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Time for seniors to say goodbye to home crowds

By DAVE ORNAUER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 2, 2017

One of the more special times in some high school basketball players careers doesn’t come in heroic acts in championship games, but an “all-eyes-on-me” moment prior to a home game late in the regular season.

Senior Night involves setting time aside, at halftime or prior to the final regular-season game to honor graduating upperclassmen before the home crowd’s applause.

Sometimes it involves flowers. Sometimes a tenderly written tribute to mom, dad, coach and teammates.

Such moments can be “bittersweet,” said Willie Ware, in his seventh season coaching defending Far East Division I champion Kadena. Especially if the players have been in the program for four years.

“You hate the fact that they’re leaving, but you’re glad they left a special mark on the program,” he said. Kadena’s Senior Night is Feb. 13.

Front and center this weekend is Osan, which is holding its senior farewell a day before the Cougars’ regular-season final by hosting Taejon Christian on Friday.

The Cougars send off a hefty group of seniors, including starters Sung DeAngelo, Justin Maglalang and Matthew Burbee on the boys side and Natalyah Shaw, Haille Nugent and Allyson Marek on the girls side.

The purpose is to “send them off with memories,” said Linda Concepcion, in her ninth year as Osan’s athletics director.

“We want to send them off with the realization that they leave Osan a better place for their commitment to their sport, that wherever they go, they’ll always bleed Cougar blue,” Concepcion said.

The boys and girls varsity games will count as two games in the standings. The Dragons were to visit Osan on Jan. 20; those games were postponed due to snow.

With just a week left in Korea Blue’s regular season, Seoul American’s girls travel to Seoul Foreign, which has one loss to the Falcons’ two. The contest, slated for 3:30 p.m. Friday, could either decide the league title or keep the chase for first place open.

Kubasaki and Kadena’s boys and girls teams square off against Japanese counterparts Saturday and Sunday at the Foster Field House in the 11th Okinawa-American Friendship Tournament.

In Japan, Matthew C. Perry and Robert D. Edgren will also host Senior Night on Friday, the next-to-last home games for each school; they also have games scheduled Saturday morning. Zama travels to Edgren, while Perry hosts E.J. King and two Japanese schools.

Zama has already done its Senior Night, and four-year starter Ally Chiarenza of the girls team said she felt mixed emotions about it.

“I felt truly honored … and yet extremely said because it was the last time I’d be playing basketball for this school” on the Trojans’ home court, Chiarenza said.

On the mats, Nile C. Kinnick hosts Japan’s final regular-season tournament on Saturday, while Humphreys welcomes Daegu, Osan and Seoul American for Korea’s penultimate regular-season four-way on Saturday.

ornauer.dave@stripes.com

Twitter: @ornauer_stripes

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