Seoul American wins Hong Kong
HONG KONG — The defending Far East Boys Class AA basketball tournament champions showed last weekend that they’ve not lost a step, and if anything that they may be well ahead of where they were last year.
Seoul American went unbeaten and repeated its championship in the annual Hong Kong International School Holiday Tournament. The Falcons beat the same Kadena team they vanquished in last February’s Class AA Tournament at Seoul American, 87-57 in Saturday’s championship game.
"I think we were a little more ahead of everybody else at this stage of the game," coach Steve Boyd said after the title game.
Willie Brown (22 points, seven rebounds) repeated as tournament MVP. Johnnie Hickson added 22 points, newcomer Josh Edwards had 11 points and eight rebounds, and RaiDion Fails had 10 points and five boards.
Seoul American’s boys became the first team since Singapore American in 2003-04 to repeat as titlists in the Hong Kong Tournament, which has featured eight boys and eight girls teams since its inception in 1970.
Besides Seoul and Kadena, Kubasaki brought its boys and girls teams, with DODDS squads comprising 38 percent of the tournament field.
Unlike last year’s four-point victory over Kubasaki, Saturday’s victory came with considerably more ease. "I was surprised at the margin of victory," Boyd said. "I didn’t think we’d be that far advanced."
Boyd and the other DODDS coaches tend to use the early season tournament as a way to gauge where they stand in a competitive setting.
"We have to execute our half-court offense better. And we’re not switching defense fast enough," Boyd said, adding that he hasn’t yet put in some of the defenses he’ll use during the season. "That takes time."
Other coaches noted that Seoul American clearly was head and shoulders above the crowd at this stage.
"They certainly had a great tournament," Kadena coach Robert Bliss said, crediting the play of Brown and the inside strength of Fails and Joe McLean for Seoul’s success. "Willie just had a great tournament. He was a dominant player in this tournament."
Despite the one-sided defeat, Bliss said he was "pleased" with his team’s performance. Losing senior guard Earl Gittens to a second-quarter knee injury "kind of took the wind out of our sails."
On the girls side, defending Far East Class A tournament champion Faith Academy won its first Hong Kong title, routing Singapore American 60-33 in Saturday’s title game.
The highest-finishing DODDS-Pacific girls team was Seoul American, which took third and avenged last February’s Class AA tournament loss to Kadena.
"I like the idea of this tournament," Falcons girls coach Billy Ratcliff said. "Good quality teams pushing you hard early in the season. They’ll know now what to expect at Far East. The talent there will be similar."