Hoopbook: ‘Iolani tops Servite at California tourney

'Iolani’s Devan Fujinaka (10) handled the basketball as Montverde’s Dariq Whitehead (0) tried to defend during the 'Iolani Classic last year. The Raiders will host Mater Dei this week for a series of summer league games. Photo by Cindy Ellen Russell/Star-Advertiser.

The ‘Iolani Raiders are off to a strong start in The Classic at Damien (Calif.) with a 47-41 win over Servite (Calif.).

The Raiders, ranked No. 1 in the Star-Advertiser Boys Basketball Top 10, will play Diamond Bar (Calif.) today in a Silver Division quarterfinal. The Brahmas defeated Maranatha (Calif.) 60-48 in their opener.

UPDATE Thursday, noon Noah Bumanglag’s corner 3 at the buzzer has lifted ‘Iolani to a 58-56 comeback win over Diamond Bar. The Raiders had trailed 44-34 after three quarters.

Holiday journeys
The regular season is in full blast for girls hoops, but that hasn’t stopped at least one team from taking a journey of a lifetime to the Beltway.

No. 1 ‘Iolani is in Washington D.C. for the Title IX DC Classic and begins play today against host and National Christian Academy, the nation’s No. 9-ranked team. The game will begin 4:30 p.m., EST. The Raiders are in the highest-tiered division, the Pat Summit bracket.

Assistant coach Cy Ohta penned this after day one.

“Girls battled hard today, but fell 63-55 to NCA. Our shooting was a off early, but we were up eight (points) in the early part of the second quarter. We gave up too many 2nd chance points which eventually came back to haunt us. Good experience for us dealing with those longer, athletic girls on the glass. Girls gave a good effort and have nothing to be ashamed about.

“We play at 6 p.m. tomorrow against Pickerington High School who was the Ohio state champion last year. They have a 5-7 guard named Madison Greene who has committed to Penn State, a 6-0 forward named Maliya Perry who has signed with Auburn, and a 5-11 sophomore named Skye Williams who has 16 Division I offers including Iowa State & Wake Forest.

“Girls will be attending a conference from 10 to 10:30 a.m. tomorrow and then we may take them to an indoor mall to hangout and eat. We’ll start to do some sightseeing either on the 29th or 30th.

“Hopefully the weather stays as nice as it was today.”

‘Iolani (14-3, 5-1 ILH) played national and regional powerhouses during the ‘Iolani Classic two weeks ago, losing to Pinewood (Calif.) and Clovis West (Calif.). Pinewood was ranked No. 12 by USA Today before the Classic.

It is also a busy holiday season for the boys at Hawaii Baptist and Mid-Pacific. MPI (4-4, 0-0 ILH) began play in the Tustin Holiday Classic on Wednesday and lost to Compton (Calif.) 60-43.

HBA fell to Menlo (Calif.) 65-43 on Wednesday and will take on Apple Valley today at Orange High School. Menlo is where current HBA coach George Weeks coached in the late 1990s and early ‘00s.

HBA’s girls will meet Costa Mesa (Calif.) or Garden Grove (Calif.) in a game at Garden Grove, 1:30 p.m. PST. The Eagles lost to Laguna Hills (Calif.) 51-34 on Wednesday.

Boxed in, boxed out
Most seasons, the OIA’s geographically-based divisional standings have overlap. There are usually one or a few teams from Division II that have better records than their D-I neighbors.

It’s not the case in the East. All seven girls D-I teams possess the seven best records in league play, while the four worst records are owned by D-II teams. The exception is Castle (3-3), a D-II team with the same record as McKinley.

Since the teams split into D-I and D-II for the classification-based playoffs, this means a team in the OIA East may finish with a .500 league record, yet miss the playoffs. Even though six of the seven D-I teams will qualify for a playoff berth.

With six games left in league play, Kahuku (6-0), Kalani (5-1) and Kaiser (5-1) have the inside track. Roosevelt (4-2) has an edge on the rest of the pack. Moanalua notched a key win over Kaimuki on Wednesday night and is now tied with the Bulldogs at 4-3. McKinley is in the hunt at 3-3.

Which team will miss the playoffs? Kaimuki missed Sonia Palik on Wednesday and has forged through the season sometimes with as few as five players in uniform. Moanalua has more depth and a go-to scorer in Raven Rosa-Lasco down the stretch. McKinley showed a lot of potential in preseason and has enough parts, from defense to long-range shooting to overall quickness, to overcome a general lack of size.

