Girls Class A basketball: After volleyball title, Taegu core takes aim at hoops crown
(See capsule summaries of the teams at end of story)
Now that Taegu American’s Lynnette Grant, Tank Hancock, Kelli Cox and Michelle Weal finally have tasted success in the Far East volleyball tournament, might a school-first Class A basketball title be forthcoming?
“They’ve won, they know they can win and they know how to win now,” coach Michelle Chandler said of her senior core, which overcame frustrating near misses to break through with the school’s first Class A volleyball championship last month.
Chandler says she’s seen a big difference in those veterans now that they’ve won a championship. Grant is even having T-shirts designed that proclaim, “It’s our turn now!”
The Warriors will get to chase those titles on their home court. Taegu American hosts the Class A tournament in February, the first time it’s left Pusan American since its inception in 1990.
“Home cooking will definitely help us,” Chandler said. “The girls are really excited about that. Especially the seniors. It’s their last year; they get to play at home.”
One of them is Grant, a returning All-Class A basketball player and MVP of the Class A volleyball tournament. She’s been known primarily as a shooter. But Chandler says that Grant, who attended a summer camp at North Carolina-Greensboro and was named best defensive player, has rounded out her game.
“She has tremendous athleticism, and she found at Far East last year something I’ve been trying to tell her to do, drive to the basket,” Chandler said. “She’s so fast, nobody can stop her. She always knew she could play defense but up until last year, all she would do was go for steals. Now, she’s playing a balanced defensive game.”
Cox “is steady, works hard, and is a great defender. A really smart player,” Chandler said. Hancock will run the point, while Weal, another strong defensive player, “needs to shoot the ball. She’ll contribute.”
The Warriors will face two strong tests right off the bat: road games at defending Class A tournament champion Osan American on Dec. 2 and two weeks later at defending Class AA champion Seoul American.
“Good chance to see where we are,” Chandler said.
Osan’s run of five straight Class A Center Court appearances, with titles in 2001, ’02 and ’05, appears at an end, with the Cougars’ big three of Sharon Kroening, Mina Davis (graduated) and Margaret Nurse (transfer to Seoul American) gone.
E.J. King of Japan will miss graduated center Erika Alexander but returns sophomore All-Japan and All-Class A guard Kristia Suriben.
The Warriors also will have their hands full in the Far East tournament with international powers such as Faith Academy of Manila, the 2003 champion; perennial contender Morrison Christian Academy of Taiwan, and 2004 champion International School of the Sacred Heart of Tokyo.
Getting to the top will take strong senior core play plus “better discipline. That’s on me,” Chandler said, suggesting she’s re-evaluating her style.
She pointed to the examples set by coaches such as Paul Pineda of St. Paul Christian of Guam, Dan Beaver of Faith Academy and Kurt Rose of Sacred Heart.
“They’re disciplined. That’s … the difference between us and them. I have to change things up a bit. It’s something I have to work on,” Chandler said.
But above all, she said, her players “have got to want it. We have to work hard. We have to finish. Especially at Far East.”
Class A girlsJapan
Robert D. Edgren Eagles,Misawa Air Base
2004-05 record: 14-14 overall; 7-8, 4th place in Japan Basketball League.
Head coach: Sarah Richardson, 16th season.
Key returnees: Gerralyn Calhoun, Sr., F; Latriva Calhoun, Jr., F; Krystina Overton.
Outlook: Rebuilding. Eagles got hammered by transfers of veterans Stephanie Patrick (Italy), Brandi Calhoun (States) and Monica Hayes (Kadena, Okinawa), while Richardson’s last remaining point guard, Krystine Horsley, transfers to the States later this month, and Overton will leave as well. No transfers came in to help. Players will be used at all positions; developing a point guard will be the major hurdle. Move from Class AA to Class A will help.
Matthew C. Perry Samurai,Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni
2004-05 record: 2-26 overall; 0-12, 6th place in Japan Basketball League.
