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Call it a family affair.

The final installment of Pusan American School’s 16-year reign as host of the Far East High School Girls Class A Basketball Tournament has the name Carroll stamped all over it:

Jerry and Corina Carroll serve as the tournament’s organizers, taking over for the tournament’s founding father, Don Miller, who has transferred to Lakenheath, England. Corina works at the school as an administrative aide; Jerry is the Nike representative in Pusan.Their son, Jerry, works for Hoop Scoop, the daily flyer published by the school’s student-journalist staff.And daughters Cassie, a freshman guard, and senior guard Brieanna play for the tournament’s host team, the Pusan American Panthers.What better way to end that lengthy tournament-host run than for the Panthers to capture the school’s first Class A title since 1994?

While stopping well short of predicting such a feat, reigning MVP Brieanna Carroll feels the Panthers are in excellent position to far exceed their seventh-place finish of last year, and perhaps reach center court.

“The Panthers are preparing for a fight,” said Carroll, a three-sport star who’s earned All-Class A honors twice in basketball and three times in soccer but has never played for a Class A title team.

Her team went 9-5 in the Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference regular season and now wants the biggest prize of all.

“We’re all dreaming that. All of us talk about it every day,” Carroll said. “If each one of us brings our ‘A’ game, we’ll be competition for any school there, for sure.”

As the smallest Department of Defense Dependents School in the Pacific, Pusan American’s ninth- through 12th-grade enrollment averages between 45 and 50, and the Panthers have had to augment their roster over the years with seventh and eighth graders.

Not so this year. Second-year coach Jonathan Parker has a full lineup of high school-age players, and the school even has a junior varsity program for the first time.

While Brieanna Carroll has been one of the team’s centerpiece players for four years, the Panthers boast a solid core of supporting players, including guard Shabraya Hayes and center Kristine Meany, both freshmen.

“They’re older. They’ve really stepped up this year. They’ve gotten a lot more serious,” Carroll said. “I'm happy to have them as teammates.”

While the Panthers may not have the best talent and depth in the 12-team tournament, “we can win on hustle, if each of the girls goes out with the mind-set that they’re going to outhustle the other team,” Carroll said. “And hustle is what we plan to do.”

They’ll have to outhustle a field of teams with winning traditions or designs on forming ones of their own:

Taegu American, which has never won the title, has perhaps its strongest team ever, loaded with veterans such as guard Ashley Gooch, scorer Lynette Grant and rebounder Kelli Cox and with enough juniors to make a run next year as well. Privately, DODDS officials say Taegu American likely will assume tournament host duties in 2006.International School of the Sacred Heart of Tokyo returns to defend its title, not as deep as it was a year ago, but still boasting veterans such as senior floor general Mari Look and junior rebounder Alecia Wallingford.Faith Academy of the Philippines, the 2003 champion, returns after moving up to the Class AA level. Though their star triad of Tami Burke, Hayley Shaw and Jessica Nelson has graduated, the Vanguards went 19-2 in league play this season.Perhaps hungriest of all is Korea’s Osan American Cougars. The 2001 and ’02 champions just missed in the last two finals. And as is the case with Brieanna Carroll, time is running out for Cougars seniors guard Sharon Kroening, senior forward Mina Davis and 6-foot-4 junior Margaret Nurse.“I know both Sharon and I want to make this last year memorable,” Davis said. “Having Marge on our team is a big plus. We all want this just as badly as everyone else. It just depends on who works harder.”

Far East Girls Class A Basketball Tournament

Dates: Feb. 21-25, 2005.

Host: Pusan American School, Camp Hialeah, South Korea.

Sites: Pusan American School and Camp Hialeah Sports & Fitness Center, Camp Hialeah, South Korea.

Participating teams: International School of the Sacred Heart Symbas, Tokyo (defending champion); Taegu American Warriors, Camp George, South Korea; Faith Academy Vanguards, Rizal, Philippines; Osan American Cougars, Osan Air Base, South Korea; St. Paul Christian Warriors, Tamuning, Guam; Morrison Christian Academy Mustangs, Taichung, Taiwan; E.J. King Cobras, Sasebo Naval Base, South Korea; Pusan American Panthers, Camp Hialeah, South Korea; Matthew C. Perry Samurai, Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station, Japan; Seoul International Tigers, Songnam, South Korea; International Christian-Seoul Guardians; Taejon Christian International Dragons, Taejon, South Korea.

Returning All-Far East players: Brieanna Carroll, Pusan American (two-time selection); Lynette Grant, Taegu American; Mina Davis, Elizabeth Juergens, Sharon Kroening, Osan American; Mari Look, International School of the Sacred Heart; Mallary Duenas, St. Paul Christian.

Format: Single round-robin, 12 teams split into two pools of six each. All teams qualify for modified single-elimination playoff with consolation bracket.

Schedule: Opening ceremony 9-9:30 a.m. Monday, Hialeah Fitness Center. Round-robin games begin at 10 a.m. Monday, continue until 4:30 p.m. Wednesday. Playoffs begin at 9 a.m. Wednesday and continue until championship at 4:30 p.m. Friday. All-Star Game, DODDS-Pacific vs. international school players, at 6:30 p.m. Closing ceremony to follow. Skills competition, three-point long-distance shootout and foul shooting, 9 to 11 a.m. Wednesday.

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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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