Maryknoll bumps Punahou out for No. 1 in boys Top 10

Maryknoll guard Makoto Kamata (21) was named the ILH Division I most valuable player. Photo by Cindy Ellen Russell/Star-Advertiser.

This week’s Honolulu Star-Advertiser Boys Basketball Top 10 may be the most convoluted and, to a lesser degree, confusing selection process in a year of tremendous parity.

Maryknoll took the reigns for the first time this winter after gathering six out of the 11 first-place votes from the panel of coaches and media. In all, four teams received at least one top vote, but the Spartans finished with a double-digit margin ahead of No. 2 Punahou.

Maryknoll (18-2, 4-1 Interscholastic League of Honolulu) had flip-flopped between No. 3 and No. 4 in the first four weeks of polling before rising to No. 2 last week. The Spartans then lost at home to Kamehameha 34-33 — the Warriors returned to the Top 10 at No. 8 today — before defeating Punahou 55-49 on Saturday afternoon.

While voters forgave the ballhawking Spartans for the loss to a young, dangerous Kamehameha squad, they left the two spots after No. 2 Punahou alone. ‘Iolani and Damien are again Nos. 3 and 4 respectively.

Damien, which was 6-2 in preseason against ranked teams — they split games with Punahou, and also split with St. Francis — actually received three first-place votes. The logic tilts in favor of Maryknoll and Damien, but the latter’s status as a Division II team has kneecapped the Monarchs in the minds of panelists. So has the lack of elite competition in ILH D-II.

Strength of schedule hasn’t been strong of late, but what about the resume? Damien has wins over St. Francis, Kalaheo, Punahou, Kailua, Lahainaluna, Maryknoll and Kamehameha.

“These coaches talk about us being in D-II and discounting our body of work in the preseason. Farrington is a D-II beating the ranked D-I teams,” Damien coach Alvin Stephenson said.

What he dislikes about the rankings is the lack of respect for straight wins and losses. Damien could have signed up to be in D-I when the ILH declaration date arrived last June, but Stephenson acknowledged that he didn’t realize his young team would fare this well.

“The talent on the island has gotten a lot better. The schools are even and anyone can win on any given night. They should just give credit to where credit is due,” Stephenson said. “My boys work just as hard. It’s not there fault that we are in D-II. They want to play all the teams to prove to people it’s not a fluke. Sorry for venting. It’s just frustrating to have to explain to the boys about politics, and life is not fair all the time.”

There is only one other D-II team in the Top 10: Farrington at No. 5. The Governors leap-frogged from last week’s No. 9 spot after posting wins over Kahuku and Kailua. If Damien is affected by recency bias — there hasn’t been a win over a Top 10 team since Dec. 21 — Farrington is benefiting from the same factor.

The Govs were swept by four opponents at the ‘Iolani Classic, including unranked Campbell and Roosevelt, and have since beaten four ranked foes: Moanalua, Kalaheo, Kahuku and Kailua.

Saint Louis, Kailua, Kamehameha, Lahainaluna and St. Francis round out the Top 10. Lahainaluna (9-5, 4-0 Maui Interscholastic League) is still riding momentum since edging St. Francis the day after Christmas. The Lunas beat Kamehameha-Maui and King Kekaulike last week.

“We don’t have to be in there,” Lahainaluna coach Jason Justus said of the rankings.

While Justus muses that his Lunas have yet to put together a complete game, they’re among the most improved teams since week 1. That’s in the midst of a massive glut of quality teams that have ranged up and down from No. 5 to No. 10 and well beyond.

While the girls poll has included as few as 11 teams receiving votes, the boys balloting has been congested and intriguing with its depth.

Week 1 (Dec. 3): 19 teams received votes
Week 2 (Dec. 10): 15
Week 3 (Dec. 17): 15
Week 4 (Dec. 24): 17
Week 5 (Dec. 31): 16
Week 6 (Jan. 7): 17
Week 7 (Jan. 14): 17

Since week 3, seven teams have floated out of the rankings and some have returned.

Week 3: Kahuku and Kailua, tied at No. 10 the week before, both drop out. Saint Louis arrives for the first time at No. 9.

Week 4: No. 7 Mid-Pacific is voted out. Kailua returns at No. 8.

Week 5: No. 7 Moanalua is demoted. Kahuku returns at No. 10.

Week 6: No. 8 Kamehameha and No. 10 Kahuku are filtered out. Farrington and Lahainaluna land in the poll for the first time this season at No. 9 and No. 10, respectively.

Week 7: No. 8 Kalaheo falls out for the first time all season. Kamehameha takes Kalaheo’s place.

Some voters shared their thoughts on a season that has been fun for fans and maybe less so for coaches. This week’s voting was especially tricky.

