DAEJEON, South Korea – All season long, Seoul American’s boys had waited for Olu Akinbayo to break out. It happened over the weekend in the Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference Five-Cities Division Basketball Tournaments.
The junior forward and tournament MVP mustered 16 points and 10 rebounds, while guard Dominique Connoly scored seven clutch points in the final minute as the Falcons outlasted a tenacious Yongsan International-Seoul team 47-42 in Saturday’s championship at Taejon Christian International School.
The girls game was far less suspenseful, as tournament MVP Jasmine Thomas had 25 points, 11 rebounds and five steals as Seoul American routed Seoul Foreign 55-28 to cap a perfect KAIAC season and tournament.
“Good genes are good genes,” coach Steve Boyd said of Akinbayo, whose older brother Tomiwa starred for the Falcons for three seasons and younger sister Sade plays for the Falcons girls.
“We waited for him to come out this season. He’s a work in progress, but this tournament solidified him. We needed scoring and rebounding, we put him at (power forward) and I think he found his niche.”
His scoring proved a big key against a Guardians team that buckled down defensively and contested every shot, forcing the Falcons into a half-court game that better suited YIS-Seoul.
“We got shots; we just weren’t finishing,” Boyd said.
The Guardians led by two at half and stayed with the Falcons step for step, leading as late as the 5 minute 30 second mark of the fourth quarter, before Patrick Anderson gave the Falcons the lead for good with a three-pointer 39-37 with five minutes left.
In the final minute, Connoly hit a huge three-pointer, then took a rebound full court for a lay-in and followed that with two free throws with 14 seconds left to ice it. “That was the clincher,” Boyd said.
For the girls, Thomas got things going by scoring nine of the Falcons’ 11 first-quarter points and Seoul American took advantage of 11 first-half steals to go up 28-12 at halftime.
From there, both clubs substituted liberally, the Falcons particularly after Thomas fell and hurt her back in the third period; she returned and appeared to be OK.
“The last few games, I challenged her to step up her game,” Falcons coach Jesse J. Smith said. “We need her to score 25 or more points if we’re going to win Far East. She’s stepped up to be a factor at Far East. I’m proud of her and all the girls.”
The tournament was the final preparation for next week’s Far East tournaments, with the boys Division I at Kubasaki, girls D-I at Yokota, boys D-II at Camp Zama, Japan, and girls D-II at Robert D. Edgren.