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By Patrick Lujan


The 1993 Oceanview Knights are the only Guam team to ever win the prestigious Boys Far East Basketball Tournament. This the the 20th anniversary of the accomplishment. In this photo, players celebrate after beating the host Yokota Panthers. Players L-R: Lloyd Lagutang, Cyril Concepcion (Theo Cook behind), Kurt Sanchez, Ryan Pinaula, Ray Mantanona and Tommy Morrison. (courtesy photo)

In the long history of the Far East Boys Division I Basketball Tournament, there has been only one team from Guam to be crowned champions.

The tournament started in 1949 and the lone team to do it were the 1993 Oceanview Knights!

Twenty years ago, head coach Felipe Candaso single-handedly formed an improbable, relentless machine that has never – and probably never will be duplicated. As the only coach on the team, Candaso’s accomplishments makes this even more remarkable.

The Knights were coming off a tough 1992 season where they fell just shy of the Guam title and losing then senior big man Mike Swaney. They had solid returnees, but no one thought an undefeated magical season would result in Guam’s only Far East boys basketball title – the most prestigious high school trophy in the Far East.

The two major ingredients to the championship formula were forwards Jesse Pinaula and Lloyd Lagutang, who happens to live two minutes away from each other in Washington state today.

GSPN caught up with the pair in Washington and reminisces about the championship season.

GSPN: How was practice like with Coach Candaso?

JP: It was tough, a lot of sprints and plyometrics.

LL: I remember he had us do leg lifts on the wrestling mats and he would walk on our stomachs. Candaso is almost 300 pounds so you might not want to get stepped on. He worked us pretty hard. (GSPN confirmed that yes, Coach Candaso is 300 pounds. Good guess Lloyd)

GSPN: Did you feel that you were going to go undefeated in the beginning of 1993?

LL: No. Mike had left and we saw the rest of the guys. We didn’t have the height that we had the previous year. The height was gone. Our tallest guy was 6’2” with our hats on. OK, 6’1”.

JP: Prior to the season, we did pretty well on a couple of tournaments we entered (coached by Kevin Sanchez). We did well there so it gave us an idea that we would do pretty good.

GSPN: What part of the season did you know you had something special?

LL: From the beginning of the season we knew we would rely on our speed. After the first game, we just clicked and our defense was unstoppable from there. (The Knights normally ran a 2-2-1 full court press)

GSPN: You guys blew out some teams. What was this like on the court on defense?

LL: A lot of people don’t realize but if you look at our lineup, we literally had two starting fives. If our starting five wasn’t doing too well, our second five would come in and sometimes do better than our first five. They actually played better than we did in some games and our deep bench really helped us out.

JP: One thing we really concentrated on was our full court pressure. How to cover lanes and back up each other. We weren’t that big, but we were a pretty fast team. That was something we worked on with Candaso during practice.

The catalyst of the 1993 Far East Champion Oceanview Knights - Lloyd Lagutang and Jesse Pinaula - can't be seperated. They live only two minutes away from each other in Everett, Washington. (photo by Patrick Lujan)

The catalyst of the 1993 Far East Champion Oceanview Knights – Lloyd Lagutang and Jesse Pinaula – can’t be separated  They live only two minutes away from each other in Everett, Washington. (photo by Patrick Lujan)

GSPN: Let’s talk about offense because not everything was based on your defensive plans. How was your offensive sets?

LL: When I was going to shoot, which I did a lot, Jesse was always there (for the rebound). So my nickname from Ryan (PInaula) was ‘Launching Lloyd’ because I knew that if I was going to shoot that there was a good possibility that Jesse was going to get a rebound. It wasn’t just our shooting. A lot of it was the plays that Candaso instilled in us. We worked on it to a point where we didn’t even have to call plays out because we knew what plays to run based on what the point guard did to initiate the play. A lot of it was a lot of practicing and a lot of discipline on defense and on offense.

GSPN: What was your favorite offensive play?

JP: With Candaso we would run Diamond and Banana. Those two plays were pretty good.

GSPN: You win the Guam title without a loss. What was your mindset going into Yokota for the Far East?

LL: We knew we were going to be outsized. We knew we were just going to give ourselves a chance by playing hard D, but we weren’t really thinking about winning a championship. We wanted to just take each game and play as hard as we can each game. And if that put us into a situation to win it, then we felt that we had a good chance to do it.
In a lot of the games where we pressed, and a lot of the teams couldn’t handle our press, then that’s when we felt that we can make a deep run into the tournament. And from there was when we thought we had a good shot at winning the whole thing.

