The 16-team boys field at the Punahou Invitational has funneled into a final four that includes the host Buffanblu.
Punahou (8-6) ousted Thunder Mountain (Alaska) 64-46 on Friday night. The Buffanblu will face La Jolla Country Day (Calif.), which reached the semifinal round by defeating Sacramento Adventist (Calif.) 64-49. Punahou and La Jolla tip off at 8 p.m.
In the other semifinal, San Marcos (Calif.) and Science Hill (Tenn.) will meet in a 5 p.m. tip-off.
Hanalani 59, Punahou II 43
Kamehameha-Hawaii 49, Hamamatsu Tech (Japan) 43
Hawaii Baptist 52, ‘Iolani II 39
Hilo 75, Le Jardin 38
La Jolla Country Day (Calif.) 64, Sacramento Adventist (Calif.) 49
San Marcos (Calif.) 48, Sequoia (Calif.) 43
Science Hill (Tenn.) 75, Saint Louis II 23
Punahou 64, Thunder Mountain (Alaska) 46
9:30 a.m. Punahou II vs. Le Jardin
11 a.m. ‘Iolani II vs. Hamamatsu Tech
12:30 p.m. Hanalani vs. Hilo
2 p.m. Kamehameha-Hawaii vs. Hawaii Baptist
3:30 p.m. Sequoia vs. Saint Louis II
5 p.m. San Marcos vs. Science Hill
6:30 p.m. Sacramento Adventist vs. Thunder Mountain
8 p.m. Punahou vs. La Jolla Country Day
Waiakea maintains edge on rival Hilo
Defending BIIF girls basketball champion Waiakea remained unbeaten in league play with a 55-52 road win over Hilo on Thursday. A big gift from the Vikings: 12-for-27 shooting at the foul line, according to Kevin Jakahi of the Tribune-Herald.
For Hilo, which also lost at home to Konawaena recently, the 2-2 start to BIIF play means it will be extra tough to earn the regular-season crown and the automatic state-tournament berth.
No. 4 Waiakea doesn’t play again until Jan. 10 in a home game against Keaau. The Warriors, guided by new coach Alika Smith, don’t play Konawaena until Jan. 21. That will be a road game for the Warriors.
Waimea evens the score and more
The Menehunes of Waimea are back on track. With a 68-63 win over Kauai, they are now 4-1 in KIF girls basketball play, including three wins in a row to seal the first-round title. Two of the wins are over Kauai, the same team that upset Waimea 67-66 three weeks ago.
The development of youth basketball on the Garden Island, particularly on the west side, is making a direct impact on KIF girls hoops. Waimea reached the semifinals of the Division II state tourney last season before losing to eventual champion Hawaii Baptist.
None of the final four of last year’s D-II state tourney is having an easy time in 2019-20. HBA trails Mid-Pacific, Sacred Hearts and Hanalani in the ILH D-II standings. Waimea has responded well to early adversity. Seabury Hall, which reached the final, is dominating MIL D-II and has already played D-I Punahou (49-42 loss), HBA (33-29 win), Radford (43-42 win). The Spartans have also split with another D-I program, Maui.
Radford is off to a 5-0 start in the OIA West, where D-I and D-II teams play a single-round robin slate in the regular season before splitting off for the postseason. Coach Charles Chong’s squad could have become complacent, but in the middle of the December schedule, the Lady Rams played in the ‘Iolani Classic. They absorbed lopsided losses against No. 1 ‘Iolani and No. 3 Kamehameha, then lost to OIA East powerhouse Kahuku 54-49.
If there’s a litmus test for teams that have dreams of reaching the state tourney, it may be Radford (8-5). The Rams’ losses have been to Mid-Pacific (42-36), Seabury Hall (43-42) and the games at the ‘Iolani Classic.
The ledger is, perhaps, a foretelling of the future. Kalani lost to Radford by a close margin (30-26). So did Moanalua (57-54) and Sacred Hearts (40-34). Mililani lost to Radford 42-40.
