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So, just who are the "it" teams in this year’s Far East High School Basketball Tournaments?

Conversation steered in that direction across Japan as the Class A double-elimination and Class AA single-elimination playoffs began Wednesday. And there was no shortage of opinions, particularly about the Class AA favorites.

"Seoul is the prom queen; everybody else is just looking for dates," Kubasaki girls coach Robert Driggs said of Seoul American, 25-1 during the regular season and 58-22 first-round winner over Guam High.

Although Seoul and two-time defending champion Kadena (11-14), a 48-11 winner over Christian Academy In Japan, are in the mix, Class AA tournament director Ed Fogell said Faith Academy (37-0) could leapfrog the two.

"They’ve been crushing people," Fogell said.

"They have size. Every girl is tall. They’re confident. You can see it in their play. They know how to win. From the get-go, they’ve been all over people."

Fogell said he envisions those three teams and Guam champion Notre Dame reaching the semifinals.

Kubasaki boys coach Jon Fick thinks the Boys Class AA elite are host Yokota (26-1), defending champion Seoul American (34-10), Kadena (26-11) and American School In Japan (9-7 after a slow start).

"They’re all well-coached. They all play tough defense. And they all have athletes," Fick said. "That’s what you need. That’s the winning formula."

Each of those teams, Fick said, has at least two All-Far East-calibre players: Willie Brown, Johnnie Hickson and Joe McLean on Seoul American; Seaun Eddy and Patrick Ward on ASIJ; DeEric Harvin, Tajh Kirby and Keron Brown on Yokota, and Kadena’s Taiyo Robertson and Kevin Paranal.

"And their supporting casts are good, too," Fick said.

DODDS-Pacific coaches at the Class A tournaments agreed that international schools, which have long dominated the champions gallery, are strong, but refuse to concede their own chances.

Robert D. Edgren’s girls coach Sarah Richardson said her Eagles (10-6), Daegu American of South Korea (12-10), St. Paul Christian of Guam, Taiwan’s Morrison Christian Academy and Tokyo’s International School of the Sacred Heart will be in a fight to the finish.

"Any of those five teams can come out and do it," Richardson said. "We’re going to give it everything we’ve got."

At the Boys Class A tournament at Edgren, E.J. King boys coach Mike Milling said he was impressed with the consistency and game management of St. Paul and Morrison.

"They’re the ones everybody is talking about," he said.

"St. Paul, they stay consistent. They’re playing together," Milling said of a team that pounded his Cobras 72-50 on Monday. "Morrison is a good, solid team all around. They get good post play. Their guard leads the team well and they manage the game well."

Zama American girls tumbleas AA host title streak snapped

For the first time since 2001, the host team of the Girls Class AA Tournament will not win the title.

Melissa Maggart scored 16 points and American School In Japan used pressure defense to bottle up host Zama American for a 33-25 victory in Wednesday’s single-elimination, first-round game. Elizabeth Powell paced the Trojans with 13 points.

Kubasaki’s 60-50 overtime triumph over Robert D. Edgren on Feb. 23, 2002, began a seven-year streak in which Kadena won three Class AA titles and Seoul American and Kubasaki two each, all on home turf.

The last time a Girls Class AA host did not reach the final was 1997, when Faith Academy edged Kadena 38-30 at Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan.

Osan boys go home aftercode of conduct violation

Osan American’s boys basketball team withdrew from the Class A tournament Wednesday after an unspecified number of its players were cited for an undetermined violation of DODDS-Pacific’s Far East Tournament code of conduct.

DODDS-Pacific’s Far East Activities Council chairman Don Hobbs did not disclose the number of players involved or the nature of the violation, other than it affected "enough players to warrant the entire team to return" to Osan Air Base.

Osan had gone 3-1 in pool play, earning one of two top seeds entering double-elimination play. It was not known if the team would be returning Thursday or Friday.


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