach Richard Huffer argued articulately that it was Langley who stepped out first. Several people produced videos, but the call stood.

-- This must be getting awfully tiresome for Boehler, who like anybody else would want nothing more than to have every bout result contested on the mat, not in some digital recording.

-- Edgren wrestlers , coaches and parents were grumbling much of Saturday because their bus wasn’t scheduled to leave right after the tournament, and they had to stay overnight at Yokosuka a second night before returning to Misawa Air Base on Sunday. Had they returned on Saturday, though, they wouldn’t have happened to by chance encounter former sumo yokozuna (grand champion) Akebono at a rest stop on the Tohoku Expressway northbound on Sunday. The 41-year-old Akebono, whose birth name is Chad Rowan, and the Eagles wrestlers chilled for a bit and snapped some photos together before they resumed their routes. Akebono, who wrestles professionally in Japan, was en route to an All-Japan Pro Wrestling event in Akita when he and the wrestlers happened to meet.

-- Best hair: The Mohawk displayed by ASIJ 135-pounder Ryoma Nichols.

-- Best patch: The one displayed on the back of a team T-shirt by Edgren freshman student-manager Nicole Balmforth, a circular green trimmed with gold which read: "Edgren High School DODDS Pacific individual champions and dual champions 2010 wrestling."

83 days.

Team USA captures gold in SHAPE hoops tournament

Congratulations to Team USA for its 78-71 win Sunday at Mons, Belgium, over Lithuania for the championship in the Supreme Headquarters, Allied Powers Europe international basketball tournament for military teams, Team USA’s first gold medal in the tournament since 2004. Andrew Henke of Scott Air Force Base, Ill., led the Americans with 19 points, West Point’s Cleveland Richard added 15 with five steals, Matt Holland of Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., chipped in with 14 points and five rebounds and Kenny Brewer of Fort Bliss, Texas, netted 11 points and six rebounds. West Point’s Marcus Nelson dished out seven assists.

Hail to Stars and Stripes fall sports season Athletes of the Quarter

OK, campers, the nominations and the ballots are in and counted, and it’s time to roll out something brand new where Stars and Stripes’ Athletes of the Quarter and Athletes of the Year are concerned.

After a 24-year run in the print editions, what began as the ORNY Awards in 1987, aka Ornauer’s Recognition for a Nice Year, makes its debut in Pacific Sports Blog, where it will remain for the time being.

So, let’s get right to it: Sports Blog Nation, all rise and hail the Pacific’s high school Athletes of the Quarter for the 2010 fall season: Senior cross-country runner Kelly Langley of Tokyo’s St. Mary’s International School, and reigning Stars and Stripes 2009-10 Athlete of the Year, Seoul American senior volleyball outside hitter Liz Gleaves.

Langley won what might be considered an unofficial "Triple Crown" in Pacific high school cross country. On Oct. 16, he became just the third runner to record a sub-15-minute time on the Kanto Plain Association of Secondary Schools’ traditional 2.9-mile boys course; he clocked a 14:57.8 in winning the league title and going unbeaten.

A week later, in a driving rain at Guam’s Asan Memorial Park, Langley won his second Asia-Pacific Invitational meet title, running a 17:14.8, outdistancing George Washington’s Michael Gaitan (17:57.1). He completed the "Triple Crown" by winning the DODDS Pacific Far East gold medal in 16:38.7, nearly 28 seconds faster than Kadena’s Jacob Bishop.

It was the first time international schools had competed in a Far East meet since 2002; they’d been barred by DODDS Pacific since 2004, a ban that was overturned last spring.

Langley also becomes the first non-DODDS boys athlete to earn an ORNY or a Stripes Athlete of the Quarter or Year, and the first non-DODDS athlete of either gender to be so honored since John F. Kennedy senior basketball star Jocelyn Pardilla in March 2004. The last international school athlete to be named Athlete of the Year was Kirsten Nelson of Christian Academy Japan in 2000-01.

Gleaves, along with middle blockers Destinee Harrison and Tammy Garman and junior setter Tiffaney Mitchell, helped send out 31-year Seoul American coach Denny Hilgar a first-time champion in the Far East High School Division I Tournament, a school first as well as a retirement present for Hilgar; he announced his intention to step down as Falcons coach at the start of the season.

