Class A girls looks like clash of new, old powers
By DAVE ORNAUER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 17, 2003
It’s become a ritual so automatic that coach Bruce Barker almost doesn’t need to signal his bench.
As each quarter nears the four-minute mark, all five players on the Osan American Cougars girls basketball team bench report to the scorers table to replace the five on the floor.
“They know what to do and they do it well,” said Barker, who’s coached the Cougars to two straight Far East Class A titles.
They will take aim at a third starting Monday when the small schools tournament tips off at the Camp Hialeah Sports & Fitness Center in Pusan, South Korea. Barker says he plans to follow the formula that’s worked for two straight years, based mainly on team depth.
“Giving the kids as much playing time as possible. That way if somebody gets hurt, they know what to do,” Barker said.
Osan has employed the split-quarter procedure virtually every game in compiling a 15-12 record.
It’s a misleading 15-12. Eight of the losses came in the Osan Pacificwide Invitational for military teams in December. The other four were against Seoul American, a large-schools team.
But on the horizon, looming as the biggest threat to the Cougars’ burgeoning dynasty, is a Far East powerhouse from the Philippines — Faith Academy, which won Class A in 1996 before capturing four straight Class AA tittles.
For the past six seasons, Faith, which has an enrollment of about 280, has taken advantage of a DODEA-Pacific exemption that allows international schools to play in Class AA tournaments, which are normally open to schools of at least 320.
This year, the Vanguards move back down to Class A — and coach Charlotte Hicks of Seoul American, whose Falcons have lost to Osan and Faith this season, feels the Vanguards could be the team that brings Osan down.
“Osan has really come along and jelled over the course of the season, but I don’t think they have what it takes to beat Faith,” said Hicks, whose only two losses this season were to Osan and Faith.
One big factor, Hicks said, could be the addition of junior point guard Jessica Nelson, who transfered from Christian Academy In Japan to Faith in January.
“Osan doesn’t have anybody dynamic like Nelson,” Hicks said. “Faith has gotten a wonderful player. She’ll be hard to stop. She’s very steady, can play good offense and defense and she has speed.”
Combatting that will be an experienced Cougars lineup featuring five players with at least one Class A title under their belt.
Point guard Jennifer Gates and center Jessica Hagmaier are the only seniors.
Freshman Margaret Nurse and junior Kim Gulley provide rebounding strength and sophomores Sharon Kroening and Mina Davis scoring on the wings.
Besides Faith, other teams vying to unseat the Cougars include defending runner-up Matthew C. Perry Samurai of Japan, with All-Far East seniors in Cortaza Hall and three-point specialist Tia Fluellen.
Taegu American of Korea features steady senior rebounder Siobhan Adkins. Host Pusan American boasts the “Killer Brees,” two-time All-Far East junior Breanne Robison and speedy sophomore Brieanna Carroll.
All will come up short, Hicks feels, of halting Osan and Faith from meeting in Saturday’s final.
“They would have to be playing beyond themselves to beat Osan or Faith,” said Hicks, whose Falcons have played six of the eight teams in the field.
Barker said he wasn’t too concerned over the schools he hasn’t seen.
“That’s the challenge,” he said, adding that his players “have the ability and the skills and they’ve been through it before.
“I’m always cautiously optimistic going in. You never know what’s going to happen. But we hope that with our depth, it won’t make much difference.”