Brandyn Akana, Kahuku
“It took me a couple of days to figure it out. I still don’t know if it’s correct, but what a crazy season. The most challenging part was figuring out who beat who. It seems like everyone is beating each other. One of the most difficult season in high school basketball history. I’m excited to see how this drama season unfolds!”

Steve Hathaway, Roosevelt
“Normally it only takes me a couple of minutes. This time it took me five. Most challenging part is where to put the ILH teams when they beat each other. Also, I still have not seen a few of them. Also, where to rank Damien. It’s easier for me to rank Farrington higher because right now they are taking out all of the D-I teams. Damien did beat a lot in the preseason, but teams tend to play differently then with different rotations and experimenting more. Would love to see them playing all those D-I ILH teams now to see how they match up.” 

Sol Batoon, Saint Louis
“It’s a process that I go through during the week, based on the success of the teams that are already rated. At any given night in the ILH D-I, anyone could win. The most challenging part is the OIA, BIIF and MIL, and it’s because we don’t get a chance to see them play very much during the season. It’s pretty hard to evaluate teams in the preseason because most of the teams are looking at their players, and trying to put together their regular-season team. Thus, it could be deceiving if you had judged everything on the preseason play. However, in my 40-plus years of coaching, I must say the coaches are dedicated, committed and determined to develop their programs. 

Honolulu Star-Advertiser Top 10

Updated: 10/23
1.Kahuku (10)100
5.Saint Louis53


  1. GED January 14, 2019 6:20 pm

    There should be 2 rankings for D1 and D2, thought some D2 teams have beat D1 teams in pre-season, their reg. seasons are different.

  2. myopinion January 14, 2019 8:08 pm

    How can Maryknoll be number 1 when Kamehameha beat them? That’s why these rankings don’t make any sense to me.

  3. Paul Honda January 14, 2019 9:03 pm

    Until all leagues in the state — KIF, OIA, ILH, MIL and BIIF — have the same criteria for differentiating D-I and D-II, it makes no sense to split up the rankings.

  4. Paul Honda January 14, 2019 9:04 pm

    There’s no perfect Top 10. Feel free to offer your list here.

  5. JetWavy January 14, 2019 10:08 pm

    The panelists are right to take into account Damien’s weak regular season schedule. Not sure what Damien’s coach is irritated with. Hey, if you elect to go DII, the state will and should treat you as such. Sure the pre-season wins were noteworthy but their DII schedule is so downgraded that it warrants moving the monarchs behind their ILH DI counterparts. The ILH DI schedule is the toughest in the state. There is no way a team who faces the likes of Le Jardin, Hanalani, UH Lab, Saint Louis II, etc. gets more points than a team grinding it out against Punahou, Maryknoll, and Iolani (twice) and sometimes in the same week. The only team that will challenge Damien is Farrington and that wouldn’t be until February if that even happens. If you want to pound your chest and be top dogs in the state, you need to be in Division 1, plain and simple. Unless you beat notable schools in the ‘Iolani Classic, pre-season is a distant memory at this point.

  6. Scott Yamamoto January 15, 2019 1:27 am

    These rankings are off. There is absolutely no math, logic or sense to these rankings. Its totally biased (coaches, sportswriters get to say who they “like”, while admitting that they havenʻt seen some teams or not sure really where to put the teams, very shady methodology)

    This may as well be the Miss Universe pageant rankings rather than a legitimate sports ranking. (JetWavy you can be the M.C.)
    Hawaii Prep World you gotta take some notes from Max Prep World. You got Hawaiʻi looking like we still live in grass shacks with this old school “I think i like…” or “so and so looks pretty good this week”. Get a solid methodology, with weights that have a rationale that makes better sense than the totally biased, unreliable opinion poll you got going on right now. You really do the players a disservice. I know local guys love to be armchair quaterbacks and I know there is resistance to making things better, but its 2019, sheesh, plain and simply, get over yourselves. For the kids, for the sport, get it together.

    This is Max Prep Worlds ranking. I dare you to check it out. Read the methodology on the top link too.

    I agree with the Max Prep rankings, why? Because there is a solid rationale behind it.
    1 Punahou
    2 Maryknoll
    3 Damien
    4 ʻIolani
    5 St. Francis

  7. Northshore January 15, 2019 9:12 am

    Paul Honda: Teams are already designated as a Div I and Div II for the present year. As an example, this year, Farrington is designated as Div II. Last year in the state basketball play-offs: OIA; Div I-6 teams Div II-2 teams. ILH; Div I -2 teams Div II-2 teams. BIFF; Div I-2 teams Div II-2 teams. MIL; Div I-2 teams Div II 1 team. KIF; Div I-0 team Div II-1 team. As GED stated, what’s so difficult in listing and ranking division I teams and division II teams? Had the same problem in ranking football especially when teams were designated as Open, Div I and Div II but yet you had to rank all the teams in one ranking. Only in Hawaii… high school football and basketball rankings are bogus. Really, is it that difficult to have separate rankings for Div I and Div II teams? Feel free to offer our list is not the issue. Com-on man, it’s about time you did the rankings by Divisions.

