The opportunity was there. A win would’ve been sweet for the mighty Mules.
Leilehua entered Tuesday’s regular-season ending showdown at Mililani with a chance to step up and throttle the pecking order. A win would’ve given the Mules a share of first place in the Oahu Interscholastic Association West, along with Radford (9-1). A three-way tie was possible.
It didn’t happen. Mililani cemented its place atop the West with a 47-33 win. Dahlis Sablay led the unbeaten Trojans (10-0 OIA West) with 16 points. Kylie Bagay scored 10 points, and Kianna Ponce and Maddison Ayers had eight each.
Interestingly, sharpshooter Kaylen Kamelamela poured in 22 points with six treys, yet the Mules (8-2) were never quite in this game, trailing by 15 at the break.
Mililani and Radford will have first-round byes in the OIA Division I playoffs, which begin on Wednesday. The West’s third-place team, Leilehua, will host an opening-round game against East 6 Roosevelt. The Rough Riders finished in a tie with Kaimuki for fifth place, but Kaimuki won the head-to-head 39-27 back on Dec. 12.
OIA PlayoffsUpdated: Jan. 24
|1/16||Kapolei (W4)||Kaimuki (E5)||Kapo, 54-36|
|1/16||Kaiser (E3)||Nanakuli (W6)||Kais, 56-40|
|1/16||Leilehua (W3)||Roosevelt (E6)||Lei, 45-32|
|1/16||Moanalua (E4)||Waianae (W5)||Moan, 55-47 (OT)|
|1/17||Kahuku (E1)||Kapolei||Kah, 48-38|
|1/17||Radford (W2)||Kaiser||Kais, 57-48 (OT)|
|1/17||Kalani (E2)||Leilehua||Kaln, 67-47|
|1/17||Mililani (W1)||Moanalua||Mil, 63-51|
|Consolation semifinals—at Higher Seed|
|Semifinals — At Radford|
|Fifth place—At Higher seed|
|Third place—At Higher seed|
|Championship — At Radford|
|1/16||Pearl City (W2)||Kalaheo (E3)||PC, 54-51|
|1/16||Farrington (E2)||Waialua (W3)||Far, 60-34|
|1/22||Castle (E1)||Pearl City||Cast, 51-14|
|1/22||Waipahu (W1)||Farrington||Far, 62-60|
|Third place—At Higher seed|
|1/24||Pearl City||Waipahu||Waip, 41-33|
|Championship— At Radford|
|1/24||Castle||Farrington||Cast, 63-52 (OT)|
Raiders still ascending
No. 1 ‘Iolani is showing what a championship-level team does. The Raiders don’t have a consistent 20-point scorer. They don’t have a 6-foot center dominating the paint. All they have is an unflappable group of players playing with one giant brain.
The Raiders stifled a talented Maryknoll squad for the second time this season, winning 52-39 on Tuesday night. The senior-less Spartans lost to ‘Iolani 62-39 on Dec. 5, so maybe the gap has closed. ‘Iolani got 15 points from Lily Lefotu Wahinekapu and 11 from Kyra Tanabe, with each sinking three treys. Leading scorer Taylor Wu finished with seven points, but with the return of Wahinekapu from an ankle injury, the Raiders get more than enough with a balanced scoring attack.
The bad news for the rest of the ILH is that ‘Iolani hasn’t peaked quite yet, and some of their younger players developed faster with more playing time during Wahinekapu’s absence.
At 7-1 in ILH D-I play (16-6 overall), ‘Iolani is ahead of Kamehameha (5-2) with Maryknoll (4-3) and Punahou (4-3) also trailing with the regular season nearly done. A state-tourney berth is a guarantee for the first-place team before the playoffs.
Any Kamehameha loss plus an ‘Iolani win will seal a state berth for the Raiders.
‘Iolani’s remaining regular-season schedule:
> vs. Sacred Hearts, Saturday
> vs. Mid-Pacific, Jan. 17
> vs. Sacred Hearts, Thursday
> at Maryknoll, Saturday
> at Punahou, Jan. 15
> at Punahou, Thursday
> vs. Kamehameha, Saturday
> vs. Sacred Hearts, Jan. 15
> vs. Maryknoll, Thursday
> at Mid-Pacific, Saturday
> vs. Kamehameha, Jan. 15
The second state berth for the ILH will be determined by the playoffs.
ILH boys gauntlet to nth degree
There are numbers and there is willpower.
The order of importance, of course, is willpower ahead of numbers, especially in the ILH boys basketball chase. With so much parity, nothing is easy. Mid-Pacific knocked off Kamehameha on opening day of the regular season. MPI then led No. 3 ‘Iolani 11-0 before the Raiders rallied for a 57-48 win on Tuesday.
