Those who still view this basketball season as a rebuilding year for the E.J. King Cobras likely haven’t heard what happened this past weekend.
Led by Erika Alexander and Draonne Johnson, the Cobras boys and girls basketball teams went unbeaten to capture invitational tournaments titles on Saturday.
The boys went 4-0 and beat St. Maur International of Yokohama 87-82 in the final of the Osaka International Invitational.
The girls team swept all five of its games, whipping Osaka International 71-48 to win a tournament co-hosted by Marist Brothers International and Canadian Academy of Kobe.
The girls squad finished 4-21 last year, but under new coach Bridget Vertin has gone 12-6 so far this season and is talking as if it’s a contender for the Far East Class A Tournament title the Cobras last won in 1997.
“I believe we truly have a shot at winning Far East this year,” said co-captain Yudia Johnson.
While tempering her predictions, Vertin said she believes the team is on the right track, as shown by the Kobe tournament championship.
“Hopefully, this tournament will set the tone for the remainder of the season,” Vertin said of a team led by Alexander, who averaged 23.8 points in five games, and bolstered by strong play from Johnson and Porshia Bryant.
“The girls have gained much confidence,” said Vertin, whose Cobras will vie for the Class A crown next month in Pusan, South Korea. “We continue to be team-first focused this year and the girls demonstrated this over the past weekend.”
E.J. King’s boys enjoyed a more successful season last year than the girls, going 21-13 and just missing in the Class A final at Osan Air Base, South Korea.
The Cobras started this year with Daren Schuettpelz, their fourth coach in four seasons, who inherited a young squad after the team lost inside stalwarts Andrew Stephens and Chris Years to graduation. But the Cobras merely picked up where they left off.
“The team played well with mostly freshmen,” Schuettpelz said after Johnson, last year’s Class A co-MVP, averaged 32.8 points in four games, including 35 in the championship game against St. Maur.