Kamehameha-Leilehua, Moanalua-Damien headline state quarterfinals

Kamehameha will attempt to win its first state title since 2011 as the No. 1 seed. Photo by Steven Erler/Special to the Star-Advertiser.

Day 2 can be a dream come true for underdogs at the Snapple/HHSAA Boys Basketball State Championships.

But, as day turns into evening, it can be a nightmare for the favorites. From No. 1 seed Kamehameha in the Division I bracket to No. 1 Hawaii Prep in D-II, wearing the bull’s-eye target is far from a guarantee of ultimate success. Here’s a look at how top seeds have fared in recent seasons.

Top seed: Maryknoll. Result: champion. Runner-up: Punahou (unseeded).
Top seed: Damien. Result: champion. Runner-up: Farrington (seeded second).

Top seed: Maryknoll. Result: third place (lost to Kahuku in semifinal). Champion: Punahou (unseeded).
Top seed: St. Francis. Result: champion. Runner-up: Damien (unseeded).

Top seed: Kahuku. Result: champion. Runner-up: Punahou (seeded second).
Top seed: St. Francis. Result: champion. Runner-up: Kalani (seeded third).

Top seed: ‘Iolani. Result: champion. Runner-up: Punahou (unseeded).
Top seed: St. Francis. Result: third place (lost to Seabury Hall in semifinal). Champion: University (unseeded).

Top seed: Punahou. Result: sixth place (lost to Kalaheo in quarterfinal). Champion: Kalaheo (unseeded). Runner-up: ‘Iolani (unseeded).
Top seed: Pahoa. Result: sixth place (lost to Kalani in quarterfinal). Champion: Kaiser (seeded second). Runner-up: Kalani.

Top seed: ‘Iolani. Result: champion. Runner-up: Farrington (seeded second).
Top seed: St. Francis. Result: sixth place (lost to Kalani in quarterfinal). Champion: Hawaii Prep (unseeded). Runner-up: Kalani.

Top seed: Maryknoll. Result: runner-up. Champion: Kalaheo (seeded second).
Top seed: St. Francis. Result: champion. Runner-up: Kailua (seeded second).

Top seed: Punahou. Result: champion. Runner-up: Kahuku (seeded second).
Top seed: Kalaheo. Result: champion. Runner-up: McKinley (unseeded).

Top seed: ‘Iolani. Result: runner-up. Champion: Kamehameha (unseeded).
Top seed: Farrington. Result: champion. Runner-up: Pahoa (seeded second).

Top seed: ‘Iolani. Result: champion. Runner-up: Kamehameha (unseeded).
Top seed: Roosevelt. Result: sixth place (lost to Kapaa in quarterfinal). Champion: Pahoa (unseeded). Runner-up: Kailua (unseeded).

Though the top seed has won three of the last four state tournaments in D-I and D-II, stretch it back a decade and the process provides much more mystery. Only 11 of the 20 top seeds since 2010 have taken home the championship trophy. Just 55 percent.

Here’s a look at tonight’s battles.

Kamehameha (26-5, seeded first) vs. Leilehua (18-6), 7 p.m
McKinley bracket
On paper: The Warriors were remarkable in ILH play with a 13-0 record in the ILH gauntlet. Six of the seven D-I programs were ranked in the Star-Advertiser Top 10. Yet, the Warriors are human. Sort of.

They were 13-5 against ranked competition, Two of those losses were to Hawaii teams: Maryknoll, ranked second in the Top 10, and Kaiser. The asterisk on the loss to Kaiser, a good team, is because of this: starters Christmas Togiai and Bailey Lee were on the Big Island for a Christmas concert glee club performance.

Kamehameha enters as the No. 1 team in the Top 10. Leilehua is No. 6. The Mules are 6-1 in away games and 6-5 on neutral courts. They were also 4-6 against Top 10 opponents with wins over Mid-Pacific, Saint Louis, Kaiser and Kalaheo.

Skinny: With Kordel Ng slashing through defenses, Togiai brings a grown man’s sensibilities to the game. Too swift for bigs. Too strong for quick guards. At 6 feet and roughly 200 pounds, Togiai is basically positionless. A matchup issue to the nth degree.

A year ago, Kamehameha was talented, deep and very young. The Warriors were 13-13, including 2-9 in the ILH, but the potential was there. This season, coach Larry Park had the luxury of balance in this roster, from tenacious, tough on-ball defenders to long-range shooters to rim protectors Xavier Lever (6-5), EJ Kapihe (6-4) and Lee (6-3).