So we have this. The top team in the OIA West is not in the Star-Advertiser Top 10. Not even a single vote from the panel of coaches and media. Kahuku is No. 8. Seabury Hall and Mid-Pacific are the two teams that “also received votes.” Fair enough.
The lower half of the Top 10 will likely shuffle a bit with No. 9 King Kekaulike (11-1, 4-1 MIL) losing at Maui (7-3, 4-1). How much that changes is debatable. Maui already has a win over Seabury Hall, a team that was at No. 10 for two weeks.
Do voters value King Kekaulike’s historic win over Lahainaluna more than Maui’s win over King Kekaulike? Maui is the only team in the MIL with at least two wins over ranked teams. But the Sabers also have a 26-point home loss to Lahainaluna.
That musical-chairs element to the MIL this season is fun, but it also may open the door for another upstart: Mid-Pacific. The Owls are 13-2, 4-0 in ILH D-II play, and knocked off Hanalani — which reached the state semifinals last season — a week ago.
MPI lost to Kahuku 36-24 in mid-November, but later beat Radford, then lost 33-32 to Mililani eight days later. The Owls also have a 26-24 win over Sacred Hearts, another litmus-test team.
So what about KS-Hawaii and Nanakuli?
The Warriors are 4-0 in BIIF girls hoops action and 7-1 overall. They beat Roosevelt 36-31 on a neutral court (King Kekaulike tournament), and defeated Nanakuli (42-36) and Kapolei (45-21) in the same event.
They also lost to KS-Maui (49-43) and were not challenged in BIIF play until Friday night in a close 59-53 win at Honokaa. (Dominique Pacheco scored a career-high 40 points in the win. See Matt Gerhart’s story in the Tribune-Herald.)
Roosevelt is currently 11-2 and 5-0 in the OIA East. Nanakuli is 5-0 in the OIA West (8-5 overall).
Nanakuli (8-5, 5-0 OIA West) is a team on the cusp. There are nonconference, preseason losses to Roosevelt (38-34) and Kapolei (41-39). There was an 85-36 loss to King Kekaulike. Then came the ever-friendly OIA West schedule and double-digit wins over Campbell, Pearl City, Aiea, Waialua and Waianae.
Does this mean KS-Hawaii would also be unbeaten in the OIA West? Probably.
Nanakuli’s road will ramp up in these final four games of the regular season: at Leilehua (Jan. 3), Mililani (Jan. 7), at Radford (Jan. 10) and at Waipahu (Jan. 16).
What about Castle?
The Castle Knights (10-2) have won nine of their last 10 games. The one non-league loss was against Waipahu, 49-39, at Castle. There is a two-point win over Farrington. A five-point win over Kailua. Two of Castle’s wins are over ILH D-III programs. The OIA East was once a superpower. Times have changed, but the opportunity is there for a program to vault into prominence.
Castle (6-0 OIA East) has its chance here, and like Nanakuli, the schedule toughens up down the stretch: at Kaiser (Jan. 3), Kahuku (Jan. 7), at Kalani (Jan. 10), Moanalua (Jan. 14), at Roosevelt (Jan. 16).
The problem with rankings, sometimes, is that they don’t tell us how close or how far one team is from another though they are next to each other on a list.
This season, girls basketball has a clear delineation.
Yokozuna: ‘Iolani, Konawaena, Kamehameha, Waiakea.
Ozeki: Punahou, Maryknoll, Hilo.
Sekiwake: Kahuku, King Kekaulike, Lahainaluna.
Komusubi: Maui, Seabury Hall, Mid-Pacific, Waimea.
Maegashira: Sacred Hearts, Hanalani, Mililani, Hawaii Baptist, Kauai.
Even here, there is a different overtone. Wind the clock back to the 2000s, and it’s possible that there would be as few as two teams at the highest level, or as many as five, particularly after Iwalani Rodrigues transferred from Roosevelt to Kalani.
Among the current “yokozuna”, Konawaena and Kamehameha lost to ‘Iolani by more than 30 points. Waiakea has not played ‘Iolani.
The only team to lead ‘Iolani at the half this season is Punahou, which has also lost to Konawaena and Kamehameha.