When I look at this week’s Star-Advertiser basketball polls — which non-subscribers can see on this blog’s front page — I’m in total agreement on the girls side. The boys side, not much. I’m OK with the first three spots going to Punahou, ‘Iolani and Farrington, but the pollsters have Maryknoll at No. 4 and I have Baldwin. It’s a splitting-hairs deal here. Baldwin showed a lot, beating Farrington on the road, then pushing Punahou hard on the Buffanblu’s homecourt. And they were missing a key scorer and ballhandler (Ryan Garces) in that Punahou game. He opted to go to the winter ball instead. His parents? They stayed on Oahu and watched Baldwin play Punahou in the Punahou Invitational final.
One day, all 16- and 17-year-olds will realize that proms and balls are often a big, fat waste of money and time. No, that day will never happen, I know.
Baldwin is a mere eighth in the Top 10, behind Konawaena, Saint Louis and Kalaheo. I like Konawaena a lot. What they did to beat Kalaheo on the Mustangs’ homecourt last week was remarkable, rallying from 16 down. Saint Louis has been impressive (8-1). Kalaheo continues to play solid ball despite its overall youth.
But for now, I like the Bears just a wee bit better. Teva Eldredge was often unstoppable against Punahou. The perimeter power of Takushi and Garces and the disciplined system of Coach Gushiken are always formidable — more so with second- and third-year starters.
Hilo and Waiakea are on the brink of much more. The problem for me as a voter is that they haven’t played Oahu’s best teams, really. But Hilo will travel this week — to California. Waiakea will be at Kaiser’s tourney. For those teams, it’s a chance to see how much real progress they’ve made after two or three weeks of tournaments on the Big Island.
For me, it’s an opportunity to see if they stack up. Jalen Carvalho scored 47 in an overtime win over Waiakea on Saturday, averaging more than 30 points per game in the Warriors’ tourney. Will he hit 30 against mainland competition? Will Waiakea have Lucas St. George healthy enough to play against Mililani on Thursday in the St. Francis Merv Lopes Classic?
Is Saint Louis ready for the challenge of a tall, lean Kalaheo squad. Can Farrington withstand another week without its productive bigs, who are off to the Samoa Bowl?
I don’t expect ‘Iolani to lose, being the highest-ranked team in the Merv Lopes. The Raiders gave every mainland foe a stiff challenge at the ‘Iolani Classic this past week. It was just a few years ago that Coach Dean Shimamoto had a deep crew of 6-foot-and-under hustlers who made the best of their situation. Now he’s got bigs — 6-4 Kamu Borden, in particular — who can protect the rim, guys with strength to go with height.
But the team to beat, of course, is Punahou.
CORRECTION: The Buffanblu are on the road Christmas day, heading to The Holiday Classic in California. They’ll play Tesoro (Calif.) on Thursday. The Titans are 6-4 in nonleague play so far.