GSPN: The team rolls through pool play and the playoffs. Now you’re in the championship game. What are you guys thinking about?

JP: We were pretty close as a team so I remember we got together and said ‘hey, let’s just go out there and play our hearts out. Do what we’ve been practicing all year long.’ Like Lloyd said earlier, either one of us could be a starting five because once the starting five went out, the bench would fill in easily. I feel that’s what helped us out a lot. We had a really balanced team.

GSPN: You are going against the hometown team, crowd against you guys…no one thought you were going to pull it off.

LL: Actually no one even thought we were going to get passed the semifinals because we faced Kadena who was already pre-selected and favored as the champions before the tournament started. I think once we got over that hurdle against Kadena, we thought that we had a great chance at beating Yokota, granted they had a great team.1993 OCEANVIEW KNIGHTS

They all shaved their heads after their first loss. They told everyone that they all shaved their heads after their first loss to make a promise that they were going to win the championship. So when we faced them, we played a whole bunch of bald headed kids. Playing against them was pretty wild because their own crowd had their own cheers, and everything, everyone was just against us, and just to see the rest of the Guam schools get together: JFK, FD, Sanchez, actually cheering for us. Seeing our own contingent and be as one and cheer for a Guam team was pretty fun to watch.

GSPN: What’s the most memorable part of the game, being on the court, playing in that championship game?

JP: All I remember is that Yokota team. You know, people thought we were fast, they had a fast team. Cy Concepcion – the game was close, but towards the end I think he hit two big threes, and from there the momentum just went our way.

LL: The most memorable part, from what I remember, is during one of the free throws, their crowd was just going crazy. They had their own cheer that they were chanting. I was kind of awestruck because here we are playing against the home team with our backs against the wall and against them and it’s a close game. And all I kept thinking was “Man, if we don’t win this, this is probably one of the only chances we’re going to get in our whole life.”

GSPN: Buzzer goes off. You win 64-57. How’s that feeling?

LL: We jumped up celebrating, and of course, we all ran to Candaso.

GSPN: What was his reaction?

LL: Oh, it’s Candaso, he always has a straight face, if you get him to smile it means a lot. He was all smiles from ear to ear. He was just a sigh of relief. You could see that look on his face, how proud he was of the accomplishment. Also, I think with a minute left, he turned to Mike (Rabago) or Josh (Grey), and smacked them and just tells them, “We got this.” And getting a smack from Candaso is pretty bad, it hurts!

GSPN: Last year, Okkodo came close to winning the second title for Guam but lost in the finals. Do you feel the importance of what you guys accomplished?

JP: I wish Guam can win it more because I know the mentality of the other schools, there’s no respect for Guam teams, so I’m hoping we can start winning again.

LL: At the time we didn’t think nothing of it, we were just a bunch of high school kids playing the game we love. Afterwards, we come home, and it’s time to do chores again.
We were just going with the flow, having a good time. And at the same time, the camaraderie built. We’re godparents to each other’s kids and we’re still all friends. It was just a great game and a fun time during high school. Now looking back on it, 20 years ago, I look at it as we’re just old.

JP: I don’t see it as being the first. What I remember is what we had to go through as a team. It wasn’t just practice, but we also had to fundraise to get over there. Also the camaraderie was there, our parents were involved, it was FUN. That’s what I think of during that time.

GSPN: You guys proved that you don’t need height to win the Far East. What message do you have for today’s players?

LL: There’s a lot of talent and athleticism but a lot of them don’t pay attention to the small details like what Candaso taught us to pay attention on offense and defense. With the younger players now, it’s not the fundamentals that a lot of the coaches in college teach. What I could pass on and convey is pretty much to stick to the basics and pay attention to the small details because those two are what will get you further than doing the awesome crossover or whatever. Candoso used to always tell us that if we did the crossover and we don’t get anywhere, then we’re sitting on the bench. You basically don’t want to waste your dribble, you don’t want to showboat but just play the game right.

GSPN: Favorite quote from Candoso?
LL: ‘God bless it Lagutang!!’ Because I heard that a lot. Til this day, I still hear it (in my head).

JP: I don’t have one. Lloyd was the one who was always getting in trouble. I don’t think he had a problem with me (said laughing).

