Far East Class A girls basketball preview
Second chances don’t come along that often. Taegu American’s girls basketball players are hoping they can make the most of theirs.
Most of the Warriors suffered the disappointment of finishing third for the second straight year at last month’s Far East Class A Volleyball Tournament.
Their “second chance” could come in February’s Far East Class A hoops tournament at Pusan. And fourth-year coach Michelle Chandler, while not proclaiming the Warriors as the team to beat, feels her squad will be a contender.
“We’re looking good,” Chandler said. “They’re looking good at practice. Everything I’ve been teaching them to do for four years, they’re finally doing.”
The Warriors feature several veterans, with junior Kelli Cox working the middle, junior Lynette Grant doing the bulk of the scoring and Michelle Weal back in her role as defensive specialist.
Chandler’s daughter, Ashley Gooch, is a senior and four-year starter. Lindsey Jackson, a transfer student from Clovis, N.M., is giving basketball a try after a successful volleyball season.
“[Jackson] sees the court well, she’s a good team player, she passes well and makes strong decisions,” Chandler said.
As gifted as some Taegu American teams have been over the years, the 2001 team was the only one to taste Class A center court, losing 44-22 in the final to Osan American.
Is this the year?
“This year or next year,” Chandler said.
The Warriors face some strong opposition in reaching that goal:
Osan American will continue to feed off a strong guard rotation, with senior Sharon Kroening at point, and the tallest player in the league, 6-foot-4 junior Margaret Nurse, dominating the paint.E.J. King of Japan could surprise with a strong returning core of sophomores Yudia Johnson and Porshia Bryant and junior Bianca Cruz.Pusan American, for the first time, has enough players to field varsity and jayvee teams, and their guard tandem of senior Brieanna Carroll, Class A’s reigning MVP, and freshman Shabraya Hayes will give opponents fits.Perpetually rebuilding Matthew C. Perry has a solid building block in senior guard Cindy Stasher.“I can say my team is going to be strong, but Osan is going to have its core back,” Chandler said. “E.J. King will probably be strong, too.”
What might finally put the Warriors over the top, Chandler said, is newfound self-confidence.
“To believe they can do it. Believe in themselves,” Chandler said. “This is basically the same group of kids that could have done it (in Class A volleyball at Sasebo), but didn’t believe they could.”
The potential is there, Chandler says. “It comes down to what’s inside of them. It’s what they can do with it on the court.”
A look at the teams ...
Taegu American Warriors,Camp George, South Korea
Last season: 14-15, 8-5 in league; third in Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference; sixth in Far East Class A Tournament.
Coach: Michelle Chandler, fourth season.
Key returners: Kelli Cox, junior, forward-center; Lynette Grant, junior, guard; Ashley Gooch, senior, guard-forward; Michelle Weal, junior guard.
Key newcomer: Lindsey Jackson, sophomore, guard.
Outlook: Contending. Strong junior-laden returning class, a year older, a year wiser and primed to finally take the leap past Osan American in league play and perhaps reach center court in the Class A tournament.
Osan American Cougars,Osan Air Base, South Korea
Last season: 23-8, 13-3 in league; second in Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference; two-time Far East Class A tournament runner-up.
Coach: Bruce Barker, 10th season.
Key returners: Margaret Nurse, junior, center; Sharon Kroening, senior, guard; Suzi Devin, senior, guard; Destiny Harris, sophomore, guard; Alyssa Fellows, sophomore, guard; Elizabeth Juergens, junior, guard.
Key newcomers: Kim Gerrard, junior; Dawn Moore, freshman; Jessica Guertin, freshman.
Outlook: Contending. Still boasting the biggest thing in the league, the 6-foot-4 Nurse, and experienced guards in Kroening and Devin, the Cougars are still a major title threat in both the league and Class A. Losing Harris and Fellows close to tournament time will hurt, though.
Pusan American Panthers,Camp Hialeah, South Korea
Last season: 9-12, 4-5 in league; sixth in Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference; seventh in Far East Class A tournament.
Coach: Jonathan Parker, second season.
Key returners: Brieanna Carroll, senior, guard; Cassie Carroll, freshman, guard; Shabraya Hayes, freshman, guard; Aileen Kim, freshman guard; Yojin Neihous, sophomore; Kristina Sagstetter, freshman; Angela Vandersys, freshman.
Key newcomer: Kristine Meany, junior.
Outlook: Reloading-contending. For first time, Panthers have a junior varsity program; varsity won’t have to rely on seventh- and eighth-graders to fill out a roster. Guard-oriented team plans to outhustle other teams and play smarter ball, Parker says.
E.J. King Cobras,Sasebo Naval Base, Japan
Last season: 4-21, 1-11 in league; sixth in Japan League; fifth at Far East Class A tournament.
Coach: Bridget Vertin, first season.
Key returners: Yudia Johnson, sophomore, small forward; Bianca Cruz, junior, point guard-shooting guard; Porshia Bryant, sophomore, power forward.
Key newcomers: Janece Chapman, senior, power forward; Kristia Suriben, freshman, point guard.
Outlook: Hoping to contend. From returning core to new players, sole motivating goal is to win the team’s first Class A title since 1997.
Matthew C. Perry Samurai,Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station, Japan
Last season: 5-14, 3-8 in league; fifth in Japan League, ninth at Far East Class A tournament.
Coach: Rico Alexander, first season.
Key returners: Cindy Stasher, senior, point guard; Cristina Sindac, sophomore, shooting guard; Dana Garland, sophomore, power forward.
Key newcomer: Larnice Alexander, shooting guard.
Outlook: Perpetually rebuilding. Will hustle on defense, but will struggle offensively.