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After two years of near misses and heartbreaks, Daegu American’s boys basketball team stands at the cusp of doing something it’s not done in a long time — 20 years, in fact.

Coach Phillip Loyd believes his Warriors finally have what it takes to put themselves over the top and capture Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference and Far East Class A tournament titles for the first time since the 1989-90 season.

This after the Warriors posted back-to-back fourth-place finishes in KAIAC tournaments, and coming in sixth in the Class A tournament in 2008 and third last year. Sort of like coming back to the dining-room table, rubbing hands and demanding the whole roast instead of just a taste, Loyd said.

"Most of the guys who were there experienced what it was like to be in that position," said Loyd, in his fourth year as Daegu coach. "Once you’ve reached that level, it gives you a new maturity, and that’s where they are now — smart players looking to engage in the fight again."

The Warriors, along with four other Class A schools in Japan and Korea and seven Class AA teams in Japan, Korea, Guam and Okinawa, begin the chase for Far East glory in earnest this weekend with full game slates.

On paper, the Warriors appear to have the key ingredients, experience, quickness and some height, though the roster is heavily guard-laden.

Antoine Feagin, David Martinez, Khiry Loyd and Chris Swain bring veteran senior leadership to the backcourt, while varsity newcomers Tre Griffin and Darius Wyche provide depth. And though not 6 feet 7 inches tall, as was departed Drew Snowden (graduation), Josh Gosserand brings a big-player presence inside.

Despite losing all four games in a post-level tournament at Camp Walker over Thanksgiving weekend, Loyd said he was impressed with how the team grew with each game.

"They found the obstacles, surmounted the obstacles and played good ball despite playing grown men," Loyd said.

The keys, Loyd said, are playing to their potential and holding it together as a team. Should that happen, both KAIAC and Class A titles are "very definitely possible."

"This team is designed to peak at Far East," Loyd said. "We’ll use the season as a learning experience, but the two goals are KAIAC and Far East. We’ve been in the semifinals; there’s no reason we shouldn’t be in the finals."

Also seeking a return trip, and fighting a similar bout of title hunger, is last year’s Class AA runner-up Yokota. The Panthers came within a missed desperation buzzer shot of capturing their first Class AA title last February, losing 38-36 to St. Mary’s International on their home court.

But this is a Yokota team vastly different from a season ago, when it sported a solid inside-outside game with point guard Tajh Kirby and center Keron Brown. The tallest player on coach Paul Ettl’s roster is Antony Phillips, a 5-11 senior who will play center.

"We’ll have to find another style of play. We’re not going to be the team we were last year," Ettl said. "This team is going to have to find its own personality and road to success."

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Dave Ornauer has been employed by or assigned to Stars and Stripes Pacific almost continuously since March 5, 1981. He covers interservice and high school sports at DODEA-Pacific schools and manages the Pacific Storm Tracker.

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