Hoopbook: Perhaps the strongest D-II field in history

Kaiser and Farrington are both capable of making a run in the Division II state tournament, which is as tough across the board as maybe ever according to Paul Honda. Photo by Bruce Asato/Star-Advertiser.

Here’s a look at the Division II bracket of the Snapple/HHSAA Boys Basketball State Championships, which tips off on Thursday.

The eight-team field makes it tight quarters with no room for slippage compared to the 12-team fields in boys D-I, and the girls D-I and D-II brackets.

Division II
Damien (25-2) vs. Kohala (13-3)
Kalani gym
Thursday, 7 p.m.
>> Status: Damien is the top seed in this tourney. The ILH champion Monarchs are the team to beat, a D-II powerhouse this season that has beaten eight D-I teams, all that were ranked this season. Their wins over St. Francis and Kalaheo to begin the season opened some eyes, but a 65-57 victory over powerhouse Punahou on Nov. 26 alerted the rest of the state. Damien also has a win over Maryknoll, currently the top-ranked team in the state, as well as the top seed in the D-I tourney.

The Monarchs opened the season at No. 1 in the Top 10 and is currently No. 3.

BIIF runner-up Kohala is having one of its best seasons, the one team that came closest to beating the BIIF’s only unbeaten team, Hawaii Prep. Kohala lost that game at home in overtime, 70-66. Last week, HPA defeated Kohala for the BIIF D-II title, 78-58.

>> Vs. Top 10: Damien is 8-2 (.800) against ranked foes. Kohala has not played a ranked team yet.

>> Skinny: On paper, the Monarchs have been more battle-tested in league play and state-tourney action. Several current Monarchs played in the D-II state final last season, a loss to St. Francis. The goal this season was to seize the D-II crown, so the Monarchs declared their team in D-II last June. Only after their early wins over Top 10 teams did they, and coach Alvin Stephenson, realize that they would’ve been a better fit in D-I.

Kohala could spoil the Monarchs’ season. There is more than enough firepower coming from the Cowboys, but this will probably be their toughest matchup by far. Damien has the kind of backcourt talent and toughness that HPA has, and the front court is athletic and skilled. The combo of Jake Holtz and Bryce Forbes is among the best statewide regardless of division.

>> X-factor: Damien has not played since Feb. 2. Since winning the ILH, they had a bye through the ILH D-II playoffs.

>> Next: The Damien-Kohala winner will meet the Seabury Hall-Kaiser winner on Friday at Kalani in the semifinal round. Damien has played in the final just once (2018). Kohala reached the semifinal round in ’07, ’09, ’14 and ’15. The Cowboys lost in the ’07 final against McKinley.

Seabury Hall (18-8) vs. Kaiser (19-14)
Kalani gym
Thursday, 5 p.m.
>> Status: Fourth-seeded Seabury Hall went 9-0 in MIL D-II, beat Molokai in the opening round of the playoffs, then lost to Lanai. The Spartans then beat the Pine Lads for the MIL title, 54-37. The Spartans had an interesting preseason, beating Kapaa, Molokai, Kealakehe, Baldwin and St. Thomas More, and losing to Kalani, University, Mission Viejo (Calif.), Rex Putnam, St. Francis and Wilsonville (Ore.). The most telling losses: 43-41 to Maui and 43-40 to University.

OIA runner-up Kaiser, like Seabury Hall, was unranked through the season, but very competitive. With the departure of their starting center, the Cougars all had to pick up the slack. Sophomores Mario Drummer and Kenji Toyama emerged as reliable scorers.

>> Vs. Top 10: Kaiser was 3-7 (.300) against Top 10 foes, beating Kahuku, Farrington and Kalani. They were also 16-7 against unranked teams, losing to Punahou II, Radford, Hilo, HBA, Kaimuki and Roosevelt. The Spartans were 0-5 against ranked teams and 18-3 against unranked foes.

