Noted earlier in the season that there are a few teams, very few, that can be unique when the ledger is explored.
Kaiser. The girls team is in the state tourney after qualifying for the Oahu Interscholastic Association Division I semifinals. They’ve lost to just about every Top 10 opponent they’ve faced, most by single-digit margins, and beaten almost every foe who is unranked.
The Kaiser Lady Cougars are the girls basketball litmus test, or at least one of them. You beat Kaiser, chances are you are one of the best 10 teams in the state, or could be. Lose to them, and that’s nothing to lose sleep over because Kaiser is legit.
On the boys’ side, there is a similar shape to the numbers with Moanalua, which is 1-6 against Top 10 teams, the lone win coming against Kamehameha. Against unranked opposition, Na Menehune are a perfect 12-0. In fact, they have not lost since falling at Farrington on Dec. 28.
Moanalua has won six in a row since, including a 79-71 road win over another litmus-test team, Kalaheo, and a 54-39 win road victory at Kalani. Kalaheo has been in the Top 10 for a good stretch of the season. Kalani, with an appealing resume, has not been ranked yet, but is on the cusp.
Of Moanalua’s 12 wins over unranked teams, only one has been decided by less than 10 points — a 61-56 win over Hawaii Prep. Of the six losses to ranked teams, four were by margins of 10 or more points. With the playoffs inching closer, there won’t be any OIA teams overlooking Moanalua, a team that could win the title.
In all, there are five teams statewide, including Moanalua, that have had their struggles against Top 10 teams, but have utterly dominated unranked teams.
Litmus test or not?
>> Waiakea (10-2, 6-0 BIIF). The Warriors are 1-2 against Top 10 foes and 8-0 against the unranked. The Warriors beat Kailua at the St. Francis Holiday Hoops Classic on Dec. 10. Though Kohala is on an upswing, the BIIF in general is having a middling season in terms of quality wins.
>> Kapolei (11-7, 6-0 OIA West). The Hurricanes are 1-7 against the Top 10 and 10-0 against unranked teams. The ‘Canes are scrappy, the kind of junkyard dawg team that can roll an opponent over if comes down to sheer hustle and grit. With the return of guard Ja’Shon Carter, they have pulverized the West. Kapolei was competitive without their backcourt leader while he was injured, beating Kalani, Kamehameha and Fleetwood, and losing to Punahou (71-41), Kamehameha (63-29), Farrington (81-73) and Kalaheo (60-52). The ‘Canes’ win over a Top 10 team: St. Francis, which was missing its lead guard (Kameron Ng), as well.
>> Saint Louis (8-5, 1-5 ILH). The Crusade was at full power earlier in the season as the hoopsters began 7-0. The Crusaders have lost their last five games in league play. They are 2-5 against Top 10 teams and 6-0 against unranked teams, including close wins over Kamehameha-Hawaii (65-62), Hawaii Prep (59-53) and Kauai (55-52). Margin of victory isn’t the end-all factor, but it clearly provides some sense of any team’s mettle and real status. Potential is an all together separate element. Of the Crusaders losses, two have been close: ‘Iolani (75-69) and Punahou (65-60, OT).
In other words, even as Saint Louis struggles to get back in the win column, it is probably playing better basketball now than it did during the string of wins over unranked foes.
>> Kauai (8-2, 6-0 KIF). It’s not a big sample size, but the Red Raiders are 0-2 against ranked teams and 8-0 against the rest. Their losses were close: 55-52 at Saint Louis and 62-60 against Kahuku. Kauai is a litmus test, but more so, it has been a team that has seen exactly how close it is to become a force. Losing to teams that are 1-5 in the ILH or 3-3 in the OIA East may not look spicy on paper, but the OIA and ILH are incredibly deep this season.
Kauai probably won’t be overlooked by Damien, Farrington or any other D-II state-title contenders. It has not been a cakewalk for the Red Raiders, but with two close wins over Kapaa and a decisive third victory over the Warriors, they have the league title wrapped up.
