Championship night: Pupule thoughts

by Paul Honda on February 15, 2014

Mililani and Hilo are in overtime of the third-place game. (Paul Honda / Star-Advertiser)

Mililani and Hilo are in overtime of the third-place game. (Paul Honda / Star-Advertiser)

It’s 12-all in third-place game of the Hawaiian AIrlines/HHSAA Division I Girls Basketball State Championships. Hilo and Mililani. Both teams playing man defense, which is even more interesting since they’re so different in size.

Sophomore Alexis Pana continues to shine for the Vikings. She’s a long guard — there’s no height listed on the roster, but my guess is that she’s at least 5-8 — with long arms and excellent quickness. She also has great handles and thrives on drives to the basket.

The matchup of Mililani’s 6-2 center, Sarah Liva, and Hilo’s versatile Aliyah Pana normally would be fascinating. Liva is incredibly tough to stop in the low post, and though she’s quicker than a lot of bigs, Aliyah Pana should be able to beat her off the dribble. Instead, Pana getting her touches in the high post and Liva is stopping her. I haven’t seen Pana (Aliyah) do a lot in this tournament, much to my surprise.

Last year, she was a slashing wing/point guard who was difficult to stop. Her motor was always on. This season, she hasn’t shown that same explosiveness. The only explanation would be that she might be playing through an injury, or possibly that the wear and tear of getting pummeled in the low post by bigger players all year has worn her down.

All I know is, I miss the old Aliyah. It’s like he Alexis is the old Aliyah, including the 3-point range. (Alexis just knocked in her second trey and Hilo is behind 21-17. Her first trey started as a touch on the wing 15 feet out, and she dribbled backwards to the arc and swished a 3.)

Three steals in a row now and the Viks have tied it at 21-all.

During the regular season, while Mililani was breezing through the OIA West, their strengths were on full display. Liva dominated defenses in the paint. It didn’t matter if she was in ILH D-II or OIA D1.5. But as the Lady Trojans ventured through the postseason, it was clear. The backcourt had not been tested often enough in the OIA West, and pressure defenses like Punahou’s got the upper hand.

If I remember right, Hanalani, her previous school, finished third n the D-II state tourney a year ago. And now Mililani is playing for D-I’s third-place finish. At both schools, guard play — particularly protecting the ball — was under fire. At both schools, she remains the cornerstone.

Liva. Pana sisters. I can’t help wonder how the All-State Fab 15 will turn out. There simply hasn’t been a single, dominant player in this tournament. I suppose that should be less of an exception year to year. After all, teams that play great team ball usually go far. Last year’s Star-Advertiser All-State Player of the Year was Princess Lauvao of Kaimuki, a team that lost in the quarterfinals. (She had 31 points and 14 boards, if I recall correctly, despite a head injury in the third quarter.)

There are some fans who always believe the POY should come from the championship team. For me and other voters, it’s not exactly clear-cut. Picking All-State teams, filling out weekly Top 10 ballots … none of it is pure science unless someone is using Sagarin-style power-rating formulas.

For me, All-State is about individual achievement, which is quite an anomaly for a team sport. I’d be perfectly fine in a world without individual awards on any level. I don’t remember or care much about a pro athlete who was MVP X-amount of times. But I do remember great moments. Great games. Great battles.

But All-State is a reality so I think about it. My ballot might look something like this, and I know I might be forgetting a few players, so forgive me. The ballots aren’t due just yet anyway. Consider this Rough Draft A.

In no particular order
Tier 1
Sarah Liva, Mililani
Alexis Pana, Hilo
Aliyah Pana, Hilo
Chantelle Molina, Konawaena
Penina Faumui, Farrington
Delcie Williams, Kailua
LaChae McColor, Moanalua
Tyra Moe, Punahou
Hailey Motooka, Punahou
Alohi Robins-Hardy, Kamehameha
Fa-Ko-fiemea Hafoka, Lahainaluna
Matafolau Hafoka, Lahainaluna
Erlanda Basques, Lahainaluna
Hunter Liftee, Honokaa
Cianna Ochoco, Maryknoll

Tier 2
Alexis Delovio, Maryknoll
Maia Laboy, Maryknoll
Maegen Martin, Maryknoll
Siena Shupe, Maryknoll
Lindsay Bates, Lahainaluna
Keau Fey, Punahou
Jade Botelho, ‘Iolani
Shaylyn Guthier, Hilo
Tara Takata, Kailua
Pat Vaimaona, Kailua
Shantel Graham-Bernisto, Hilo
Chailey Cabalis, Hilo
Devyn Kauhi, Roosevelt
Keala Quinlan, Roosevelt
Sharice Kawakami, Roosevelt
Starr Rivera, Roosevelt
Chancis Fernandez, Honokaa

* Tiare Kanoa, Kamehameha — Knee injury early in the season. She was a POY candidate.