Saint Louis led No. 2 Maryknoll 15-4 before the Spartans came back for a 60-49 victory. Saint Louis is ranked No. 5 in this week’s Star-Advertiser Boys Basketball Top 10. Kamehameha was even with No. 1 Punahou before being outscored 14-4 in the final quarter of last night’s 64-54 loss at Kekuhaupio Gymnasium.
Mid-Pacific and Kamehameha have been ranked, currently are not, and it doesn’t matter. There is virtually no real-life gap between ranked teams, particularly between No. 5 and as far out as No. 17. And any team among the top four that believes it is beyond reproach will likely learn a hard lesson eventually.
The Crusaders are now 1-1 in league play. There won’t be much time to dwell on their first loss of the season. ‘Iolani visits McCabe Gym on Thursday. The same goes for the Warriors, who host Maryknoll on Thursday. The Spartans routed Kamehameha in the final of the Kaimuki Invitational nearly a month ago.
Doesn’t matter now. The ILH boys race is so tight, it may be the toughest from top to bottom in at least a decade. Six of the top seven teams in the Top 10 are from the ILH, including Division II Damien.
The good news for every team in ILH D-I is that it’s a long season. The arrival of St. Francis, the former two-time D-II state champion, means the league has three state berths instead of two. The competitiveness of ILH hoops rivals, and often surpasses what fans see at the state tournament’s first two rounds. And the ILH season plays out much longer than a four-round state tourney. It’s a TV series versus a movie.
This ILH season deserves a Golden Globe.
Ka Makani, Cowboys and a fun BIIF D-II race
Basketball in the BIIF has never lacked for a spark. The wet terrain across much of the island during winters past often led youth athletes to indoor facilities. Tiny gyms scattered across East Hawaii, the Hamakua Coast, up to Kamuela (Waimea) and beyond. That beyond would include Kohala, which is surging this season.
A 70-66 overtime loss to Hawaii Prep drew a healthy crowd of about 500 fans to Kamehameha Park on Tuesday night. When Kohala is a force on the basketball court, BIIF basketball is that much stronger as a whole. The most recent Cowboy who led the team to a deep run in the D-II state tourney — a runner-up finish in ’07 — was point guard Brandon Bautista, who went on to all-conference honors at Oregon Tech.
Going back to the 1990s, it was a strong era of Kohala hoops with the Emeliano brothers, Keone and Kalei, Kihei Kapeliela, Travis Van Zandt, Benny Alcoran and many more skilled players. In the ‘80s, Kohala had Sean Francisco among their finest.
“Bradley Estabilio and Shane Kaohu were the best,” longtime BIIF sportswriter Bobby Command said. “Lots of others who were very good, including Durand Yangson, Robert Halbritter, Donn Fernandez.
The program competed hard, teams scored loads of points and was a title contender when there was no D-II.
The scene at Kohala’s home court — the Cowboys use the larger P&R gym instead of the school gym to accommodate fans — was rollicking, according to former HPA football and basketball standout Derrick Hanano.
“Every single one of Kohala’s points was met by a thunderous cheer. Every single one of HPA’s free throws were to the sound of several hundred feet stomping on the bleachers. It was great. I personally haven’t seen that gym that loud and crazy since the names like Emeliano, Lawrence (Kauka), Roxburg, Van Zandt, Viloria, Alcoran, (Jacob) Hook, Coito and, of course, my loud uncle (and coach) Joe Mattos,” Hanano wrote on social media. “I had forgotten exactly how big basketball was in Kohala until we showed up for the JV game and there was no parking and the concession stand was already sold out. Last night was some exciting basketball for sure.”
Hawaii Prep (5-4, 3-0 BIIF) is a work in progress, and that progress was visible during the ‘Iolani Classic with a stunning win over then-No. 7 Mid-Pacific. Parker may be a rising program, but the strength of D-II in the BIIF — there are just two state berths — may keep the Bulls from making any postseason trips. Honokaa, Pahoa and Ka‘u are in the hunt, too.
HPA is at home for St. Joseph on Friday, and then Konawaena and Pahoa next week. Before they head into the D-II playoffs, Ka Makani could finish the regular season with the best record in the BIIF. It’s that wide open.
The BIIF has not had two teams in the D-II state semifinals since ’14, when Hawaii Prep won the crown and Kohala placed fourth.
Hanano, who played for Ka Makani in the 1990s, has a son, Jordan, on the JV hoops team.
“He was basically in a swarm of pirahna all night and took a whooping physically and on the scoreboard,” Hanano wrote. “This morning at 6 a.m., I felt a tapping on my shoulder. It was Jordan asking me to take him to school so he could lift weights and shoot around with his teammates. I like the response. It’s how winners respond.”