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Long losing streak in rearview mirror for Daegu girls

Daegu coach Victor Rivera goes over details with the girls basketball team in the huddle during a timeout.

MARY SARANTAKES/SPECIAL TO STRIPES

By DAVE ORNAUER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 7, 2017

Winning might not be everything, as the cliché goes. But it’s definitely something.

In a 38-21 win Nov. 21 over Osan, the Daegu girls basketball team snapped a 30-game losing streak, dating back to the start of the 2015-16 season. The Warriors followed with a 58-53 loss Saturday to Seoul American before edging Taejon Christian 32-29 on Wednesday.

Before this season, the Warriors’ last win was the ninth-place game of the 2015 Far East Division II Tournament, 50-30, over E.J. King.

The Warriors’ new coach, Victor Rivera, stepped off the plane in Daegu just four days before the Osan win after transferring from Puerto Rico, his home, which had been devastated by Hurricane Maria in September – forcing him to leave.

“The girls were crying in our meeting room after the game. They couldn’t believe they won,” Rivera recalled. “I was so happy for them. I am so thankful to be blessed with such a wonderful group of young ladies.”

It’s a Daegu team with many of the same players it had the last two seasons. Only this season, the team’s been buttressed by Bethani Newbold and DaiJa Turner, freshmen who are by no means new to the game.

“Coming out with a victory gave us hope individually and as a team,” said Newbold, a transfer from Alabama who scored 18 points against Osan and has averaged 15.7 points in three games. “It feels like a dream to be a part of a bright future with an amazing team.”

“I’m very optimistic about Daegu’s chances,” said Turner, who cut her teeth on basketball in Daegu playing youth ball on a boys team. She also had 18 points against Osan and is averaging 22 points in three games. “I do believe this is the start of something big.”

Daegu girls basketball had been something big as recently as four years ago, when the Warriors won their third Far East Division II Tournament title in five seasons under three different coaches.

From there, though, things went south rapidly. The team went through three more coaches in as many seasons. It didn’t even make it out of the 2015-16 season intact, finishing the season playing a JV schedule.

That season and again in 2016-17, Daegu scored in single digits most games. Freshman Mylisse Spurgon led the team in scoring with just more than six points per game.

“Knowing that we actually won our first game is beyond me; I can’t even explain how the win made me feel because all that hard work finally paid off,” said Spurgon, who transferred to the States late last month.

But the celebration wasn’t that long.

“We have to stay focused and work on getting better in our game,” Turner said. “Winning feels good, but … it’s about getting better. The more time we put in work and are committed, the sky is the limit.”

Though the Warriors began well, “we are still far from where we need to be in terms of executing our plays and getting more rebounds,” Rivera said. “We need to work on free throws and reducing our turnovers.”

While the Warriors “rely heavily” on Newbold and Turner, “they’re young and they have the potential to grow into a complete team” if all the pieces stay in place, Taejon girls coach John Hwang said. “Bethani attacks the basket really well, almost gets into the paint at will, and DaiJa is a tough finisher.”

Rivera coached previously at Zama and Perry in the Pacific.

“Being blessed with a wonderful group of young ladies and being a part of that magical first win was priceless,” he said.

ornauer.dave@stripes.com

Twitter: @ornauer_stripes

Daegu guard Bethani Newbold, a freshman, has averaged 15.7 points in the Warriors' first three games and has helped Daegu get off to a 2-1 start, boding well for the future after Daegu had entered the season not having won a game since 2015.
MARY SARANTAKES/SPECIAL TO STRIPES

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