A year ago, Seoul American’s young, rebuilding boys basketball team played for 15th place in the 16-team Far East High School Division I Tournament at Yokota Air Base, Japan.On Friday at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, Tomiwa Akinbayo, Seandell Wharton and the Falcons returned to familiar territory, dethroning Kadena, 66-54, in the semifinals to reach their seventh D-I title game in nine years. The Falcons won the tournament in 2003, 2004 and 2008.“We’re back,” coach Steve Boyd said. “We’re happy to be back where we’re accustomed to being.”Seoul American meets Kubasaki, a 68-58 semifinal winner over Yokota, in Saturday’s final at Andersen’s Coral Reef Fitness & Sports Center. Kubasaki beat the Falcons for the 2007 title.Meanwhile, reigning girls MVP Liz Gleaves nearly netted a triple-double - 23 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists - as Seoul American survived an early challenge from Yokota for a 65-45 semifinal win. It’s the Falcons’ sixth trip to Center Court in seven years.And for the third straight year, Seoul American will meet Faith Academy, a 48-35 semifinal winner over Kadena, for the championship at Naval Base Guam’s Charles King Fitness & Sports Center. The Falcons won the title last year 50-47; in 2009, Faith beat Seoul American by the same score.Boyd credited the play of point guard Tyrone Beckem, who hit four clutch free throws down the stretch and dished out seven assists, as well as Akinbayo (22 points, 10 rebounds) and Wharton (15, 10).“Those were big. Those sealed it,” Boyd said of Beckem’s foul shots.He designed a defense aimed at shutting down Kadena’s Jason Sumpter, who was held to 17 points. One of his goals, he said, was to try to take a lead of 10 points or more, which the Falcons eventually did in the final period. “It’s a mind thing,” Boyd said.For Kubasaki, four players scored in double figures, led by Kai Yamaguchi with 15, as the Dragons broke a 12-12 tie after one quarter by outscoring the Panthers by 16 over the next two periods.Dragons coach Jon Fick credited the “steady play” of Yamaguchi and Ryan Jackson for breaking it open. “Yokota took us out of a lot of things we do,” he said. “They had a good game plan and it affected us.”Warren Manegan had 22 points and Myles Andrews 16 for Yokota. Coach Tim Pujol said he’d hoped to set a slower tempo than the quicker Dragons are used to, but “they’re relentless. Their press is fantastic and they’re so aggressive moving the ball upcourt.”Gleaves and the Falcons committed 13 early turnovers and found themselves in a battle with Yokota, which kept it close thanks to Erika Ettl, who finished with 22 points, including seven three-point goals.But after Ettl tied it 18-18 with a three-pointer, Mecca Perkins (12 points, nine rebounds, five blocks) hit a layup that triggered a 40-10 run by the Falcons.“When we play our game and don’t turn the ball over, nobody can stay with us,” Falcons coach Billy Ratcliff said. “They’re (Yokota) a scrappy group. They fight for the ball, they’re well coached and Ettl can shoot.”Faith found itself in early foul trouble and called off its pressure defense, which put the Vanguards up 18-8 6 minutes, 40 seconds into the first quarter.But after Kadena went up 26-23 on Anissa Fitz’s two foul shots with 6:30 left in the third quarter, Faith put the press back on and scored the next 24 points over 11:10 for a 47-26 lead.“That was the difference,” coach Josh Manthe said. “They feed off the press. They have more energy when they feed off those steals and get easy buckets.”Kelly Hardeman led Faith with 31 points. Fitz had 14 to top Kadena.
Morrison boys three-peat, St. Paul girls triumphCAMP WALKER, South Korea – Proclaiming his Morrison Academy Mustangs “the best team I’ve ever had,” coach Dan Robinson celebrated his third straight Far East Boys Division II Tournament title.His senior son Sean scored 12 points and the Mustangs, who finished a perfect 32-0 on the season, outscored St. Paul Christian 25-9 in the first period and pulled away for a 63-32 triumph at Kelly Fitness & Sports Center. It’s Morrison’s fifth Division II Tournament title.Morrison focused on shutting down Warriors guards Morgan Aiken and Kory Borja; each was held under 10 points. “We had their number,” Robinson said. “We marked them well and stayed on their shooters.”St. Paul didn’t go home empty-handed, as coach Stu Schaefer and his Warriors earned their first D-II title by dethroning Daegu American.But St. Paul needed two games to get the job done in the all-Warriors double-elimination championship battle.They lost the first final game, 47-37, to Daegu before rallying in the deciding second title game, 49-25. St. Paul roared ahead, 22-5, by halftime and cruised from there. Jaymee Cruz led St. Paul with 18 points; Gulee Kwon topped Daegu with seven.