Every now and then, a Pacific high school basketball team has a player who resembles a runaway freight train.

Yokota’s boys and Taegu American’s girls each featured such a player — a senior sporting a 3.2 grade-point average in the classroom and 20-plus points and more than 10 rebounds per game on the court.

So that Cameron Cooper and Lynnette Grant each paced their teams to Far East titles might have been small surprise. Cooper’s Panthers won their first Class AA crown since 1976, and Grant boosted the Warriors to the school’s first Class A championship.

And each was selected Stars and Stripes winter sports season Athlete of the Quarter.

Cooper posted averages of 21 points and 14 rebounds in powering the Panthers to a 33-3 overall record, 14-0 in the Kanto Plain Association of Secondary Schools and 13-2 in the Japan Basketball League. Cooper earned All-League and JBL MVP honors along the way.

He scored 16 points as Yokota routed Seoul American 72-51 in the Class AA final on Feb. 25.

Said Falcons coach Steve Boyd. “We thought we had devised a strategy to stop him. Instead, he turned the tables on us.”

Grant averaged 24 points, 18 rebounds and eight steals for the Warriors, who went 24-9 with a school-best 14-4 in the Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference. Grant took KAIAC All-Conference and All-Tournament honors. Despite Taegu finishing second, she was named league MVP.

Grant repeatedly would “take over” games when Taegu needed it most, said coach Michelle Chandler. Against Faith Academy in the Class A tournament, for example, Grant scored eight of her 23 points to push Taegu over Faith 45-43 in the winner’s bracket final. Then she had eight fourth-quarter points as the Warriors rallied from a 25-16 third-quarter deficit and outscored the Vanguards 22-3 to win the championship 38-28.

The rest of the 2005-06 Stars and Stripes winter high school sports season awards:

Coach of the quarter: Paul Ettl finally got the Panthers boys cagers to the top of the mountain, after suffering through Yokota’s 66-62 loss to host Kadena in last year’s title clash.

Team of the quarter: Kadena’s wrestlers suffered 90 losses in 91 dual meets with Kubasaki after the school opened in 1981-82. Now, the Panthers own a nine-meet winning streak over the Dragons — and captured the school’s first Far East mat team titles last month.

Program of the quarter: KAIAC continues to shine, adding Seoul American’s girls Class AA and Taegu American’s girls Class A hoops tournament titles to a haul that now includes six total DODDS-Pacific Far East banners. Seoul American took Far East tennis and cross-country crowns, Taegu’s girls won the Class A volleyball title and Osan American the Class A football championship in November.

Most improved team: “We started this season with a group of girls who … told me on the first day of practice, ‘We don’t even know what winning feels like anymore,’” said new Samurai coach Nikki Flick. The team made it to the Class A tournament’s third round and beat Class AA Yokota for the first time in school history.

Most improved program: Guam High’s wrestling team completed its first undefeated Independent Interscholastic Athletic Association of Guam regular season in school history, at 7-0. Guam High’s girls basketball team went 8-8 in the regular season and placed eighth, a school best, in the Class AA tournament.

Wrestlers of the quarter: Far East tournament Outstanding Wrestler Steve Courtney of Kubasaki and two-time Far East 180-pound champion Zach Dopslaf of Yokota each went unbeaten, with Dopslaf capping a 45-0 two-season run, and repated as Far East champions.

Wrestling match of the quarter: Two mat powers saved the best for last for the second straight Far East tournament. This time, Kadena needing heavyweight Trey Marks’ decision over Bucky Shaw to edge Kubasaki 32-25 in the dual-meet championship.

Game/shot of the quarter: Doug Bloom’s basket with 3 seconds left capped Yokota’s rally from a 6-point deficit with 40 seconds left for a 56-55 stunner against Nile C. Kinnick in the DODDS-Japan boys basketball tournament semifinal. Three steals, three baskets in bang-bang fashion, helping propel Yokota to the tournament final.

Best strategy: Kadena senior wrestler Ian Copeland knew he’d be walking into certain silver-medal status asking to drop from 168 to 158 pounds where Courtney lay in wait, but he insisted to coach Steve Schrock that with Brandon Stout in the lineup at 180 pounds, the Panthers stood a better chance at a team title. Stout won several key bouts to pace the Panthers to their Far East team title sweep.

By the numbers: Yokota’s boys closed the season with a 30-game winning streak, 17 short of Taegu American’s 1988-90 record. ... Seoul American’s girls became the fifth straight home team to win the Class AA girls title. ... Margaret Nurse is the only DODDS-Pacific girls player in history to be part of Class A and Class AA tournament title teams in successive years; her Osan American Cougars — her team before she transferred to Seoul American last spring — won the Class A title 49-41 in February 2005 over Faith.

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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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