MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan – Many a coach dreads the first two Saturdays this month if they’re coaching a team destined for a long-haul trip to one of the outlying areas of Japan or Korea.

They want to field as strong a team as they can, but don’t want to stand in the way of students taking the Scholastic Aptitude Test on Saturday and the American College Testing exam on Dec. 9.

“That’s the way it is,” said Dan Galvin, who coaches Yokota boys basketball. They and the three-time defending Far East Division II Tournament champion Panther girls head here for a DODEA-Japan weekend series against Robert D. Edgren and host Matthew C. Perry.

Galvin’s Panthers will be missing three guards, starters Riley DeMarco and Jimmy Dewberry and sixth-man Isaiah Shinnery. Yokota’s girls will leave behind senior center Jordyn Logue and senior guard Bria Johnson.

“To be clear, I’m not complaining,” Galvin said, noting that the season is compact this year due to the Olympic Games in February in Korea. “You move the games this weekend and there will be another conflict somewhere in the calendar,” he said. “There are only so many weekends and long-haul buses available.”

But there are some pluses for teams leaving starters behind. “This just gives others the opportunity to step up,” Yokota girls coach Byron Wrenn said. “This will assist in preparing them for tournament play later in the year.”

“They’re still just regular-season games,” Galvin said. “You play the guys you have and move on. Some other guys get more minutes.”

This weekend is the first full one for the winter sports season in which all districts will either be starting or will have already played weekday and weekend games and meets.

All DODEA teams are in action on Korea’s hardwood with Seoul American, including the defending Far East Division I champion Falcons boys, visiting Osan and Daegu. Humphreys travels to Osan and Yongsan International.

“For us, it worked out well,” said Humphreys boys coach Ron Merriwether, who on Saturday morning will serve as the SAT admin at Humphreys. “Isn’t that funny?”

Start times for those games were pushed to the afternoon to accommodate the SATs, which start at 9 a.m. Not so for the DODEA-Korea wrestling quad meet at Seoul American. Weigh-ins are at 9 a.m. and dual-meet action starts at 10 a.m.

“It would be nice if you could get together a year in advance, get the schedule together and coordinate with one another,” Osan wrestling coach Michael Paul said. “You would think by this time, they’d have worked this out. They’re constantly reinventing the wheel.”

In other action around Japan, Zama basketball flies to southwestern Japan for a weekend series at E.J. King, featuring the defending Far East Division II boys champion Cobras.

And wrestling moves to Misawa Air Base, where Robert D. Edgren hosts its invitational.

Nile C. Kinnick, the reigning DODEA-Japan power, travels without senior 108-pounder Jabari Hazelwood. “Not a big deal early in the season, a chance to evaluate the backups,” coach Gary Wilson said. “A lot of illness going around, too.”

Twitter: @ornauer_stripes

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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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