Leilehua went to the Big Island and routed Waiakea, 82-53, on Monday. Logan Lasell (20 points), Landyn Jumawan (19, seven steals) and Devon Newman (13, six assists, four steals) led the way. Coach Chad Townsend did not have a starter play more than 25 minutes. Big man Ariel Palmer (eight points, five rebounds) clocked out after just 15 minutes of action.

Kamehameha’s depth and commitment to on-ball coverage over all 94 feet are unmatched. Park’s apprenticeship under former coach James Winchester, along with tweaks to other aspects of the Warriors’ package, make this a difficult machine to stop for the Mules.

X-factor: Kamehameha’s free-throw shooting has been mediocre with most of the starting five below 60 percent. If the Warriors improve to 70 percent in this tourney, turn out the lights.

Pupule pick: Warriors 55, Mules 47. Leilehua’s length and athleticism match up well with Kamehameha.

Next: Winner plays the Baldwin-Kahuku winner in the semifinals, Thursday, 5 p.m., at Stan Sheriff Center.

Baldwin (13-7, seeded fourth) vs. Kahuku (17-6), 5 p.m.
McKinley bracket
On paper: Kahuku avenged a regular-season ending loss to Kaiser by trouncing the Cougars 55-37 on Monday. Big Red finished its home slate a perfect 10-0 and is 4-4 on neutral courts. They were 4-5 against Top 10 competition, splitting with Moanalua and defeating Kalaheo, Leilehua and Kaiser.

Baldwin is a regular visitor to the Surfrider Holiday Classic at Kailua each preseason. The Bears are 0-3 against Top 10 competition, losing to Kamehameha once and Kailua twice. They also have losses to Kohala, Konawaena, Maui and Lahainaluna.

The high-scoring Bears lost at home to Lahainaluna late in the regular season, 70-63, then closed out with four wins a row by an average margin of 19.5 points. That included an 80-67 win over Lahainaluna for the league crown.

Kahuku won the state title in 2017 under current coach Brandyn Akana and placed second in ’18. MIL champion Baldwin has not been to the semifinal round since ’12.

Kahuku enters this matchup ranked fifth in the Top 10. Baldwin is unranked and did not receive a vote in this week’s poll. Among the seeded teams, the Bears are one of two underdogs in this round.

Skinny: Kahuku center Oscar Cheng has asserted himself in a big way. The senior had 24 points and 17 rebounds against Moanalua in the OIA final, and scored 16 points in a win over Leilehua, including the game-winner with 1.8 seconds left.

X-factor: Kahuku seemed invincible after Robbie Sauvao transferred back home after spending football season in California. The Red Raiders then struggled against Moanalua’s fullcourt pressure in the OIA final. Cheng can be a lighthouse for Kahuku against pressure, but how much can they ask him to do without running his tank empty?

Pupule pick: Red Raiders 71, Bears 66. Lokana Enos is a tough matchup as a 6-3, 220 wing who can hit the 3 and attack the basket.

Next: Winner plays the Kamehameha-Leilehua winner, Thursday, 5 p.m., at SSC.

Moanalua (18-9, seeded second) vs. Damien (18-14)
Moanalua bracket
On paper: Easily the most intriguing, possibly the most entertaining of the quarterfinal square-offs. Moanalua roared to the OIA title last week and is now No. 3 in the Top 10. Damien eked out a state berth through the tumult of ILH playoff action and is now No. 4.

There is talent galore on either side. Moanalua’s Geremy Robinson has elevated his all-around game and center DiAeris McRaven is among the premier shot blockers in the state. Na Menehune has shooters, distributors and core role players like Kyle Hughley and Elijah McGruder. They are more physical and cohesive in tough games with a nucleus that has been together for two to three seasons.

Damien has an athletic, versatile core with 6-7 Bryce Forbes, 6-5 Tino Atonio and 6-3 Jake Holtz. The edge at the point goes to Damien’s Hayden Bayudan, though he will be consistently challenged by Moanalua’s scrappy, quick Tyler Ybay.

Skinny: Moanalua has been on a quest, albeit bumpy, since falling in the quarterfinal round last season. Damien won the D-II state title a year ago. As a team that was one of the few to beat eventual D-I champion Maryknoll back then, this is now the payoff year for the Monarchs.