She’s just 5-foot-5, but can seemingly leap out of the gym. Gleaves recorded 255 spike kills in 577 attempts, 36 block points and 163 defensive digs in 73 total sets as the Falcons went 13-1 in the Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Council, second in the regular season, and the league’s postseason title. The Falcons went on their second Division I Tournament championship appearance, beating Faith Academy 25-20, 25-15, 25-27, 12-25, 15-4.

Here are the rest of the fall sports awards:

-- Coach of the Quarter: In addition to the KAIAC and Far East Division I titles, Hilgar now heads off into the sunset as Stripes’ Coach of the Quarter.

-- Team of the Quarter: Just when you think they can’t dominate any better, Kadena’s football team rises up and tops what it did the season before. Led by "Speed Inc.," senior running-back tandem Shariff Coleman (1,148 yards, 14 touchdowns, 110 carries) and Thomas McDonald (1,033 yards, 19 touchdowns, 99 carries), the Panthers went 9-0, outscored opponents 387-87 and won their third Far East Division I title in four years, beating Yokota 50-23 in the Nov. 12 title game at Kubasaki High School’s Camp Foster.

-- Most Improved Team: Kubasaki went 1-6 in the 2009 season, then rebounded to go 6-3 against American teams this season (they also beat Ryukyu University in a preseason game), and outscored foes 261-176, making the Division I playoffs for the first time since winning its only Far East title in 2005.

-- Program of the Quarter: With team titles in Division I football and Far East cross country and a third-place overall team finish in Far East tennis, Kadena noses out a field of worthy competitors. Best international-school performance came from American School In Japan, which dominated Kanto Plain tennis and girls cross country, won a Division I volleyball bronze medal and the Mustangs football team went a surprising 5-3 after losing much of its senior talent to graduation.

-- Tennis Players of the Quarter: A tip of the cap to St. Mary’s International freshman Kent Shikama and Guam High senior Amber Gadsden, who each won Far East titles in singles and doubles. Also, to freshman tandem JiHyun and Jeffrey Kim of Seoul Foreign, who won their respective KAIAC titles, and Max Negami and Kelsey Leon of ASIJ, singles champions in the Kanto Plain.

-- Cross-country Runners of the Quarter: Besides Langley, Seoul American’s Amanda Henderson also went unbeaten, capturing individual gold-medal honors in both the KAIAC meet on Oct. 30 and the Far East meet.

-- Volleyball Players of the Quarter: Besides Gleaves, senior Kristina Bergman of Daegu American became a two-time Division II Tournament Most Valuable Player and led the Warriors to their second straight Far East Tournament title. On the boys side, Billy Bortscheller, Nathan Baldevia, Jason Griess and Matt Albonetti paced Osan American to a 13-1 regular-season record, the KAIAC conference and tournament titles.

-- Play of the Quarter: The outcome had pretty much been determined, with the Falcons leading the Vanguards 11-4 in the final set. But Gleaves put an emphatic exclamation point on Seoul American’s and Hilgar’s first championship with a backline save that looked as if she were swinging a baseball bat. The ball easily made it over the net, then somehow nestled on the floor near the sideline between two Faith defenders to make it 12-4.

-- Quarter of the Quarter: You couldn’t have found a better knock-down, drag-out quarter of football than on Oct. 1, when Kubasaki and Kadena traded touchdowns the way Hagler and Hearns traded punches in the first round of their memorable 1985 bout in Las Vegas. McDonald ran 33 yards to put Kadena ahead 7-0, only to have "Neon" Deon Lewis respond with a 56-yard TD on the next play; 8-7 Kubasaki. Coleman replied with an 80-yarder with just under 2 minutes left, then Kubasaki’s Cristian Rivera rambled 7 yards for a score with 42.5 seconds left; 16-15 Dragons. "Looks like we’ve got a shootout," a smiling Kubasaki coach Fred Bales said. But that’s where it ended, as the Panthers scored 41 unanswered points for a 56-16 rout.

-- Game of the Quarter: In a field of worthy candidates, the KAIAC boys volleyball tournament final stands out for its drama, as Osan beat Seoul American 25-18, 25-17, 27-29, 24-26, 15-12. Right on its heels was the Far East tennis boys singles championship, in which Shikama rallied from behind 0-4 in both the second and third sets to edge Kadena’s Arlo Taylor 6-3, 5-7, 7-6 (7-5). The girls singles final first-set tiebreaker almost matches that, as Gadsden defeated Yokota’s Erika Ettl 7-6 (7-4), but the second set was decidedly Gadsden’s, 6-2.

