With St. Francis moving up from Division II to D-I, the Interscholastic League of Honolulu now has three berths in the D-I state championships.
It’s a godsend for a league that has long been underrepresented in terms of quality programs. Often enough, there are four to five Top 10 teams in ILH D-I, and only two teams permitted to represent the league at the state tourney because of the HHSAA by-laws, which follow a mathematical formula for each league’s participation.
Even this year, it won’t be fully equitable in the eyes of many fans. The top six teams in the Star-Advertiser Boys Basketball Top 10 are from the ILH, including D-II Damien. But that’s not a concern of the Oahu Interscholastic Association. Nor is it an issue for the Maui Interscholastic League and Big Island Interscholastic Federation.
One thing is certain. The ILH will have an automatic D-I state berth for its regular-season first-place finisher, and that team will also have a berth in the league final. The other two state berths will be determined through the playoff tournament, which will include all seven teams, according to Mid-Pacific coach Ryan Hirata.
The final regular-season game is played on Feb. 4 with a possible playoff for the regular-season title on Feb. 6 (if necessary). The single-elimination tournament starts on Feb. 7 with only the regular-season champion receiving a bye.
The semifinals will be played on Feb. 9 and the championship on Feb. 11. Any tiebreakers would be played on Feb. 13, giving teams at least five days of rest before the start of the state tournament on Feb. 18.
Two years ago, three teams (Maryknoll, ‘Iolani, Punahou) tied for first place during the regular season.
In order to figure out tiebreakers, ‘Iolani had to play five games in seven days and Punahou had three games in four days before states.
“There are usually a lot of games to determine who goes to states. I don’t really care for that schedule because it takes a toll on your team, not to mention the (increased) possibility of injuries,” Maryknoll coach Kelly Grant said. “I get that the league wants to make sure we have a true representation entering the state tournament. I just wish there was a better system.”
The ILH hasn’t sent three teams to the Division I state tournament since 2012, when Academy of the Pacific was in the league.