D-I preview: Kapolei a longshot against No. 1 Maryknoll

It will take an upset of the top overall seed for Kapolei and senior Kevin Burkel (31) to have this feeling again this year. Photo by Jamm Aquino/Star-Advertiser.

Here’s a look at the Division I quarterfinal matchups in the Snapple/HHSAA Boys Basketball State Championships.

Division I
Maryknoll (27-2) vs. Kapolei (18-8)
McKinley Student Council Gym
Thursday, 5 p.m.
>> Status: The Spartans are the class of the tournament in terms of talent, performance and resume. They enter the the big dance as the top seed and have been at No. 1 in the Star-Advertiser Top 10 for six weeks in a row. Oh, and they’re on a 13-game win streak.

The Hurricanes are unseeded and advanced to the quarterfinals after edging Baldwin at Jon Garcia Gymnasium 49-41 in overtime on Monday night. Kapolei is ranked No. 8 in the Top 10.

>> Vs. Top 10: Maryknoll is 16-2 against ranked teams, the highest win-loss percentage in the state. And that 13-game win streak? All 13 opponents are Top 10. That’s the ILH. When things are tough, the ILH and its beastly schedule has no mercy. When things are pristine, a thing of beauty.

Kapolei is 5-8 (.385) against Top 10 foes. Two of those wins came in the OIA playoffs against Kalani and Kahuku.

>> Skinny: Maryknoll and Kapolei met on Nov. 24 in the Matsumoto Law Group Black and Gold Classic, where the Spartans won 50-39. Since then, the Spartans have progressed as the toughest man defense in the islands, while the Hurricanes went though a lengthy stretch without PG Ja’Shon Carter (hamstring). The senior scored 24 points in the win at Baldwin, but Maryknoll’s long, physical stoppers — who included Payton Grant and Kalai‘i Akaka — thrive on shutting down playmakers.

Maryknoll isn’t adverse to low-scoring games, won’t gamble a lot, and that will give the Hurricanes a chance to stay close.

>> X-factor: Kapolei has a reliable scorer in Nathaniel Whitehurst, but with Maryknoll’s defense in alpha mode, the ‘Canes will need a stout effort on the offensive board to stay close.

>> Next: The Maryknoll-Kapolei winner will meet the Waiakea-Kailua winner in the semifinal round on Friday at Stan Sheriff Center.

Waiakea (17-3) vs. Kailua (19-12)
McKinley Student Council Gym
Thursday, 7 p.m.
>> Status: The BIIF champion Warriors enter as the fourth seed and among the three seeds, are the only league champion that has not been ranked in the Top 10 all season. In fact, the BIIF’s D-II champion, Hawaii Prep, beat Waiakea in Warriors Gymnasium 61-50 during the regular-season.

Kailua is the OIA runner-up and is ranked No. 7 in the Top 10 after a number of peaks and valleys through the season.

>> Vs. Top 10: Kailua is 9-10 (.444) against ranked opponents, including three wins over Kalaheo. The Surfriders ousted Kalaheo on Monday in the opening round.

Waiakea has faced only three Top 10 teams this season, but their one victory in that stratosphere was over Kailua during the St. Francis Classic. That 68-65 win was epic as William Soares poured in 29 points. Everett Torres-Kahapea scored just 12 points for Kailua that day as the Warriors avoided a second loss in as many days. Their loss in the first round of the the tourney was to host St. Francis in overtime, 75-72.

>> Skinny: Waiakea may be the kryptonite to Kailua’s recent Superman-level victories. It is likely that Warriors coach Paul Lee will do all he can to keep the ball out of the hands of Torres-Kahapea.

>> X-factor: The Warriors are willing to run and press — a combination Lee knows well from his star-studded career as a Hilo Viking back in the 1990s — and have the length and athleticism to battle an equally tall and fast Kailua squad. Isaiah Hopson is playing some of his best basketball of the season right now for the Surfriders, and he could be the matchup issue Waiakea has difficulty with.

>> Next: The Waiakea-Kailua victor meets the Maryknoll-Kapolei winner in the quarterfinals.

Moanalua (20-6) vs. ‘Iolani (21-11)
Moanalua gym
Thursday, 7 p.m.
>> Status: On paper, this should be the most competitive quarterfinal of the night. OIA champion Moanalua is seeded second and is ranked No. 5 in the Top 10, its highest place on the totem pole all season.

ILH third-place finisher ‘Iolani went to the Big Island on Monday and routed Hilo 72-45 in opening-round play. The strength of the ILH has been present all season. The Raiders are ranked No. 4 in this week’s Top 10.

>> Vs. Top 10: ‘Iolani is 16-11 (.593) against ranked teams and is tied with Maryknoll with the third-most wins against the Top 10. The Raiders’ most significant wins against non-Hawaii teams were over Servite (Calif.) and Diamond Bar (Calif.)

>> Skinny: These teams met during the OIA-ILH Challenge at Moanalua’s court on Dec. 8. ‘Iolani won 63-53, notching their sixth win in a row at the time. The Raiders were 7-2 at one point in the ILH regular-season before losing five of six games. They depend on 3’s — usually Sam Wheeler and/or Frank Felix — to extend leads, but their tough man defense is the cornerstone.

Moanalua will test that defense with its core of Geremy Robinson, Isaiah Sugiura and, on the offensive glass, DiAeris McRaven and Elijah McGruder. ‘Iolani can always challenge shooters on the perimeter, but sealing off the paint when shots are in the air will be a major sub-plot.

>> X-factor: Moanalua is a perfect 10-0 on its home floor, and a combined 10-6 in neutral or away gyms. The depth of perception behind Moanalua’s backboards is noticeable, and a big difference from ‘Iolani’s tight quarters. In fact, one of the Raiders’ lowest scoring outputs in February was 46 points at Kamehameha, a facility with enormous space behind the rims.

>> Next: This winner will take on the Lahainaluna-Punahou winner in Friday’s semifinal round at Stan Sheriff Center.

Lahainaluna (18-5) vs. Punahou (27-5)
Moanalua gym
Thursday, 5 p.m.
>> Status: The Lunas are seeded third as the MIL champion and ranked No. 9 in the Top 10. Though they had wins over Kalaheo and St. Francis during preseason, Lahainaluna did not crack the Top 10 until Jan. 7.

Punahou spent a good deal of time at No. 1 in the Top 10, four weeks in all, before losses to Maryknoll stacked up. As the ILH runner-up, the Buffanblu drew Kahuku in the opening round and advanced with a 64-46 win.

>> Vs. Top 10: The Buffanblu are 20-5 (.800) against ranked teams, including a 74-46 win over Lahainaluna at the St. Francis Holiday Hoops Classic. Lahainaluna is 2-4 against Top 10 opponents.

>> Skinny: The Lunas were quite tall in recent seasons, but they are closer to the statewide mean this season. Coach Jason Justus’ team still relies on disciplined offense and tough-nosed defense. They have transformed since preseason and have won 13 games in a row since losing to Mission Viejo (67-65) in late December.

>> X-factor: Punahou can send myriad defenders to the perimeter in an effort to slow Lahainaluna PG Reece Pascua. The Lunas have the skill to ward off Punahou’s relentless man defense and fullcourt pressure, but if Pascua is blanketed, where will the points come from?

>> Next: The winner will play the Moanalua-‘Iolani winner on Friday.


  1. Spartavision February 20, 2019 10:46 pm

    Never thought I’d see Kelly Grant doing a puff piece with his son on the News given his paranoia and past. Respect the confidence.

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