>> Skinny: Their common opponent is Kalani. Kaiser edged the Falcons 41-38 on Jan. 26. Seabury Hall lost to Kalani 62-37 on Dec. 7 at Baldwin’s Kaapuni Invitational.

>> X-factor: Seabury Hall did not play off-island until the MIL playoffs. Kaiser will have a bit of a home-island advantage. Kalani’s gym is just six miles away from Kaiser.

Farrington (15-9) vs. Kauai (18-10)
St. Francis gym
Thursday, 7 p.m.
>> Status: The OIA champion Governors are seeded second. They enter the state tournament ranked No. 10 in the Top 10. Farrington was ranked as high as No. 5 during the regular season after stunning Moanalua, Kalaheo, Kahuku and Kailua, all Top 10 teams. KIF champion Kauai was highly competitive at the Walter Wong Invitational, losing to Saint Louis 55-52 and Kahuku 62-60. The Red Raiders beat Radford 56-34 and University 54-50, then went 12-0 in KIF play.

>> Vs. Top 10: Kauai is 0-2 against ranked opponents. Farrington is 4-4 against Top 10 teams.

>> Skinny: Farrington’s hot start in OIA play, seven wins in a row, came to an end with a 62-53 loss at Kaiser. Then coach Steven Leopoldo was sidelined as administration investigated a parent’s complaint. He returned roughly two weeks later as the Governors defeated Kaiser 56-43 for the OIA crown. Farrington’s blend of speed, size and experience are difficult for any D-I foe to match. Point center Raefe McEnroe is having a stellar season with double-double statistics almost every night.

>> X-factor: Kauai’s speed will be a factor. The Governors are always willing to run, but have the interior passing and size with McEnroe, Christian Havea and Pono Roberts, to outmuscle any team in this bracket.

>> Next: The winner will meet the Hawaii Prep-University winner on Friday at Kalani.

Hawaii Prep (16-4) vs. University (13-10)
St. Francis gym
Thursday, 5 p.m.
>> Status: The BIIF champion Ka Makani showed plenty of potential during preseason, battling Saint Louis in a 59-53 loss, losing to Moanalua 61-56 and beating Mid-Pacific 38-32 at the ‘Iolani Classic. They went 12-0 in the BIIF, including a 61-50 road win over Waiakea. University placed second in the ILH with a close win over Hawaii Baptist in the playoffs.

>> Vs. Top 10: ULS is 0-5 against ranked teams, including two losses to ILH champion Damien. HPA Is 1-3 against Top 10 teams.

>> Skinny: Ka Makani coach Fred Wawner has a rugged, fast backcourt, but one of the questions he had in preseason was whether talented big man Valentinas Ulinas, a 6-5 junior, would become a great rebounder. It wasn’t a surprise that D-II HPA was the best team outright in the BIIF. They won the D-II state title in ’14 under Wawner.

The Jr. ‘Bows have depended on 6-2, 290-pound senior center Leif Fautanu, who will play football at UNLV this fall. Coach Ryan Tong’s team has as much patience and discipline offensive as any team in the tourney.

>> X-factor: Hawaii Prep is no stranger to distant tournaments, having played in the ‘Iolani Classic and Cardinal Classic. Fautanu’s ability to score on the block will test HPA’s taller, but slimmer, post defenders.

Next: The winner will play the Farrington-Kauai winner on Friday at Kalani.


  1. ??? February 21, 2019 2:27 pm

    Just give Damien the KOA Trophy already..

  2. JetWavy February 21, 2019 7:57 pm

    Yeah, seriously. Could’ve saved everyone’s time and gave Damien the D2 trophy back in December.

  3. Tokotoko February 21, 2019 10:04 pm

    I think Farrington will be a legit test for Damien should they beat HPA who got past a very scrappy and tough University team tonight. They have a nice balance of guard play and post presence. I like Seabury’s play, but think the Monarch’s have too much fire power on their side.

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