Seoul American and Daegu were expected Saturday to battle for Korea’s high school basketball tournament boys title. Yongsan International-Seoul had other plans and crashed that party Friday with a semifinal shocker over Daegu.
James Bai, a junior guard, hit a coast-to-coast running scoop as time ran out, rallying the Guardians from a four-point third-quarter deficit past the Warriors 52-50 in the Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference Five-Cities Division tournament at Taejon Christian International School.
As Bai raced upcourt with time running out, his teammate Ben Linssen “was shouting, ‘You gotta shoot!’” Bai recalled. “I didn’t think I was close enough, but I just put it up. I didn’t even see it go in; I thought I’d traveled. But I saw all my teammates shouting and I realized I’d made it.”
Bai finished with 17 points and Chris Yoo scored 14 for the fifth-seeded Guardians, plagued by injuries all season. Daegu was the top seed and a prohibitive favorite to battle No. 2 Seoul American in Saturday’s final.
“All season long, we’ve emphasized character,” coach Daniel Hale said, adding that when two weeks ago the Guardians edged Seoul American by two points in overtime, “we knew we could play with anyone. Their character showed today.”
Warriors coach Phillip Loyd vigorously protested to the officials after the game that Bai’s basket came after the buzzer; referee O.C. Chandler emphatically moved his arm down in a motion to show the bucket was good.
“I have to rely on the officials. The officials said it was good, then it was good,” Loyd said. “But it wasn’t good.”
Seoul American faces YIS-Seoul in a rematch of that overtime game, clouded by a controversy surrounding the officials who worked that game. The officials were not referees of the association contracted to referee KAIAC 5CD games. Those failed to show for the game, postponed from December by snow.
Two certified referees not affiliated with United Services For Korea Officials Association stepped out of the stands and offered to work the game.
The Falcons agreed to play that game because it was YIS-Seoul’s senior day. Hale, also YIS-Seoul’s athletics director and KAIAC president, said both he and Falcons coach Steve Boyd agreed that it would be an official league game; Boyd vigorously denied that, but the game was entered into KAIAC’s standings.
Seoul American beat Seoul Foreign on Friday 56-48 to reach Saturday’s final.
The girls’ bracket also featured a mild upset, as Seoul Foreign downed Daegu 41-36 and reached Saturday’s title game against a Seoul American team that routed TCIS 56-20 behind Jasmine Thomas’ 20 points - 18 in the second half.
Elsewhere, American School In Japan’s boys captured the Kanto Plain Association of Secondary Schools regular-season title without stepping onto the court, as Yokota edged Nile C. Kinnick, which had been tied with the Mustangs with two losses each, 51-49 at Panthers’ Senior Night.
Ke’Ondre Davis’ tip-in basket with one second left won it for the Panthers. Morgan Breazell of Yokota and Kinnick’s DeAnthony Evans each had 18 points.