Pupule’s girls hoops ballot 1/28
1. LAH (27-1)
2. PUN (12-2)
3, KONA (22-3)
4. ROOS (14-2)
5. KS (13-4)
6. MS (17-3)
7. HILO (17-5)
8. MIL (20-2)
9. IOL (11-9)
10. HON (21-10)
At the top, the only difference for me is head to head. Lahainaluna edged Punahou 51-50 at the Kaiser Invitational. Both teams have improved substantially since. Punahou later lost to Maryknoll, then beat the Lady Spartans at Maryknoll. Lahainaluna has a nonconference loss to Kamehameha, which had PG Tiare Kanoa healthy at the time. It’s a close call, head to head is my main criteria.
At No. 3, Konawaena. The difference between Konawaena at the start of November and now may be the most drastic of any state-title contender aside from the Kanoa-less Kamehameha Warriors. Since the start of preseason, Konawaena guard/forward Chanelle Molina has embraced the role that is essential. She understands fully now that some nights she can be a facilitator and score just 15 points, and other nights, she might carry the load and pour in 30, 35, 40 points. It’s not an easy responsibility, but she’s grown into the role and is bending the usual expectation. After all, even Lia Galdeira was a team-first player who rarely looked to score for the sake of scoring. (That’s right, she would’ve averaged 35-40 ppg if she were asked to. Maybe. She was that unselfish.)
In this situation, the Wildcats are simply not deep. At all. There are enough good, solid pieces for Coach Bobbie Awa to craft another championship run, and nobody does it as well as she does with limited resources. But right now, nobody can beat Konawaena aside from the top two teams on my list. And that’s no guarantee.
You may have noticed that Mililani is way down my list at No. 8. This isn’t a knock on the 20 wins they’ve posted. They’ve overachieved, if anything, and earned their spot in the OIA Red championship game, which is on Wednesday night at McKinley. (It has been moved away from Radford for TV purposes.)
Sarah Liva is unstoppable in the low post and is a reliable defensive rebounder. Her hops, like Molina’s, have improved thanks to volleyball. But Mililani’s Achilles heel was exposed in the semifinals of the OIA Red playoffs when Moanalua — unranked Moanalua — used tight man pressure to make the Lady Trojans wobble. The game was really up for grabs in the fourth quarter, but the length of time that Mililani needed to pull out the win was astounding. It said a lot about Moanalua’s grit and heart.
It also said something about Mililani’s erratic ballhandling in that game, at times folding against the pressure. If they can’t get the ball to Liva consistently, her offensive output becomes very limited. They could have Liva step out to the arc to help against tough pressure — Roosevelt is going to bring the heat in the title game — but doing that would just add another job to Liva’s list of to-do things. She can do it, and if asked, she certainly will. But having your best player yo-yo from the high post area to the low post, and possibly help with breaking fullcourt pressure, plus all the defense and rebounding … it’s do-able for one night.
I just don’t see that working through an entire state tournament. The good news for Mililani is that it’s no longer a three- (or four-) night tourney on consecutive nights. But should Mililani get to the semifinals and win, the final would be the next night. Either they right the ship and take care of the ballhandling/turnover issues, or Liva gets worn out before state-title night. We shall see.
You may have noticed that Roosevelt is at No. 4 on my ballot. They’re more balanced and playing very good basketball right now. The ball moves, the offense has chemistry, and they apply tough pressure all over the court defensively. Liva could be kryptonite to the Rough Riders, but on the whole, they are the better team.
Kamehameha and Maryknoll are also exceptional defensive teams, but offensively, they are prone to ruts. The Warriors have a gamebreaker in Aloha Robins-Hardy. When she’s on, there’s nobody quite like her, a 6-foot-1 swingman who can drive hard to the hole or swish a step-back 3. The Spartans are quick and feisty, but don’t have a go-to scorer quite in the mold of Molina or Robins-Hardy.
Hilo is tough, has a great player in Aliyah Pana, but is small. Without a considerable post player above 5-6, they’re doing this on grit and execution. Pana carried a big load last year at the state tourney, but with defenses geared to stop her on the drive and, when necessary, double-team her, it’ll be different this year at states.
Again, Honokaa is my No. 10. They’ve lost to a ton of teams who are in the Top 10 (released in this morning’s Star-Advertiser), but they’ve also posted wins over significant teams like Moanalua. So the Dragons get my nod. Barely.