Head coach: Lauren Hunt, first season.
Key returnees: Cristina Sindac, Sr., SG; Larnice Alexander, Sr., PG; Shantrell Merriweather, Jr., G-F-C.
Key newcomers: Ashley Taylor, Jr., F-C; Deandrea Taylor, Fr., F-C.
Outlook: Rebuilding, but for the first time in many years a total overhaul is not necessary. Sindac, Alexander and Merriweather bring complete games to the court; the former two are dangerous from three-point range, while the Taylors are aggressive under the glass. Hunt feels her team can challenge for the Class A title.
E.J. King Cobras,Sasebo Naval Base, Japan
2004-05 record: 20-11 overall; 4-8, 5th place in Japan Basketball League.
Head coach: Bridget Vertin, second season.
Key returnees: Kristia Suriben, So., PG (2005 All-Far East Class A, All-JBL); Jemari Nimedez, Jr., G; Lori Brooks, So., G; Yudia Johnson, Jr., G-F-C; Angelica Quijano, So., G; Denise Artillaga, Jr., F; Cristina Rennick, Jr., F-C.
Key newcomers: Angelica Mabini, Jr., G; Sumika Hunter, Jr., G; Sheila Donahue, Sr., F; Aryanne Young, Jr., F; Cynthia Ovalle, Fr., F.
Outlook: Reloading-contending. Fresh off a 16-win improvement from a moribund 2003-04 campaign, Vertin must overcome the loss of high-scoring center Erika Alexander (graduated). The Cobras have plenty of backcourt experience to ensure a strong JBL and Class A title chase.
Taegu American Warriors,Camp George
2004-05 record: 18-15 overall; 11-4, 2nd place in Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference Division I.
Head coach: Michelle Chandler, fifth season.
Key returnees: Lynnette Grant, Sr., G-F (two-time All-Far East Class A, two-time All-Conference); Kelli Cox, Sr., F; Tammara “Tank” Hancock, Sr., G; Michelle Weal, Sr., G.
Key newcomers: Joanne Youngblood, Sr., F-G; Lisa Rios, Fr.; Sarah Scott, Fr.
Outlook: Contending. Chandler hopes that momentum from Grant, Cox and Weal helping the Warriors win school's first Class A volleyball title will carry over into basketball. Must overcome loss of four-year starter Ashley Gooch (graduation) and Brandie Wagner (transfer).
Osan American Cougars,Osan Air Base
2004-05 record: 22-6 overall, defending Far East Class A tournament champion; 10-4, 3rd place in Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference Division I.
Head coach: Bruce Barker, 11th season.
Key returnees: Dawn Moore, So., G; Kimberly Gerrard, Sr., F-G.
Key newcomers: Jessica Richert, Fr., F-C.
Outlook: Rebuilding. Run of five straight years at Center Court and titles in 2001, '02 and '05 has finally ended. Losing core four-year starting point guard Sharon Kroening and three-year forward Mina Davis (graduation) and 6-foot-5 senior center Margaret Nurse (transfer to Seoul American) might be too much to overcome.
Pusan American Panthers
2004-05 record: 15-10 overall; 9-5, 2nd place in Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference Division II.
Head coach: Jonathan Parker, third season.
Key returnees: Taccara Walker, So., G; Yeojin Niehaus, So., G; Kristina Sagstetter, So., F; Angie Vandersys, So., G.
Key newcomers: Amy Kim, Fr., G; Mabel Mejia, Fr., F; Ashley Smith, Fr., C; Byel Gould, Fr., F.
Outlook: Rebuilding. Panthers hope to go out with a bang in their final season; Pusan American closes after the current school year. Parker feels his “small team with large expectations” will be more balanced, 10 players “who understand they all have to contribute.” Losing four-year All-Class A point guard and 2004 MVP Brieanna Carroll leaves a huge void.