Hoops notebook

by Paul Honda on January 11, 2014

There are some headliner names in the world of ILH Division II basketball. For a few years, it’s been St. Francis, which won the state crown last year with 6-foot-5 Matthew Nuumanaia playing multiple roles.

This winter, Damien has been on fire with 6-7 center Kapi‘ina King patrolling the paint.

Neither has surprised like Hawaii Baptist. The Eagles knocked off St. Francis 49-48 on Tuesday at the Saints’ gym. On Friday, HBA upended Damien 51-48 and rose to 3-0 in league play.

The slightly sad thing about it is, I wanted to see the HBA-Damien game. My editor asked me last weekend about the hoops schedule (I wound up seeing a pretty good Roosevelt-Farrington boys game) and that game seemed interesting after HBA outlasted Hanalani in overtime 79-73. I’m always a sucker for high-scoring teams that love to run.

That’s what HBA coach George Weeks believes in. Who can blame him? A lot of players get on the court, team gets more unified and the wins happen to follow sometimes.

In this case, the sweet taste of victory is becoming more common. And the hoop communities at each of the ILH’s D-II powerhouses are filling gyms.

“It was the biggest, loudest crowd we’ve had for any sport,” HBA athletic director Deren Oshiro said.

That’s say a lot with HBA’s massive history of success in girls and boys volleyball.

“It was packed to the gills. The referees had to stop the game and move people from the baseline,” Oshiro said, estimating the audience at Dan Liu Gymnasium in the 1,000-plus range.

“It was so loud at times, you couldn’t hear the buzzer.”

For the record, B.J. Hosaka sank two foul shots with 57 seconds left to give the Eagles the lead for good, 49-48. It must’ve been pretty crazy loud at that moment.

People on Oahu sometimes don’t get a taste of it, but small schools that love a certain sport can really get the full experience and excitement. I saw on the Big Island for eight years. Intense, packed houses at Honokaa or Kohala or Konawaena. Nothing like it except the occasional scene on Oahu during the playoffs and state tournament. Even then, it’s not quite the same.

You might have to go to a small gym on a private-school campus to get that same vibe. Just don’t expect a bowl of mayo sitting at the snack bar counter as a condiment for your chili. That would be a Big Island thing.

>> Clearing the air
First of all, the Roosevelt-Moanalua girls battle on Thursday was much more intense than I expected. Yes, they were both 8-0 in OIA East play, but Moanalua hadn’t beaten Top 10 team to date. I knew LaChae McColor would bring her game. But the rest of Na Menehune?

They brought it, even in a 59-51 loss. They’ve got room for improvement, but the pieces are there for a run to the OIA final. Hoku Mateo is a tireless, relentless rebounder — a huge asset for any team in this wild season of parity in girls hoops. Ciera O’Brien is a steady, tireless point guard.

Clarification: Roosevelt point guard Sharice Kawakami is a junior, not a sophomore as I wrote in Friday’s game story. And, the photo that ran in the newspaper was of guard Tavae Sina Sofa, not Starr Rivera, as written in the caption by our normally impeccable photographer.

The Rough Riders, as I’ve written before, are sometimes breathtaking with their speed and tempo and pace. Fun to watch. Catch them near a gym near you.

>> Anywhere the wind blows
That tiny school on sprawling acreage at the foothills of the Kohala Mountain Range is making big noise these days. Hawaii Preparatory Academy’s boys hoops team stunned Waiakea 69-60 on Friday night in BIIF regular-season play.

That’s three wins in three league games, including a 61-53 victory over Hilo and a 76-44 win over Pahoa.

Hawaii Prep almost made a big splash in December, leading Farrington in the final quarter before losing to the Governors 55-49 — who had just upset Maryknoll the week before — in the first round of the Punahou Invitational. I recall Ka Makani being tall, college-like in height.

The next night, HPA lost to Punahou II 33-31. Letdown? Maybe. But remember that HPA is also a D-II team, and Punahou II is a good team regardless of classification.

I saw Punahou II — technically known as I-AA — almost beat another D-II state contender, St. Francis, in the Pete Smith Classic. Punahou II had just five players that night and rallied from a double-digit deficit to within 3 before running out of fuel.

>> Big Saturday night showdown
The Punahou-Maryknoll matchup in girls hoops is matched, perhaps surpassed, in anticipation by tonight’s Maryknoll-‘Iolani boys showdown.