Here are some names of players I saw just once (or twice or never) and didn’t play extremely well, but have nice statistics.
Jasmine Moody, Radford (17.7 ppg in OIA)
Roselyn Shimaoka, Kaiser (14.4 ppg OIA)
Tywanna Abbott, Leilehua (12 ppg OIA)
Mich’lae Higa, Aiea (15.3 ppg OIA)
Valerie Wilson, Kaimuki (14.8 ppg OIA)
Jerri Maluyo, Leilehua (10.2 ppg OIA)
Adora Anae, Kahuku (13.5 ppg OIA)
Tiare Sugui, McKinley (12.9 ppg OIA)
Tavae Sina Sofa, Roosevelt (9.8 ppg OIA)
Amayha Dycus Kapolei (12.4 ppg OIA)
Tayhila-Lee Chong, Waianae (11.1 ppg OIA)
Hoku Mateo, Moanalua (8.7 ppg OIA)
Ciera O’Brien, Moanalua (7.7 ppg OIA)
Sarah Kanekoa, Mid-Pacific (10.6 ppg ILH)
Tiffany Reyher, Leilehua (9.8 ppg OIA)

All-Defensive Team
Alexis Pana, Hilo — She’s a female, 5-8 version of Scottie Pippen.
Sarah Liva, Mililani
Keau Fey, Punahou
Some of Lahainaluna’s guards and posts will be All-D on my ballot.

Third quarter has ended. Liva got her third foul and sat most of the quarter, and Hilo rallied to take a 41-35 lead. Aliyah and Alexis Pana put on a clinic. There’s Alexis with her third trey. Viks lead 44-37.

The list I just posted is far from complete. There are a lot of players I never got to see, no different from any season. (I still miss the days when the boys and girls played in separate seasons. That was basketball nirvana.) As I do some research and comparisons over the next week or so, I’ll get a much better feel for my ballot.

It’ll look like what an All-State ballot should look like, in my opinion, of course. It’s not going to be a list of the 15 best team players, but it will probably include a bunch of ballers who play great team ball. Or great defense. Or both.

I know I’m missing a lot of names, especially from the KIF and MIL. Feel free to chime in.

Hilo up 53-43 on Mililani, 4:27 left. Another 3, this one by Chailey Cabalis. Most of this Hilo team returns next year. Interesting…

Just added scoring averages for players I didn’t see a lot of (if any) this season. Meanwhile, Mililani rallied behind Liva and took a 55-53 lead in the final 10 seconds. Then Guthier of Hilo sank two foul shots with 5.7 seconds left to force overtime. No Liva and no Aliyah Pana; both have fouled out.

As for tonight’s final between top-seeded Lahainaluna and third-seeded Punahou, these are two best defensive teams in the tourney. Each team also has enough balance offensively — not living and dying by the 3 or the low-post game alone — to stay close in games. Mata Hafoka of Lahainaluna has been a revelation, a true glue player in the paint. Her skill level with the ball and her rebounding prowess could be the X factor.

Third-place final: Mililani 64, Hilo 60, OT. What a game!

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

HawaiiHoops February 17, 2014 at 11:45 pm

“For me, All-State is about individual achievement, which is quite an anomaly for a team sport”. Paul, if you stand by your quote, Mich’lae Higa from Aiea HS is one of the best guards in the state, averaging 15.3 ppg and carrying her team all season. She did not play in the State Tournament through no fault of her own. If she does not get into the Fab-15 this year, something is wrong.
You are compiling a State Tournament Team instead of an All-State Team if you look at your picks. That is not fair to good players who go unnoticed by you. Ask coaches who know.

Paul Honda February 18, 2014 at 11:52 am

EXCELLENT POINT, HawaiiHoops. When the coaches and media vote, there is undoubtedly an influence from the state tournament. But there are players like Mich’lae Higa (Aiea) and Jalen Carvalho (Hilo) who have been above the norm and won’t get to play at states.

This is why we’ve always done it (as long as I’ve been involved since 2004) by vote. It isn’t perfect, but it allows for more representation by players who are often off the postseason radar. It is crucial that coaches vote.

For you, HH, now the question is this: Who would your 15 players be (in order)?

Voice of Reason2 March 31, 2014 at 10:18 am

Great Point Mr. Honda!

Top scorer in the state of Hawaii 28.9 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 3.1 apg
“JALEN CARVALHO” #5 on the Star-Advertiser Fab 15
@ 6’3″ 180lbs….great ball handler, sharp shooter and can jump out of the gym worked hard to get onto that FAB15 (top5). Not to mention a very humble kid with good grades……being sought at by colleges in Oregon, Montana, Wash, Cali and Hawaii!
…word is he is signing his letter of intent on April 22nd

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