Merry Roundball

That’s right. Christmas is here.

You can tell me it’s on Dec. 25, and that Christmas Eve is on the 24th. All the stuff about the jolly guy with the white beard and the crazy red suit. Flying reindeer. FLYING REINDEER. Come on, man. Is that what it’s about? The long lines in malls? The horrible parking? Spending more than you can afford for gifts that kids and grownups may or may not like? At all?

Nah, I’ve outgrown all that, not necessarily for the better. I miss the years when I played tuba in the Washington Intermediate School band. Touring the nearby elementary schools to play Christmas music. For years after that, I couldn’t get the music out of my head. It was a lovely, recycling torment in the sonic-wave section of my brain.

But over time, even those classic tunes couldn’t satisfy me the way the holiday basketball schedule does. There’ve been a lot of tournaments already, but this week might be the best to date this winter. The ‘Iolani Classic girls tournament returns with another eight-team field. Konawaena isn’t in it for the first time in years, but No. 8 Lahainaluna will be here, joining No. 10 Maryknoll and No. 3 (and host) ‘Iolani as the top local teams in the tourney.

Oregon City (Ore.) is back. So is Jin Ling (China). Dr. Phillips (Fla.) normally sends its boys teams to the Classic (scheduled for later in the month), but they’ve sent their girls team. So has Southlake (Texas), which will play Maryknoll.

Not a bad field at all.

But what really is icing on the hoopaholic cake this week is the boys tourney at Moanalua, Na Menehune Challenge. Some of the top OIA teams will play crossover games against some of the ILH’s top teams. It’s a marvelous idea, if not novel. Really, it’s striking that nobody’s really done anything this blatantly ILH-versus-OIA in preseason, not that I can remember.

Day 1: Farrington against No. 1 Maryknoll (3:30 p.m.), followed by No. 8 Kapolei against No. 3 Punahou at 5. Then it’s No. 2 Moanalua against No. 5 ‘Iolani, 6:30 p.m. and No. 9 Kahuku against No. 6 Kamehameha.

The games on Friday and Saturday will be intriguing matchups, too. The tourney closes with No. 1 Maryknoll against No. 2 Moanalua. I’ll be at ‘Iolani covering the girls tournament, then head to Moanalua to watch whatever I can. It’s one of those wish-I-could-be-at-two-places deals.

There’s also the Pete Smith Classic, featuring No. 4 Kalaheo and a powerful Aussie team led by Dane Pineau, son of former University of Hawaii center Brad Pineau. Dane was here with his team two years ago in Punahou’s tournament. Now he’s a 6-6 swingman who recently committed to St. Mary’s (over Hawaii).

The sleeper of that tourney, though, is St. Francis, which is ranked seventh and has already beaten host Kalaheo in preseason.

If you’re on the Big Island, there’s the Larry Manliguis Hilo High Holiday Classic. If that tourney name seems a bit long, I’m looking forward to the day when it might be called the Larry Manliguis Classic. He was a classic gentleman who taught me a lot as a basketball fan. He let his teams run and press and play at a great pace that, honestly, I took for granted in the 1990s as a sportswriter in Kona.

That tourney has just three off-island teams, Baldwin, Pearl City and Hanalani. Haven’t heard much about Baldwin, but Pearl City is resilient and full of hustlers, guys who play hard to the end. The favorite, though, will be Hilo. Just my 2¢.

If you can’t wait until Thursday, there’s OIA girls basketball tonight. The best matchup might be No. 7 Kahuku at Moanalua. Moanalua has played strong so far, 3-0 in league play. I saw Kahuku beat Kaimuki last week. A lot of upside for a tall, athletic team.

As long as traffic is agreeable, I might see 13 games in the next four nights. That’s plenty of holiday cheer for me. For you guys missing out, have fun sitting in shopping mall traffic.

Ho, ho, ho.

Paul Honda, Star-Advertiser

Moanalua and Kahuku junior varsity game nears the close.




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