We’ll have both games covered. I haven’t seen Punahou’s girls play in a month, when the Buffanblu lost to Lahainaluna 51-50 at the Kaiser Invitational. Things have changed quite a bit since.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

wendell au January 11, 2014 at 3:55 pm

Paul: you missed an amazing game @ HBA. Damien was unstoppable (physically and emotionally) at HBA’s homecoming game…until about 3 minutes. You could actually feel the energy shift from Damien to HBA as the Eagles slowly (very slowly) answered Damien–at the under-two-minute mark. They traded buckets with 5 minutes left. I was unsure whether HBA could overcome Damien’s athleticism and poise. Then King fouled out. Goliath was down, but the Eagles had to finish against a composed group whose lead was as many as 11. Until that point, Damien had both a sharp offense (few turnovers and held the lead forever–game lasted about 2 hours–with NO OT!) and an attacking defense (blocked shots and man coverage that basically disallowed perimeter shooting–key for the Eagle’s smaller squad). Finally, It became a game to not lose for Damien and a game to finish (with every ounce of determination) for HBA. Speaking to Hosaka’s father afterwards, he said the crowd made the difference. You missed an amazing game Paul.

Kani Kapila January 13, 2014 at 7:55 am

Paul: It is good to see the HBA basketball program have some success especially at a school know for their bowling and volleyball programs. Years of underachieving, this year’s team might have finally turned the corner. No longer are the Eagles a run and gun team hoisting up random shots from any place on the court. The biggest change is the Eagles now start 2 freshmen (PG Minatoya and C Killough). Killough is 6’5 and blocked or changed numerous shots in the paint. Junior SG BJ Hosaka takes majority of the shots. 2 seniors round out the starting lineup. They go about 7 deep and days of random platooning 5/5 are gone.

The ILH’s D-II is obviously not as strong as it was last year. Hanalani, St. Francis and University are down. Don’t see any ILH D-II team able to contend with the likes of HPA, Kalani or Kaiser but with 3 state berths for the ILH D-II, it will be a dog-fight. Projected State Berths – 1. Damien 2. HBA 3. St. Francis.

Paul Honda January 13, 2014 at 1:08 pm

Well put, Kani Kapila! Please keep posting on HBA, ILH and statewide D-II.

I saw St. Francis several times in preseason. They can’t help that so many talented players graduated. I give the Saints credit for this: it would’ve been tempting to turn Matthew Nuumanaia into a go-to guy on every possession. But they run their offensive sets, call an occasional play for him (that corner 3 play is sweet) and let things unfold naturally.

If they’d done things differently, Nuumanaia might have been run ragged by now. He might have averaged 35 ppg, but what would be left in the tank? As long as they’re in the playoff picture, which is very do-able, they can try and save his go-to exploits for the playoff/elimination scenarios.

Kani Kapila January 13, 2014 at 2:56 pm

Been following Damien more closely since a few cousins have played for the Monarchs. The move to D-II has helped interest and excitement for the school and basketball program. Years of being basement dwellers in D-I started to take it’s toll on the overall morale of the program. Boys were happy when they didn’t lose by double digits.

Kapi King is a legitimate big man who can play on the blocks and run the court and he’s only a junior. Ikari got into early foul trouble, 2 fouls in the 1st against HBA forcing Damien to go with Layco as the primary ball handler. Layco missed about 7-8 point blank layups in their 1-4 low set. Never seen him miss so many in close. Damien never got into a rhythm and the homecoming crowd definitely played a major factor. Damien had 3 technicals called on them, one on King when he got tangled up with a HBA player giving him his 3rd and 4th fouls with 6 minutes remaining in the 3rd.

St. Francis will be there at the end. Coach Batoon will have them playing their best at the end of the season. Coach Walt Quitan at University High has 2 players in PG Canencia and SG Kaleikini and will always gets his boys to overachieve. The Jr. Bows have not made it a states final in recent memory and Coach Quitan doesn’t get the credit he deserves. No one in the ILH does more with less.

Paul Honda January 14, 2014 at 2:25 pm

Agree with you about Coach Walt. Over the years, he extracts every ounce of effort and skill from his teams. I like their PG Anthony Canencia, and Kaleikini is a sleeper, a baseball guy who didn’t play hoops in high school until senior year. They have some nice piece, not much experience. And, of course, not a lot of depth. Their best teams in the past decade or so had experience and knew how to work in Coach’s system. We shall see!

Go Bows! January 15, 2014 at 9:47 am

Junior Bows made it to states last year.

Go Bows! January 15, 2014 at 9:48 am

oh and Kaleikini played played last year Paul

Go Bows! January 15, 2014 at 10:00 am

@Kana Kapila

Where did you hear that the ILH D2 has three berths? Last I check they had only two, which were Saint Francis and UH lab last year. I know the ILH D2 went down from 9 teams to 6 so I don’t know how their postseason playoffs workout now. If i remember correctly, SFS won the regular season last year, getting an automatic bid into states. The remaining 8 teams had a tournament to determine the second spot.

Paul Honda January 15, 2014 at 5:48 pm

Is Kaleikini the baseball player? I was told that he didn’t play basketball since middle school, if he’s that kid.

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