The West doesn’t have the parity of the East in D-I. Waipahu, a D-II team, is 4-1 in West play. In fact, there are four D-I teams with records of 4-1 or better. The top six, the teams with an edge in the race for the six playoff berths, are clear-cut at this point with Campbell (0-5) in seventh place behind sixth-place Waianae (2-4).

In one sense, six teams making the playoffs out of seven squads seems extravagant, but the OIA format has often been about second chances, particularly late in the season. The East scenario will provide plenty of drama in the standings and great competition on the court. It will also create heartbreak for that seventh-place team at the end of the regular season.

Super 6
It’s been some time since six teams from one league occupied the first six positions of the Boys Basketball Top 10.

Punahou, Iolani, Damien, Maryknoll, St. Francis, Saint Louis… and at No. 10, the young Warriors of Kamehameha. That’s seven teams, total, from the ILH among the 10. There’s also Mid-Pacific, which was ranked until this week.

There is more balance in the Girls Basketball Top 10, where Lahainaluna (No. 2), Konawaena (No. 5), Kalani (No. 6), Waiakea (No. 8), Hilo (No. 9) and Mililani (No. 10) infiltrate the poll. It’s likely to stay like this in the 2018-19 season. Only three other teams received votes that aren’t in the Top 10 unlike the boys poll, which has seven schools in the “also receiving votes” sub-group.

Whether it’s the pull of soccer (in season), or. Year-round club volleyball, softball and other sports, the depth of quality girls basketball teams statewide has seemingly peaked. Baldwin was once an MIL girls hoops powerhouse, but hasn’t been the same since the years of Kami Kapaku (2004 all-state first team). Kalaheo is nowhere close to its dynastic years when Brandy Richardson was three-time state player of the year. Sharon Wahinekapu. Taylor Smith. Historic champions of yesteryear rarely sustain the success. University High, with Lisa Mann, was a two-time state champion in the 80s, remains competitive, but in D-II.

Pearl City was once the crown holder in the OIA back in the years of Coach Mike Morton. Some programs are still quite competitive, but not quite in title-contending mode for the past few seasons. Roosevelt. Honokaa. Kailua. McKinley. Farrington. Seabury Hall in D-II. Kamehameha-Hawaii, last year’s D-II state champion, is rebuilding and is 2-4 in BIIF play, trailing first-place Ka“u.

Even Punahou, which won four D-I state titles in a span of eight seasons under then-coach Mike Taylor, has endured some ups and downs.

At one point in the 00’s, the top five teams from the BIIF were comparable or better than the top five from the ILH. The depth of talent among elite players hasn’t dropped — though it’s never easy to match the likes of Nani Cockett (Kamehameha), Shawna-Lei Kuehu (Punahou), Richardson and other legendary players. Compare an all-state Fab 15 from a decade ago to now, and it’s similar enough, even better today from 1 through 15.

But the Top 10 reflects the groupings of talent from across the islands, school to school. Right now, Beyond Konawaena, Hilo and Waiakea, there isn’t a fourth powerhouse in the BIIF. Yet. Beyond Lahainaluna, there isn’t a second challenger in the MIL, though there are believers in the Maui Sabers.

Even ILH D-II isn’t quite the same this season. HBA misses all-world Ally Wada. St. Francis is competing, but lost several talented players to graduation.

All of which underlines the present. There are more than a dozen teams that could surprise between now and the end of the state tourney. Works in progress.

Cycles happen. Opportunity is there for the young teams that want it. At one time, Konawaena was nothing more than a BIIF contender that made the occasional visit to the state tournament. Since then, Coach Bobbie Awa’s teams have won nine out of the last 15 D-I state championships with a list of all-state players unmatched over that time span.

Though programs often don’t have long-term head coaches, most teams have enough talent to compete. Only a few will overachieve for years, not just one season, and lay the ground work for a dynasty.

And finally…
A matchup between 5-1 Kalani and 5-1 Kaiser tips off tonight at the Lady Falcons’ gym. On paper, this is a battle for second place in the OIA East, to stay within one game of Kahuku (6-0). Kaiser has emerged as a force thanks to solid guard play and the consistent rebounding of Taeya Blakeney and Stephanie Canon. Will they have what it takes to beat the talented Falcons?

The top two teams in the East will get a first-round bye in the playoffs, so this game carries significant weight. For Kalani, the return of Kamalu Kamakawiwo‘ole is timely.


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