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For three seasons, Osan American assistant coach Dietrick Glover has watched A.J. Scott and Steve Davis blossom as the Cougars’ boys basketball team’s dynamic duo.

They led Osan to its first Far East High School Class A Tournament title. And Glover says the twosome is yearning for more glory.

“They are hungry to repeat,” he said.

While Scott and Davis have been the Cougars’ constants, they anchor a much different team from the one that made school history a year ago.

Gone is 6-foot-4 sophomore Jon Piekarczyk, leaving the team without a true center. Gone are athletic freshman guard Ray Wicks and point guard Mike Elkins. There’s even a new head coach, David Leighninger.

Yet plenty of cogs remain, including 6-foot-4 senior forwards Davis and Scott — and no shortage of optimism that Osan can make it two straight crowns.

“Last year’s team was a good team, and this year’s is a good team as well,” Glover said. “I would say the difference [is this year’s team] has not won a Far East championship.”

The Cougars went 12-4 in the Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference regular season and 14-5 overall.

“We’re a little bit shorter. But we’re stronger this year,” Davis said.

Three juniors have moved up from the jayvee ranks or transferred in from elsewhere fill in the holes.

Van Hauter stepped into the point-guard shoes vacated by Elkins. Terry Stephens, a 6-footer, moved to Osan from Stratford Academy in Macon, Ga., and 5-11 Chris Durham arrived after playing jayvee ball at Yokota, Japan.

“Terry’s our leading rebounder. Just his size and jumping ability,” Davis said.

Stephens is not as tall as Piekarczyk, Leighninger said, “but he’s stronger, quicker and very physical.” He noted Durham has shown noticable improvement in recent games as well.

But Leighninger said the presence of Davis and Scott, the 2003 tournament MVP, remains invaluable.

“A.J. is such a tremendous leader, he’s like a coach on the court,” Leighninger said. “Steve and A.J. are both quiet leaders.”

Such experience should serve the Cougars well against a field of nine other teams seeking Class A supremacy, five of whom have won titles in the past.

Osan’s greatest challenge is likely to come from the two most recent champions besides the Cougars, E.J. King of Japan (2000) and St. Paul Christian of Guam (2001).

The Cobras (14-10) welcome back two All-Tournament players, getting consistent three-point shooting from junior Draonne Johnson and inside play from junior KeAndre Jones. Seniors Chris Years and Andrew Stephens help out inside, and junior Mark Bote runs the point.The Warriors (6-2) rely on relentless pressure and Guam’s highest-scoring offense (69.1 points per game). St. Paul is the in the league to beat two-time defending Guam champion Father Duenas Memorial.Though Osan hasn’t seen either team play, Davis and Leighninger say they’re not worried about the unknown.

“It’s not much of a concern,” Davis said. “I know they’re not much bigger than us. It’s not a problem unless they can drain threes consistently. They won’t be able to come inside on us.”

One opposing coach, Keith Ross of Taegu American, agrees that Osan holds a strong advantage inside.

“They hit the boards hard,” Ross said. “On any given day, any team can be beat. It’s how they execute offensively and play collectively as a team.”

Far East boys Class A basketball tournament

Dates: Feb. 25-28, 2004.

Site: Osan Sports & Fitness Center and Osan American High School, Osan Air Base, South Korea.

Participating teams: Osan American Cougars (defending champion); St. Paul Christian Warriors, Tamuning, Guam (title in 2001); E.J. King Cobras, Sasebo Naval Base, Japan (third last year, titles in 1997 and 2000); Seoul International Tigers, Songnam, South Korea (fifth last year); Pusan American Panthers, Camp Hialeah, South Korea (sixth last year, title in 1983); Taegu American Warriors, Camp George, South Korea (fourth last year, titles in 1988-90); Matthew C. Perry Samurai, Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station, Japan (second last year, titles in 1995-96); Korea Kent Foreign Scorpions, Seoul; International Christian-Seoul Guardians; International Christian-Pyongtaek Eagles, Pyongtaek, South Korea.

Returning All-Far East players: A.J. Scott (twice), Steve Davis (twice), Osan American; KeAndre Jones, Draonne Johnson, E.J. King; James Edwards, Pusan American; Edwin Choi, Seoul International.

Format: Single round-robin, 10 teams in two pools of five teams each, first two days. Modified double-elimination playoffs with consolation, all 10 teams eligible, last three days.

Schedule: Opening ceremony 9 a.m. Wednesday, Osan Sports & Fitness Center. First games, 10 a.m Wednesday. Playoffs begin, 6 p.m. Thursday. Championship, 1 p.m. Saturday, second game if necessary at 3 p.m. Awards ceremony after championship. Skills competitions, three-point long-distance shootout and free-throw competition, 10 a.m. Saturday.

Awards: Trophies to top six teams, Most Valuable Player, 13-player All-Tournament team, Team Sportsmanship Award.

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Dave Ornauer has been employed by or assigned to Stars and Stripes Pacific almost continuously since March 5, 1981. He served 10½ years in the Air Force, the last 4½ assigned to Stripes in Tokyo, and was then hired by Stripes on Oct. 25, 1985. He covers interservice and high school sports at DODEA-Pacific schools and manages Pacific Storm Tracker.
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