Girls' basketball: Bailey-powered Panthers looking to repeat

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Junior Britney Bailey transferred from Vicenza, Italy, and played at Guam High before that. She's on board to help Yokota try for a third straight D-II title. Jack Higbee/Special to Stars and Stripes
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Junior Britney Bailey transferred from Vicenza, Italy, and played at Guam High before that. She's on board to help Yokota try for a third straight D-II title. Jack Higbee/Special to Stars and Stripes

Girls' basketball: Bailey-powered Panthers looking to repeat

by: Dave Ornauer | .
Stars and Stripes | .
published: December 02, 2016

Balance - and the name Bailey - may describe the 2016-17 edition of Yokota girls basketball as the Panthers try for something not accomplished in 25 years – a third straight Far East Division II Tournament title.

James Bailey succeeds Kitty Martinez as Yokota coach, and features on his roster two daughters: Jamia, the two-time All-Far East junior guard, and freshman Jaliyah, who can play front or back court.

The difference this season, James Bailey said, could be the addition of a pair of transfers:

-- Britney Bailey came from Vicenza, Italy, via Guam High, where she was named All-Island twice and averaged double figures in points and rebounds in almost every game.

“If we can get the ball to her, she is so determined to score,” James Bailey said of Britney.

-- Irene Diaz, a senior transfer from Sandia (N.M.), who along with two other transfers, Bailey and Ashlyn Yevchak, helped the Panthers win the first volleyball Far East title in school history and the 18th overall since Yokota became a small school in November 2014.

“She’s going to bring a lot,” Bailey said of Diaz. “She’ll get those low rebounds, she’ll put a body on people, she’ll help run the break and she sees the floor well. She’ll get those inside passes and the small rebounds we need.”

Winning the volleyball tournament title on Nov. 10 has clearly spilled over onto the basketball court, Bailey said, since so many played volleyball and now play basketball.

“I like the chemistry,” Bailey said. “What I have seen during practices, the chemistry is still there from volleyball to basketball.”

That’s not to say the Panthers have the three-peat in the bag just yet, he said. “Ain’t nothing won,” Bailey said. “We still have to go out there and play. Everybody’s after us. And we have to show them the reason why they need to be after us.”

One of the teams that may give chase, as they have the last two years, are the Zama Trojans. Coach Aaron Wells returns three-year All-Far East guard Ti’Ara Carroll and veteran senior Ally Chiarenza and welcomes athletic senior post Tasia Nelson from Virginia.

Robert D. Edgren returns its strongest team in years, to include two-time All-Far East post Coko Magby. Matthew C. Perry faces a building job.

Back in the D-II picture in Korea is Daegu, which had to suspend operations midway through last season due to lack of experienced players and played a non-varsity schedule from its fifth game on.

Humphreys welcomes a new coach who is not new to basketball: Laura Corder transfers from Aviano, Italy, where she coached 21 seasons.

On the large-school side, defending Division I and 14-time Okinawa district champion Kadena returns a solid backcourt, including MVP guard Rhamsey Wyche, but lost a lot.

“We lost three big pieces,” coach Willie Ware said. “We lost a big part of our champion team.”

But the cupboard’s not entirely bare, Ware said. Senior shooting guard Linda Vaughan returns, marking the eighth and final season a player of Vaughan’s family is in Kadena’s lineup.

Sophomore Saj McBurrows returns in the middle and has “improved a lot,” Ware said. Transferring in from Edgren is junior Isabel Tayag “and I’m liking what I see so far.”

Also in rebuild mode is Seoul American, which lost 10 players from a season ago and only returns All-Far East forward Krista Bradley. Kubasaki welcomes a new coach, Steven Casner, but only has All-Far East guard Chloe’ Stevens returning.

Nile C. Kinnick brings back three starters from last year, and coach Mike Adair is hoping two freshmen, guard Venus Hill and forward Dallas Carter, can develop quickly.

“Regardless of who we play, it’s a different day, a different opportunity,” Ware said. “You can’t take anything for granted. Anybody can beat anybody on any given day.”