3 Goliaths and a David (Moanalua) remain

Rainier Beach's Darius Ballou drove to the basket ahead of Moanalua's Geremy Robinson (15) and Caleb Casinas (20) during the first half of an 'Iolani Classic game earlier this season. Na Menehune is the surprise team remaining in the Division I boys basketball tournament. Photo by Jamm Aquino/Star-Advertiser.

The questions remain and basketball fans debate.

How did the ILH 2, Punahou, get a less difficult path that ILH 1 Maryknoll? Why is St. Francis, the top seed in D-II, playing at home? Twice?

It all goes back to the HHSAA by-laws. A league champion must be split into a separate sub-bracket from its second-place team. In the case of Punahou, they’re the same sub-bracket as OIA champion Kalaheo (which lost last night to Moanalua). OIA 2 Kahuku and OIA 3 Kapolei ended up in the other bracket with ILH champion Maryknoll. In most years, this is a formality that makes sense. This year, Kalaheo’s title run in the OIA shook everything up. Perhaps it would have been within the bylaws to move OIA 3 Kapolei into the Kalaheo/Punahou sub-bracket.

As for St. Francis, what I’ve been told in years past is that very few schools offer to host state-tournament games. On the D-I side, the host sites are Moanalua and McKinley. On the D-II side, it’s St. Francis and Kaimuki, though conditions at Kaimuki necessitated a move to ‘Iolani for two games.

Not every school wants to host state-tourney games. The only tangible benefit is fundraising through the concession stand. Other than that, getting manpower there, adding hours to the life of an athletic director/site manager and other concerns aren’t as simple for some campuses.

The one caveat is that the HHSAA could switch sites of teams playing in the tournament. For example, St. Francis’ team could have played games in the Kaimuki (‘Iolani) sub-bracket. That used to happen more often in the past.

As for the semifinal round, we have three Goliaths and a David.

Here’s a look at tonight’s D-I semifinals in the Snapple/HHSAA Boys Basketball State Championships. Listed are the teams, overall records (including nonconference games) and regular-season records.

Maryknoll Spartans (27-6, 9-1 ILH) vs. Kahuku Red Raiders (26-4, 10-0 OIA East)
Stan Sheriff Center
5 p.m.

Seed: No. 1. ILH champion. Def. Kapolei 57-42 on Wednesday.
Seed: Unseeded. OIA runner-up. Def. Kamehameha-Hawaii 62-37 on Wednesday

Skinny: Both teams were superb in quarterfinal wins. Maryknoll started slowly against Kapolei’s 3-2 zone, but eventually took command and proved unstoppable. Defensively, the Spartans have a rare combination of superior on-ball pressure on the 3-point arc plus an active SWAT team on the blocks. Marcus Tobin, their 6-foot-7 junior, was highly energized with 14 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks against Kapolei.

Kahuku’s prowess depends greatly on 1) the maneuverability of 6-10 Tolu Smith, and 2) the ball movement that follows the double- and triple-teams on Smith. Until Ruanui Winitana sank consecutive 3-pointers, Kahuku’s game with Kamehameha-Hawaii was even.

Defensively, Kahuku is quick, physical and long. They might be more prone to hand-check fouls, but teams reliant on 3-point shooting won’t get a lot of clean looks. Maryknoll’s evolution since last season, when a 1-2-2 zone by Saint Louis knocked the Spartans out of the ILH playoffs, has been steady and impressive. The Spartans are more than willing to drive on defenses that overplay the perimeter.

Jaylen Cain (12 points) and Makoto Kamata (12) were consistent, and with Jordyn Perez and Isiah Gelacio balancing the floor from the perimeter, Maryknoll has five slashers who can shoot the 3.

X-factor: If Smith picks up Tobin on the 3-point arc, that opens the paint for Maryknoll’s slashers. Kahuku doesn’t delve too far away from its base man defense, but a few changes wouldn’t be a surprise. Or Smith might sit back in the paint until Tobin, who is more of a mid-range shooter, connects on a 3.

Punahou Buffanblu (27-4, 8-2 ILH) vs. Moanalua Na Menehune (18-12, 5-5 OIA East)
Stan Sheriff Center
7 p.m.

