NAU State Championship: A Plus

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Derek Wong of Westside Athletics Lions drives the hoop against Brad Tsutsui of the Foster City Flyers in the A Major NAU State Championship game. (JUN NAGATA/Rafu Shimpo)

The Nisei Athletic Union North vs. South State Championships took place on Sunday at Carson High School and provided those in attendance with three exciting games of hoops. In last year’s tournament, the Southern teams went up to San Francisco and only managed to squeeze out one victory. Home court certainly has its advantages as all three southern teams won out this year. This year, the North did not field a Double-A team, so Sunday also featured the Southern Section Double-A Championships.

By JORDAN IKEDA

Rafu Sports Editor

The Foster City Flyers won the A Major North South Tournament last year on their home turf. Moving up a division, they found themselves with another shot at a title and another shot to continue to push division boundaries.

Unfortunately, what nearly undid their victory last year, trouble from the free throw line and a penchant for mental lapses down the stretch, caught up with them this go round as they fell to the Westside Athletics Lions 77-70. The Flyers shot 8-18 from the line and had 16 turnovers to only 15 assists.

“To be honest, we came in here and thought we were prepared,” said Bryan Takahara who led the Flyers with a double-double 16 points and 12 boards. “But I guess we weren’t there yet. Honestly, I feel that all of my teammates gave their heart out. The other team, they wanted it more than we did. You have to give it up to the LA team.”

The Lions looked the part of underdogs from the onset. They gave up a distinct height advantage getting killed on the glass 35-52, gave up muscle at nearly every position and didn’t have the benefit of a coach in their corner, especially one as accomplished and active as Foster City’s Brian Quon.

“We’re not the biggest guys around,” said Derek Wong who finished with 10 points and 4 steals. “We work hard, we wanted to win so bad. We have a lot of heart and I think that’s what carried us through today.”

The Flyers jumped out to an early lead, which they held for the first 15-minutes of the first half. That’s when the Lions went on a 16-5 run to close out the half and take a 3-point lead into the break. They came out fir­ing in the second period, running their lead up as high as 13. The Flyers fought an uphill battle the rest of the game, getting as close as two points midway through, but could never find consistency on both offense and defense to overcome the lead.

“We haven’t really seen a zone, pretty much all year,” said Kenya Iwamoto, who struggled to find a rhythm going 1-15 from the field. “We’re a running team that gets a lot of buckets in transition, so the zone may have been key.”

The zone that the Lions employed throughout the game worked well against the Flyers, who, like their name indicates, score the majority of their points in transition, on the fly. The Lions limited Foster City to 42 percent from the field and forced them into 16 turnovers. They then rode Robert Reynolds’ hot hand to victory. Reynolds led all scores with 36 points and chipped in 7 boards and a pair of thefts for good measure.

“We picked up our defense in the second half. Got stops,” said Daniel Wong who had 10 points and 8 rebounds. “This will hopefully be our last season in A Plus. We’re going to have to put on a few pounds, some muscle. Hopefully we can add some height as well. But, for right now, we’re going to just enjoy the win.”

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For box scores, click here.

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