>> Kalaheo (12-13, 3-4 OIA East). The Mustangs have given Punahou two hellacious battles in three meetings, losing 81-79 and 77-71. They are 2-12 against Top 10 teams and 10-1 against the unranked. That’s a litmus-test model topped only by Moanalua, Waiakea, Kapolei and Saint Louis.
>> Lahainaluna (10-5, 5-0 MIL). The Lunas are 2-4 against the Top 10 and 8-1 against unranked opponents. Their only loss against an non-Top 10 team: Leilehua.
>> Mililani (10-6, 7-0 OIA West)
The Trojans took on a savage slate of foes in preseason, losing to Punahou, Kamehameha, Maryknoll, Mid-Pacific and Kahuku. They are 0-5 against Top 10 teams and 10-1 against the unranked.
>> St. Francis (17-13, 3-4 ILH). The Saints have had injury issues that they have either played through, or simply were forced to deal with by resting and healing. At this point, it’s clear they have become a litmus test for the many, many teams this season that are in this range between No. 5 and No. 17. The Saints are 7-12 against Top 10 teams and 10-1 against unranked teams. With and without leading scorer Kameron Ng, who is playing on a sore ankle, they have been consistently competitive. Ranked teams and unranked teams still have a major challenge trying to corral Kordel Ng.
Saints have five regular-season games left. If they reach the final of the ILH playoff tourney, that would be three more games, and should they qualify for one of the three state berths, they might play as many as four games at the state tourney. That’s an additional 11 games to the 30 they’ve played so far. It’s been quite some time since any local team has taken the court for 41 games in a season. Even if the Saints don’t make it out of the ILH playoffs, 36 or 38 games is a lot of action. A player’s dream.
>> Hawaii Prep (9-4, 7-0 BIIF). Ka Makani are 1-3 versus the Top 10 and 8-1 against unranked foes. Their lone win against a ranked team: Mid-Pacific. Their loss to an unranked team: Roosevelt. HPA has routed most opposition in the BIIF wth one exception, a 70-66 overtime win at Kohala.
>> Leilehua (13-9, 7-0 OIA West). The Mules are gaining a lot of traction lately. They are 2-7 against the Top 10 with wins over Lahainaluna and Farrington. They are 11-2 against unranked opposition.
>> Kailua (14-9, 6-1 OIA East). The Surfriders are 6-7 against Top 10 teams and 8-2 against unranked foes. The two losses to unranked teams, Baldwin and Waiakea, were by a combined margin of seven points. Of the seven losses to ranked teams, only three were by double-digit margins: Punahou, nationally-ranked Oak Ridge (Fla.) and Farrington. That says more about the potency of Farrington than anything. Kailua isn’t so much a litmus-test team — only a half-dozen teams statewide have more wins over Top 10 opponents — but a squad that is teetering on the verge of becoming a viable state-title contender.
>> Kahuku (12-7, 3-3 OIA East). The Red Raiders are 1-5 against the Top 10 and 11-2 against everyone else. Of all the litmus-test teams listed here, they’re the toughest to gauge now that they’re winning close games against very competitive teams on the road.
>> Kalani (12-5, 5-2 OIA East). The Falcons are 1-3 against the Top 10, posting their first win over a ranked team last week (Kalaheo). They are 11-2 against unranked teams, losing to Leilehua and Kapolei.
>> Campbell (11-12, 3-3 OIA West). The Sabers are 1-5 against Top 10 teams and 10-2 against the rest. The lone win against a ranked foe: Farrington (51-49) on Dec. 20 at the ‘Iolani Classic.
Examining the resumes of dozens of teams, it’s definite that each has a thumbprint of its own with each passing game. There are powerhouses that have simply beaten basically everyone, ranked or unranked. There are teams like Farrington that have completely original tracks, losing to unranked teams with some regularity in December, then going all-in after Christmas with some serious superteam juju. If you beat Farrington, you’re not just a good team. You probably are or will be in the Top 5.