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.