Exchange student leading Sa-Hali

Miori Futemma didn't have to do a lot for the Sa-Hali Sabres on Wednesday, but they're counting on the Japanese exchange student to do a lot throughout the senior girls basketball season.

Futemma had nine points as the Sabres beat the St. Ann's Crusaders 75-21 at the Tournament Capital Centre in their opener at the Fulton Cup preseason city basketball championship. Sa-Hali is scheduled to play the Ashcroft Rams today, 5 p.m., at the TCC, before Friday's playoffs.

Playing against a single-A school made for an easy opener for the Sabres, and head coach Jody Vosper was definitely pleased with that - his roster features only nine players, one of whom was sick Wednesday.

"I'm happy with the nine players we have," Vosper said. "We've not nine good players, but when we have foul trouble or any injuries, it's going to be tough."

One of the key players is Futemma, a 5-foot-5 point guard with tons of speed.

She didn't look out of place on last year's senior team, a Grade 9 playing backup point guard. She looks even better this season, as she helps run a strong offence that revolves around 6-foot-1 centre Nicole Karstein.

She's a long way from home, but the 15-year-old Futemma is adjusting.

"I'm with a host family," she said. "It's been a little tough . . . but I do Skype a couple times a week, so it's OK."

Most student exchanges last only one year, but Futemma will be in Kamloops for two.

Her North American adventure won't end there, however, as she plans to move to Spokane before Grade 11, play two years of high school there and, she hopes, move on to play at Gonzaga University.

No doubt a lot of high-school students have goals of one kind or another, but Futemma really has her eyes on the future.

"One of the reasons I came here is because I wanted to see the basketball style," said the Okinawa native. "I could be playing junior (at Sa-Hali), but I want to play high-level basketball."

Karstein ended with 17 points Wednesday, with Emily Hilton adding 15. Leanne Rustand and Taylor MacDonald each had 12 points, and Karlee Poeschek came through with 10.

Futemma has made her reputation as a passer - she was named the most unselfish player at a weekend tournament in Vernon, where the Sabres finished second - but Vosper is hoping she can use her speed to attack a little more.

"I need to practise attacking more so I can have more confidence," said Futemma, who played for Team B.C. at the national under-15 championship in Winnipeg. "I'm practising it . . . and if I attack and get more foul shots, that's better for the team."

Vosper sure likes what his young guard brings to the team.

"I would like her to attack more, but she's one of the best passers I've coached," he said. "She's got good court vision, and she wants to make her teammates successful."

The Crusaders had beaten the Rams 54-53 in overtime in an earlier game Wednesday, and the NorKam Saints beat the Barriere Cougars 68-25.

Barriere played the Valleyview Vikings earlier; a result wasn't available.

Valleyview and NorKam are to play today, 5 p.m., at the TCC.

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The Vikings and Crusaders were winners of the early boys' games.

The Vikings beat the Cougars 65-39, while the Crusaders beat the Westsyde Whundas, 64-45.

Barriere was taking on NorKam and St. Ann's and Sa-Hali also were playing late last night; results were unavailable by press time.

The Vikings and Saints will meet today, 6:45 p.m., at the TCC, while the Whundas and Sabres will play at the same time on the adjacent court.

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In junior girls action Wednesday, the Sabres booked a ticket to the championship game with a pair of victories.

Sa-Hali opened with a 31-17 victory over the Whundas, before downing the NorKam Saints 36-31.

The Valleyview Vikings, meanwhile, beat the Crusaders, 33-20.

The Sabres boys also are in the final after a pair of Wednesday victories, 55-35 over Westsyde and 53-34 over NorKam.

The Vikings opened with a 70-32 victory over the Crusaders.

Today's junior action will feature a pair of 3:30 games at the TCC, along with games at NorKam Secondary at 4 and 5:30 p.m.

mhunter@kamloopsnews.ca

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