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Coaches are walking a thin line as the Far East high school basketball tournaments approach.

They still have meaningful games to play. At the same time, they want to keep their players healthy so as to not rock the lineup and rotation boats for Far East, scheduled for Feb. 15-21.

"I don’t know where the line is drawn. We try to figure it out as we go along," said coach Paul Ettl of Yokota, which rallied from a 15-point first-half deficit for a 58-50 victory Friday at Robert D. Edgren.

It was Yokota’s first victory since 2005 at the Eagles’ Nest, a virtual house of horrors for Ettl. "It’s tough to win up here," he said.

The Panthers won without Antony Phillips (ankle) in the lineup; Ettl did welcome back point guard Tajh Kirby and forward Keron Brown, who also had been nursing injuries.

It’s something you remain conscious of, Ettl said, but to a point. "You can’t play and look over your shoulder worrying that you’ll get hurt," he said. "You want to be healthy when you start."

Yokota hosts the Class AA tournament for the first time in 12 years, and Edgren hosts the Class A boys tournament for the first time.

Seoul American girls coach Billy Ratcliff also walked that thin line between protecting his Falcons for the Class AA tournament at Zama American and trying to win the Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference Division I tournament title for the 17th straight year.

"You keep the starters in long enough to keep the momentum going into Far East. Not to overlook KAIAC, but keep the starters safe," Ratcliff said after reaching Saturday’s KAIAC final against host Seoul Foreign.

"Once you feel you have a game in control, you back off, rather than risk getting somebody hurt. I’ll have my bench guys out there then."

Both KAIAC finals were to feature the Falcons and Crusaders; Seoul Foreign’s and Seoul American’s boys shared the KAIAC regular-season title for the second time in four years. The Falcons entered the KAIAC tournament on the heels of an 80-67 loss at Seoul Foreign in the regular-season finale.

For that reason, coach Steve Boyd of the defending Class AA Tournament champion Falcons said he wasn’t holding back.

"The kids come back to Earth. It refocuses their attention: We’re not as good as we thought we were. We have to play well or get beat. They [Crusaders] are well disciplined, well coached and they’re big."

Defending girls Class AA champion Kadena had a rivalry game of its own on Friday, and throttled host Kubasaki 40-19 to sweep the Okinawa Activities Council season series for the fifth straight season.

The Panthers also got good news — point guard Britney Wise, thought to have played her last game with Kadena last month when her father, Bryant, retired from the Air Force, will remain with the Panthers through the end of the season.

"I’m glad to have her. It’s a relief," coach Dewayne Pigge’ said.

Wise will help keep the backcourt situation stable and provide the leadership that Pigge’ said steered the Panthers to victory Friday.

"I wanted us to better focus on not being lackadaisical," he said. "Our veterans took the lead and ensured there was more focus, more communication. And an A-plus on defense tonight."


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