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Nino Etienne (21) of the Seoul American Falcons looks for room against Seoul International defenders during Friday's Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference boys basketball game at Falcon Gym, Seoul American High School, Yongsan Garrison, South Korea.

Nino Etienne (21) of the Seoul American Falcons looks for room against Seoul International defenders during Friday's Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference boys basketball game at Falcon Gym, Seoul American High School, Yongsan Garrison, South Korea. (T.D. Flack / S&S)

Nino Etienne (21) of the Seoul American Falcons looks for room against Seoul International defenders during Friday's Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference boys basketball game at Falcon Gym, Seoul American High School, Yongsan Garrison, South Korea.

Nino Etienne (21) of the Seoul American Falcons looks for room against Seoul International defenders during Friday's Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference boys basketball game at Falcon Gym, Seoul American High School, Yongsan Garrison, South Korea. (T.D. Flack / S&S)

Seoul American senior Nino Etienne and Kadena junior Theresa Gittens pushed their teams to Class AA Far East High School Basketball Tournament titles.

For their efforts during the season and tournaments, they also have earned Stars and Stripes winter Athlete of the Quarter honors, part of Ornauer’s Recognition for a Nice Year awards.

“He is the type of player that only comes along every 10 years or so,” Falcons coach Steve Boyd said of Etienne.

The Texas native garnered every league and Far East award, capturing All-Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference honors, as well as Class AA MVP.

He averaged 27.2 points per game during the regular season, then 25.6 points and 15.7 rebounds during the Class AA tournament, rolling up 40 double-doubles for the Falcons (37-7).

In a “humble and quite an unassuming” manner, Etienne piloted the Falcons to their first Class AA title in seven seasons.

“He is a fine young man, not a bragger, and leads by example,” Boyd said, adding that Etienne performed unselfishly, evidenced by his 5.7 assists per game.

Etienne also is a Junior ROTC and National Honor Society member with a 3.57 grade-point average, and he’s active in his church.

“He accepts constructive criticism and is very coachable. He never missed or was even late for practice or games. ... I never once heard him complain about anything regarding the school, me or the team. He is an excellent example of what we coaches want on our teams,” Boyd said.

Gittens played a similar role in helping Kadena (16-10 overall, 7-0 at Far East) to its first Class AA title in nine years.

She was selected all-tournament in the Hong Kong International School Invitational in December and the Martin Luther King Invitational for military teams at Camp Foster in January, as well as earning the Class AA MVP award. She led the team in points and assists and was second in steals.

All that came on a team that changed coaches at the start of the season, with Ken Hudson taking over for Jim Wallace. Hudson stressed that Gittens became a “direct link” between the team and coach, serving as a coach on the floor in her role as team captain and point guard.

“She relayed the offensive and defensive plays to the team from me. She directed players to the proper positions when needed. She took over the game when the situation dictated that she do so,” Hudson said of the 3.57 GPA student.

“Theresa is an outstanding leader at the school and in the community, and all of her teammates and peers look up to her. She is as humble as ‘humble pie’ and always has that Academy Award-winning smile ready for you. She is just a neat kid who has success written all over her.”

Now, the rest of the winter ORNYs:

• Coach of the quarter — Mark Hanssen finally collected a championship after five years of work — the first Far East Wrestling Tournament individual freestyle team title in 25 years for the Yokota Panthers.

• Teams of the quarter — Seoul American’s boys went unbeaten against American and international high school competition and capturing the second Class AA title in school history. St. Mary’s International wrestling also deserves mention, winning its first Far East dual-meet team title since 1997.

• Programs of the quarter — Again, Seoul American stands out, with the wrestling team winning the KAIAC title, the boys basketball team capturing the Class AA title after not placing a year ago and the girls, thought to be rebuilding under coach Charlotte Hicks, making the final four. Osan American of Korea comes close, winning the Class A Far East boys basketball title and the girls taking second after claiming the previous two crowns.

• Most improved team — After not placing a year ago, Guam’s John F. Kennedy, led by the big three of Christine Vicente, Jocelyn Pardilla and Celine Cruz, ran and gunned its way to the Class AA girls final, losing to Kadena 44-41, with Pardilla’s three-point attempt at the buzzer hitting iron.

• Guts and Glory Award — He sat the last half of the football season and almost all of the wrestling season with two dislocated elbows, but senior Rae Canlas of Yokota hit the mat running, bulldozing his way to a 12-0 record and the 115-pound Far East individual weight-class gold medal.

• James Brown Award — For the hardest-working team in the Pacific, the few, the proud, the Lady Samurai of Matthew C. Perry High in Japan. Five girls — Kaili Rowland, Samantha Gingras (a manager who hadn’t played before Class A), LaToya Thompson, Cortaza Hall and the “Patriot Missile,” long-range specialist Tia Fluellen — who somehow managed to forge a Final Four finish.

• Long Time Coming Award — Wrestler Go Yamada of Nile C. Kinnick tried for three years and only had two silver medals to show for it. He made the most of his final go-round, capturing the 129-pound Far East gold.

• Basketball players of the quarter — Besides Gittens and Etienne, a pair of juniors — A.J. Scott of Osan American and Jessica Nelson of Faith Academy in Manila — grabbed MVP honors and led their teams to Class A tournament titles. Nelson accomplished this after transferring from the Christian Academy In Japan and not joining the Lady Vanguards until January, about midway through Faith’s season.

• Wrestlers of the quarter — Sophomore Zolboo Enkhbayar of Brent International in the Philippines again dominated the Far East tournament, steamrolling his way to the 135-pound gold medal. Yokota’s Blake Reinhold was also noteworthy, going 38-0 and earning gold medals in all six of his tournaments, including Far East, at heavyweight.

• Basketball games of the quarter — The Osan American and Seoul Foreign boys teams engaged in two of the season’s tightest games. Paul Rader’s three-pointer at the buzzer lifted the Crusaders past the Cougars 63-60 on Dec. 11. Then, Scott’s baseline jumper with seven seconds left gave Osan the answer in a 72-70 double-overtime triumph on Jan. 24.

• Wrestling bout of the quarter — Or Guts and Glory Part II: En route to his perfect season, Reinhold overcame the flu and strained muscles in his back to outlast E.J. King’s Din Rodillon in a 12-11 overtime bout Jan. 25 at the Nile C. Kinnick Invitational Beast of the Far East tournament.

• Trivia — Name the only two people in the past 25 years of Far East basketball history to coach and play for a championship team.

• Best student media coverage— For the 10th year, a cadre of student-journalists at Pusan American School provided daily coverage of Class A girls tournament action in a newspaper titled Hoop Scoop. A tip of the hat to Linda Kang, Hanna Merkes, Rachael Daniel, Saerom Yoo, Valentina Guzman, Grace Hong, Mary Edwards, Mycal Horton, Jeni Smith, Anthony Lupo, Anise Min, Hanna Lee and Sarina Parsons and their adviser, David Clausen.

• Trivia answer — J.P. Rader, who played guard on Seoul Foreign’s Class AA championship team in 1979 and coached the club to Class A championships in 1991 and ’93; and Todd Hardeman, a guard on Faith Academy’s 1982 Class AA championship team and coach of the Brent International Lions’ 1994 Class A title team.

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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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