X-factor: First-year head coach Michael Johnson has asked for and received defensive work from Na Menehune. Damien coach Alvin Stephenson always expects excellence on defense from his Monarchs. Depending on how this is officiated, there could be a lot of disqualifications, or this could be a stalemate. Atonio’s 3-point range and ballhandling skills will keep Bayudan fresh and aggressive to the bucket.

Pupule pick: Monarchs 57, Na Menehune 56.

Next: Winner plays the KS-Hawaii/Maryknoll winner on Thursday, 7 p.m., at SSC.

Kamehameha-Hawaii (14-7, seeded third) vs. Maryknoll (27-4)
Moanalua bracket
On paper: KS-Hawaii has played two Top 10 teams, losing to Waiakea and Hawaii Prep. Maryknoll has played 21 games against ranked teams, winning 17. The Spartans are 11-1 on neutral courts and are ranked No. 2 in the Top 10. KS-Hawaii has been unranked all season.

Skinny: The Warriors seemed to be a good, competitive squad that just hadn’t built a strong resume for most of the season. Losses to Hilo, ‘Iolani, Waiakea, Thunder Mountain (Alaska), Hawaii Baptist, Kohala, Hawaii Prep. Then came the BIIF playoffs and back-to-back 5-hour, round-trip bus rides to Kealakehe’s gym, where the Warriors earned a state berth and BIIF title.

Underlining a championship season, however, is this simple fact: the Warriors have not beaten a ranked team yet. They’re the underdogs with nothing to lose and everything to gain. Izayah Chartrand-Penera, Darius Olloway and Koby Tabuyo-Kahele can provide scoring punch, but can the Warriors be efficient while Maryknoll slows the pace?

The Spartans have successfully imposed their style of play on nearly every opponent. Niko Robben, last year’s point guard during the state-title run, is now a shot-blocking, key-rebounding, offensive aggressor and slasher. With Liko Soares (meniscus) limited, Robben’s defense in the paint has become more crucial alongside 7-foot sophomore Sage Tolentino.

X-factor: Free-throw shooting. Playing at home, Maryknoll struggled at the line in a 49-41 overtime win over Kalaheo. Their most consistent shooters there were Tolentino and Soares.

Pupule pick: Spartans 60, Warriors 39.

Next: Winner plays the Moanalua-Damien winner on Thursday, 7 p.m., at SSC.

Hawaii Prep (14-2, seeded first) vs. University (9-10)
Kaimuki bracket
On paper: Ka Makani are currently No. 10 in the Top 10 despite having no wins over ranked opponents. Was HPA the best team in the BIIF? Quite possibly. Ka Makani lost to Waiakea at home, but beat everyone else in an 11-1 regular season. In other words, no other team in the BIIF had a better record.

Ka Makani won the D-II state title in ’14 and placed third in ’12, ’13 and ’19. With Damien gone to D-I, this is HPA’s clearest shot at collecting a second state crown.

University last won the D-II championship in ’16.

Skinny: While HPA was rounding the Big Island toppling big and small schools alike, University went through a major rebuild. The graduation of 6-3, 300-pound center Leif Fautanu forced coach Ryan Tong and his squad to revamp. Their small-ball lineup peaked at the right time, winning five of its last seven games, including a 47-40 win over Hawaii Baptist last week for the second state berth.

HPA’s scoring punch comes from KJ Walker, Michael Hughes and Tre Walker.

X-factor: HPA’s Bear Wawner, possibly related to co-head coach Fred Wawner. Maybe not the x-factor, but definitely on the All-Name Team.

Pupule pick: Ka Makani 59, Jr. ‘Bows 44. ULS will do what it can to spread the floor, chew minutes off the game clock, and make HPA’s bigs chase in a cat-and-mouse game.

Next: Winner plays the Roosevelt-Seabury Hall winner on Thursday, 5 p.m., at Kaimuki

Roosevelt (11-7, seeded fourth) vs. Seabury Hall (13-2)
Kaimuki bracket
On paper: This is where by-laws and reality struggle to merge, but the end product is a fantastically interesting quarterfinal matchup. Roosevelt rolled through the playoffs to become OIA D-II champion. Meanwhile, Seabury Hall was arguably the best team in the MIL, but could not prove this because the Spartans did not schedule nonconference games with the league’s D-I programs. Much like the Seabury Hall girls team, which showed promise in preseason, swept through MIL D-II, and was eliminated in round one of the state tourney.