  8. Paul Honda January 15, 2019 10:22 am

    I’m looking forward to the day when we have true D-I and D-II rankings… but currently there is NO TRUE CRITERIA to separate the schools statewide. Every league makes up its own criteria. That’s why Campbell once won the D-II football state title despite having nearly 3,000 students. Farrington has won the D-II boys basketball title and they also have a massive enrollment. It’s not the fault of coaches and players at all. They have no say. When the leagues fix this problem, everything else will fall into place.

    Until then, I like the fact that teams have to EARN respect from the panel, which is mostly coaches. Farrington did it in the past three weeks. St. Francis did it over a span of two-plus years. Damien is going through it now.

  9. Paul Honda January 15, 2019 10:24 am

    What is YOUR Top 10 ballot?

  10. Paul Honda January 15, 2019 10:26 am

    That’s why Maryknoll only got roughly half, six out of 11, of the first-place votes. It’s a very unpredictable season.

  11. Northshore January 15, 2019 1:52 pm

    Paul Honda: At the present time, Hawaii high schools (private and public) are using a criteria. It might not be the criteria that you consider it to be a “true criteria” that categorizes schools by being in the open, div I and div II for football and div I and div II for basketball. What is your definition of “true criteria” because categorizing schools by “school enrollment, keeping OIA and ILH separate has already been discussed and until the system changes, the leagues must continue to do with what has been mandated. As a sports writer, waiting for the “true criteria” will never ever take place so why not do with what the readers are trying to point out to you. Since there are state champions for open, div I and div II football and div I and div II basketball and schools are already designated to compete in their respective divisions, there should be rankings for open, div I and div II. It might be a good season for Damien but still, they are designated as a div II school this year and should not be ranked along with the div I schools. True criteria according to your definition will unlikely happen and just do with what the leagues have decided on how schools are categorized because the way things are voted, you’ll be long gone and retired by the time the “true criteria” takes place.

  12. Northshore January 15, 2019 2:27 pm

    Paul Honda: I sense that “enrollment” is one of your “true criteria” on having schools categorized in their respective division. As you’ve stated, “Campbell won the D-II football state title despite having nearly 3,000 students.” Farrington won the D-II boys basketball title and they also have a massive enrollment.” What about Kahuku winning the D-I state football titles and ranked number 17th amongst the high school enrollment? Should Kahuku compete with the lesser enrollment schools and that should make it a “true criteria’? When Campbell and Farrington won their respective div II football and basketball titles, it was based on the criteria and they deserved to win the titles. Enrollment is not one of the criteria and that’s how the cookie crumbles. Because schools are not consistently having a winning season, and some schools might have an outstanding year every 10 years its difficult to have a “true criteria”.

  13. Loca1boiAnonymous January 15, 2019 2:59 pm

    Everyone getting bivadees tangled over rankings. This is for fun guys. Can anyone tell me what the rankings were in week 3 of the regular season last year? I bet not. But we remember who won the OIA and ILH and state champs. Thats what counts. Rankings scmankings.

  14. Mahatma Gandhi January 15, 2019 4:43 pm

    Farrington does have massive enrollment. But you neglect to mention how the ILH is stealing their best athletes every year, football and basketball. Leaving Farrington with second tier players. Enrollment size mans nothing if the ILH is taking your best players. Eh Paul, you a Kaimuki grad. Tell us how Keoni Reyes and beau Albrechtson was not recruited by the ILH. And how those Yugoslavians in 1992 ever ended up at Kaimuki.

  15. Paul Honda January 17, 2019 1:31 pm

    Any mid- or small-sized school should always have the option to play in a higher classification. But it’s simple enough for leagues to decide on a set criteria for the entire state, just like the California, Alaska, etc. If they do that one of these years, we will be happy to follow suit with rankings.

  16. Paul Honda January 17, 2019 1:38 pm

    Beau was an outstanding student and would have thrived just as well as any private school. Keone would have been a dominant player in the ILH, too. Once he got healthy, his fire returned and the Bulldogs were on fire after a 7-5 regular season. I don’t know why they weren’t recruited. Maybe they were and didn’t want to go. Who knows?

    As for the Serbian kids, from what I remember one of them had an older brother playing at Chaminade. Would you leave Eastern Europe to spend senior year in Hawaii, having some independence in paradise? It worked out for them. They weren’t huge scorers, but their length made a significant difference in Kaimuki’s defense. I wonder where they are now.

  17. Sweaty Murphy January 17, 2019 2:46 pm

    How far did Kaimuki even go in 1992 with the Yugoslavians? Didn’t Kamehameha beat Hilo in 3OT for that state title?

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