NOTES: Lagutang and Pinaula were also teammates in the 1999 SPG silver medal team…Pinaula was also on the ’95 silver medal team…Lagutang moved to Washington in 2000 and Pinaula followed in 2007 – both for employment opportunities…Oceanview’s only loss came in the Far East pool play where they lost to Christian Academy of Japan 54-51. “I blame that on Jesse because he was sick,” Lagutang said….In the semifinal game against the two-time defending champion Kadena Panthers, OHS was down 47-40 with 1:08 left in the game and came back to win 54-47…Lagutang was named Far East MVP and scored 22 points in the 64-57 championship game win over the host Yokota Panthers. “That’s shooting like 30 shots,” Lagutang joked…Pinaula was the 1993 Interscholastic Basketball League MVP…Theo Cook had the most Far East experience on the team, playing for the Philippines team his first three years before his senior year with Oceanview…Center Tommy Morrison is now Senator Tommy Morrison.

Far East Division I Boys Champions

1949—Narimasu Dragons, TokyoCOACH FELIPE CANDASO

1950—Tokyo American School-Meguro

1951—Tokyo American School-Meguro

1952—Tokyo American School-Meguro

1953—Narimasu Dragons, Tokyo

1954—Narimasu Dragons, Tokyo

1955—Narimasu Dragons, Tokyo

1956—Kubasaki Dragons, Camp Zukeran, Okinawa

1957—Nagoya International Dolphins, Nagoya, Japan

1958—Yokohama American, Yokohama, Japan

1959-Kubasaki Dragons, Camp Zukeran, Okinawa

1960—Kubasaki Dragons, Camp Zukeran, Okinawa

1961—Kubasaki Dragons, Camp Zukeran, Okinawa

1962—Yamato Warriors, Yamato Air Station, Japan

1963—Zama American Trojans, Camp Zama, Japan

1964-American School In Japan Mustangs, Tokyo

1965—Yamato Warriors, Yamato Air Station, Japan

1966—Yamato Warriors, Yamato Air Station, Japan

1967—Kubasaki Dragons, Camp Zukeran, Okinawa

1968—Yokohama American, Yokohama Japan

1969—Johnson Falcons, Johnson Air Base, Japan

1970—Christian Academy Japan Knights, Tokyo

1971—Christian Academy Japan Knights, Tokyo

1972—Christian Academy Japan Knights, Tokyo

1973—Christian Academy Japan Knights, Tokyo

1974-American School In Japan Mustangs, Tokyo

1975—Christian Academy Japan Knights, Tokyo

1976—Yokota Panthers, Yokota Air Base, Japan

1977—Wagner Falcons, Clark Air Base, Philippines

1978—Faith Academy Vanguards, Manila, Philippines

1979—Seoul Foreign Crusaders

1980—Seoul Foreign Crusaders

1981—No tournament (Faith Academy won “Top Teams Tournament” in Tokyo)

1982—Faith Academy Vanguards, Manila, Philippines

1983-American School In Japan Mustangs, Tokyo

1984-Kadena Panthers, Kadena Air Base, Okinawa

1985—Wagner Falcons, Clark Air Base, Philippines

1986—Kadena Panthers, Kadena Air Base, Okinawa

1987—Kadena Panthers, Kadena Air Base, Okinawa

1988—Kubasaki Dragons, Camp Foster, Okinawa

1989—Kubasaki Dragons, Camp Foster, Okinawa

1990—Wagner Falcons, Clark Air Base, Philippines

1991—Kadena Panthers, Kadena Air Base, Okinawa

1992—Kadena Panthers, Kadena Air Base, Okinawa

1993—Oceanview Knights, Agat, Guam1993 paper

1994—Hong Kong International Dragons*

1995—Kadena Panthers, Kadena Air Base, Okinawa

1996—Seoul American Falcons, Yongsan Garrison, South Korea

1997—Kubasaki Dragons, Camp Foster, Okinawa

1998—Christian Academy Japan Knights, Tokyo

1999—Kadena Panthers, Kadena Air Base, Okinawa

2000—Faith Academy Vanguards, Manila, Philippines

2001—St. Mary’s International Titans, Tokyo

2002—St. Mary’s International Titans, Tokyo

2003—Seoul American Falcons, Yongsan Garrison, South Korea

2004—Seoul American Falcons, Yongsan Garrison, South Korea

2005—Kadena Panthers, Kadena Air Base, Okinawa

2006—Yokota Panthers, Yokota Air Base, Japan

2007—Kubasaki Dragons, Camp Foster, Okinawa

2008—Seoul American Falcons, Yongsan Garrison, South Korea

2009—St. Mary’s International Titans, Tokyo

2010—Kadena Panthers, Kadena Air Base, Okinawa

2011—Kubasaki Dragons, Camp Foster, Okinawa

2012—Kubasaki Dragons, Camp Foster, Okinawa

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