Seabury Hall’s losses were to Kailua (49-45) and Kohala (65-53).

Skinny: The best player on the court may be Roosevelt’s Drake Watanabe, who came to the Rough Riders from Punahou a year ago. They’re young, but tall and physical enough to combat the Spartans. Roosevelt has also been through the fire, posting a win over Top 10 foe Kaiser during the OIA East regular season.

This game could be a measure of the value in OIA East basketball. Losing to Kailua, Moanalua, Kahuku, as well as D-I state qualifiers Baldwin and Waiakea, made for a respectable strength-of-schedule element in Roosevelt’s favor.

Then again, Seabury Hall has been here before. The Spartans have won quarterfinal games in six of the past eight seasons, reaching the final in ’16. They have not won a state crown. Yet.

X-factor: Masyn Johnson, Caden Granum and Joaquin Donez led the Spartans to a perfect record in MIL D-II. However, they have not been off island all season.

Pupule pick: Rough Riders 66, Spartans 58. The talent is there, but youthful mistakes are more costly in matchups at states, making this a night of glee or heartbreak for the young Rough Riders. Again, Seabury Hall is quite possibly the best team in the MIL, D-I and D-II.

Next: Winner plays the Hawaii Prep-University winner on Thursday, 5 p.m., at Kaimuki.

Hanalani (11-6, seeded second) vs. McKinley (14-12)
Kalani bracket
On paper: The Royals were unbeaten in ILH play until a regular-season win over University was ruled a forfeit last week due to use of an ineligible player. The Royals were impressive in ILH D-II play, but their losses were to Waialua, Kalani, South Medford (Ore.), Hilo and Kamehameha-Hawaii.

In the four-team ILH D-II format, Hanalani won its last six games. The Royals did not play a Top 10 team all season, which makes the second seed a bit of a head scratcher.

The Tigers were very competitive in the OIA East, going 5-6, but always seemed to lose close games against Top 10 teams. They were 0-8 against ranked opponents. McKinley beat Waialua, 54-33, in the playoffs. Hanalani lost to Waialua, 60-58, in late November.

Skinny: Ethan Escobido, Jonathan Akaka, Chris Harrison and Jacob Yagin have provided steady, balanced scoring for the Royals.

McKinley’s attack is keyed by seniors Frank Camacho and sharpshooter Noah Omori.

X-factor: The stakes are high in this one. McKinley hasn’t been to the semifinal round since ’12. Hanalani has never advanced past the quarterfinals.

Pupule pick: Royals 51, Tigers 48. Hanalani’s scoring depth provides just enough to get past the scrappy team in black and gold.

Next: Winner replays the Kauai-Kohala winner on Thursday, 7 p.m., at Kaimuki.

Kauai (12-2, seeded third) vs. Kohala (15-3)
Kalani bracket
On paper: The Cowboys, like HPA, had a stellar regular season, knocking off Waiakea en route to an 11-1 mark. They couldn’t get past HPA, however.

Neither could Kauai, which lost to HPA 47-38 during preseason. After losing at Kapaa in January, the Red Raiders won seven in a row. They won by at least 11 points in five of those games.

Kauai has been past the quarterfinals of the D-II tourney just once, in ’17. Kohala reached the semifinals in ’09, ’14 and ’15. The Cowboys lost in the final in ’07.

Skinny: Jim Ehia and Ricky Ralston lead Kauai’s offense.

O’shen Cazimero has been prolific among BIIF scorers (20 ppg). Moses Emeliano is an elite defender in the paint despite being just 5-10.

X-factor: Kohala played off island in December, playing in Baldwin’s tourney. The Cowboys beat Seabury Hall, Baldwin and Farrington.

Pupule pick: Cowboys 64, Red Raiders 59.

Next: Winner plays the Hanalani-McKinley winner on Thursday, 7 p.m., at Kaimuki.


  1. really February 19, 2020 8:48 pm

    Didn’t I say this in the post where people were blogging about old Moanalua HC Mello. I said Moanalua may win the OIA. But as soon as they face an ILH in states they would lose.

    And sure enough, they lost to the first ILH team they faced. This isn’t rocket science or telling the future. They are just not disciplined enough to beat a pretty good ILH team.

    If they faced Kamehameha, they probably lose by 20-30.

  2. CLBailey February 20, 2020 7:52 am

    It is’t over …. LEVEL UP MOANALUA! In It To Win It. Your number One Cheerleader.

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