-- Best new event: Tip your cap to Kadena coach Greg Rosenberger, with an assist from Nile C. Kinnick coach Al Garrido, for putting on the map the first Kadena Invitational Volleyball Tournament over Columbus Day weekend at Kadena High School. A good competitive environment, involving Kadena, Kubasaki, Okinawa Christian International and Shuri Higashi of Okinawa and Daegu American. But more than that, the event demonstrated a spirit of cooperation and plenty of instruction between teams and players, knowing they had to be true to their teams, but true to the sport first. Helping teammate and opponent improve; that was the theme. Keep it going, Greg!

Here’s the list of nominees for Stars and Stripes’ fall Athletes of the Quarter:

* Kristina Bergman, senior, volleyball, Daegu American, South Korea
* Amber Gadsden, senior, tennis, Guam High
* Madeline Strandemo, sophomore, cross country, Hong Kong International
* Shariff Coleman, senior, football, Kadena, Okinawa
* Thomas McDonald, senior, football, Kadena, Okinawa
* Kent Shikama, freshman, tennis, St. Mary’s International, Japan
* Kelly Langley, senior, cross country, St. Mary’s International, Japan
* Liz Gleaves, senior, volleyball, Seoul American
* Amanda Henderson, junior, cross country, Seoul American
Hayden Jardine, sophomore, football, American School In Japan
Kelsey Leon, senior, tennis, American School In Japan
Max Negami, senior, tennis, American School In Japan
Devon Jacobs, senior, football, Guam High
Jacob Bishop, senior, cross country, Kadena, Okinawa
Shariff Coleman, senior, football, Kadena, Okinawa
Thomas McDonald, senior, football, Kadena, Okinawa
Marina Nakayama, senior, volleyball, Nile C. Kinnick, Japan
Deon Lewis, junior, football, Kubasaki, Okinawa
Nathan Baldevia, senior, volleyball, Osan American, South Korea
Paul Snead, senior, football, Osan American, South Korea
Destinee Harrison, senior, volleyball, Seoul American
Jeffrey Kim, freshman, tennis, Seoul Foreign
Erika Ettl, junior, tennis, Yokota, Japan
Michael Spencer, senior, football, Zama American, Japan
*: Indicates student-athlete who earned Most Valuable Player honors in a team sport or won a gold medal in a Far East or Asia-Pacific Invitational tournament in an individual sport.

 

Pacific high school girls basketball season preview

Now that Seoul American and Daegu American topped off their all-Korea Far East girls basketball tournament title sweep of last February with a similar Division I and II girls volleyball tournament brooming last month, the question is, can they do it again? Click here to find out their thoughts and here for a team-by-team Pacific high school rundown.

Somebody else out there you think can do better than portrayed here? Shout it out! Be true to your school, and remember: You've entered "THE" No-Hate Zone. :)

Pacific high school boys basketball season preview

Now that Kubasaki's boys have broken out of the gate for an 8-0 start, best on coach Jon Fick's five-season watch, including the Hong Kong International School Holiday Basketball Tournament title, the question is how far can they take it? Click here to find out more and here to get a team-by-team Pacific high school boys basketball rundown.

Think there's somebody else out there who'll do better than portrayed here? Sound off! Be true to your school, and remember: You've entered "THE" No-Hate Zone. :)

Hail Pacific's football, girls volleyball Players of the Year

Shall I tell you how much alike Kadena's running backs Shariff Coleman and Thomas McDonald are? Panthers offensive coordinator Steve Schrock points out that McDonald's average yards per carry was 10.434. And Coleman's? 10.436. Just two thousandths of a yard apart. Meanwhile, on the hardwood, seniors Liz Gleaves of Division I champion Seoul American and Kristina Bergman of two-time Division II champion Daegu American were just as dominant. Click here and here to read their stories.

 
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Ornauer on AFN

 

Stars and Stripes reporter Dave Ornauer talks about the Pacific sports scene on AFN Radio. (Click on right arrow to play file.)

 

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.