Seed: Unseeded. ILH runner-up. Def. McKinley 59-39 on Monday. Def. Lahainaluna 50-40 on Wednesday.
Seed: Unseeded. OIA fifth-place team. Def. Konawaena 62-52 on Monday. Def. Kalaheo 52-50 on Wednesday.

Skinny: Cinderella seems only slightly accurate when it comes to Moanalua, a talented offensive crew that has learned to grind out close games. The OIA East wasn’t loaded with Top 10 teams, but the level of play was still very good for the most part. A lot of those teams were among the Top 20 or Top 30 in the state. Moanalua might have underachieved through December and January, but has become much closer to its potential in February.

The matchups for Moanalua and Punahou were favorable in this tourney. Konawaena’s talented group is a bit young, and Moanalua pulled away after halftime to win on the road. Then came Kalaheo, a team that Moanalua beat 81-68 during the regular season.

Punahou was simply too deep and explosive for McKinley, and Lahainaluna’s size couldn’t overcome Punahou’s speed and skill. Of all the teams in the tourney, Punahou and Maryknoll have the most balance and the fewest weak spots.

Moanalua will again have to contend with a physically stronger team in the paint. From the perimeter, freshman Geremy Robinson (20 points against Kalaheo) can get hot, and sophomore center DiAeris McRaven (17 points) has been a bright spot since the ‘Iolani Classic.

Punahou’s fullcourt pressure and physical halfcourt man defense often takes away the best weapons of any opponent. Punahou’s human blur, Cole Arceneaux, will likely cover Robinson, and Coach Darren Matsuda will have Duke Clemens, Maninoa Tufono or possibly 6-5 Cole Mausolf against the young McRaven.

That leaves Caleb Casinas in a potential battle with Punahou’s savvy Zayne Chong, and a battle of point guards in Isaiah Sugiura against Hunter Hosoda.

This will be speed chess if both teams are, as expected, willing to run. If it turns into checkers, a slower tempo, Punahou’s experience and chemistry gives it an edge in the halfcourt game.

X-factor: Punahou’s bench is not the typical surplus of role players. Tamatoa Falatea can do damage as a 3-point shooter and as a defensive stopper. Moanalua will need a strong effort from Saige Pulu, who was scoreless and fouled out against Kalaheo in nine minutes. He has the skills and IQ to make a key contribution. Without it, Moanalua’s dream of advancing to the final gets much murkier. It’s been a long, long time since a team that was .500 during the regular season got this far. Getting to the title game would be borderline magical.

Division I

Match #DateMatchupTime/ScoresSite
1Feb. 12Konawaena vs. MoanaluaMoan, 62-52Konawaena
2Feb. 12Kahuku vs. KailuaKah, 54-38Kahuku
3Feb. 12Punahou vs. McKinleyPun, 59-39Punahou
4Feb. 12KS-Maui vs. KapoleiKapo, 49-34KS-Maui
5Feb. 14(1) Maryknoll vs. KapoleiMryk, 57-42Moanalua
6Feb. 14(4) KS-Hawaii vs. KahukuKah, 62-37Moanalua
7Feb. 14(2) Kalaheo vs. MoanaluaMoan, 52-50McKinley
8Feb. 14(3) Lahainaluna vs. PunahouPun, 50-40McKinley
9*Feb. 15Kapolei vs. KS-HawaiiKapo, 57-54Stan Sheriff Center
10*Feb. 15Kalaheo vs. LahainalunaLah, 61-50Stan Sheriff Center
11Feb. 15Maryknoll vs. KahukuKah, 49-43Stan Sheriff Center
12Feb. 15Moanalua vs. PunahouPun, 75-69Stan Sheriff Center
13*Feb. 16Kapolei vs. LahainalunaLah, 57-55Stan Sheriff Center
14*Feb. 16Maryknoll vs. MoanaluaMryk, 67-52Stan Sheriff Center
15Feb. 16Kahuku vs. PunahouPun, 64-37Stan Sheriff Center
* — consolation


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the Star-Advertiser's TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, email hawaiiprepworld@staradvertiser.com.