Punahou still No. 1, St. Francis climbs to 5th

Voters say Kaulana Makaula and Punahou is still the team to beat. Cindy Ellen Russell / Star-Advertiser
Voters say Kaulana Makaula and Punahou is still the team to beat. Cindy Ellen Russell / Star-Advertiser

Boys hoops is deeper than it has been in some time.

The girls side has roughly 12-14 competitive teams, and by that I mean, teams that play sound basketball and can beat each other, given the right circumstances and a bit of peak performance.

The boys side is much less predictable, with around 16-18 teams in a generally separate echelon. Here’s a look at today’s Star-Advertiser Boys Basketball Top 10 along with my ballot positions of each team.


1. Punahou Buffanblu (7-0). Pupule ballot: No. 1.
The skinny: They’ve taken on all comers and won decisively each time. Noticeably absent from the resume, of course, are fellow ILH powerhouses. Punahou is in the ‘Iolani Classic, which begins on Friday, for the first time in a decade. So we might end up with a Punahou-‘Iolani showdown at some point. If not, they will face each other multiple times during the ILH season anyway.

X factor: They won’t run every team out of the gym, but the Buffanblu sure will try. I’m surprised by the lack of low-post activity on offense, but maybe I shouldn’t be. Maybe they’ve already looked ahead and conceded the post area to ‘Iolani’s Hugh Hogland, and are putting all their eggs in one basket: run the break like heck. Fair enough.

Versus Top 10:

Top 10 wins
W 64-54 Kalaheo 12/3 (Alegre Invitational)
W 67-57 Kahuku 12/5
W 74-37 Kalaheo 12/10 (OIA-ILH Challenge)

Top 10 losses

Non-Top 10 wins
W 59-33 Moanalua 11/30 (Alegre Invitational)
W 64-33 Farrington 12/2 (Alegre Invitational)
W 74-49 Leilehua 12/8 (OIA-ILH Challenge)
W 81-72 Kapolei 12/9 (OIA-ILH Challenge)

Non-Top 10 losses

2. ‘Iolani Raiders (5-1). Pupule ballot: No. 4.
The skinny: Of course, the defending state champions and Hogland, their returning All-State player of the year, are good enough to be No. 2 or No. 1. Based on results, though, Punahou gets my nod. Unbeaten versus a team with one loss?

On the other hand, the Raiders haven’t posted a win over a Top 10 team yet. That will change soon enough. I normally go with head-to-head, then common opponents as my top criteria. In this case, the eye test carries more weight. Hogland had seven blocks against Leilehua on Saturday, the same team that had upset Kamehameha the night before. There is no other force in the state quite like him.

X factor: The Raiders play at one speed, which is basically the 800-meter run. Not extremely fast, but fast enough to catch your lazy transition defense napping and score a few layups. Even with the 6-9 Hogland on the court, they run some and he has transformed physically since his freshman year. Thing is, Punahou loves to 95 mph in a 25 mph zone. Coach Dean Shimamoto’s teams were able to control the pace in years past, but those teams were led by strong senior guards. Erik Yamada. Zach Gelacio. It’s time for Justin Genovia and defensive stopper Helam Baldomero to follow their destinies.

Versus Top 10:

Top 10 wins

Top 10 losses
L 47-43 Kailua 12/2 (Surfrider Holiday Classic)

Non-Top 10 wins
W 68-37 Campbell 12/1 (Surfrider Holiday Classic)
W 52-31 Waipahu 12/3 (Surfrider Holiday Classic)
W 66-47 Kapolei 12/8
W 57-48 Moanalua 12/9
W 62-36 Leilehua 12/10

Non-Top 10 losses

3. Maryknoll Spartans (6-0). Pupule ballot: No. 3.
The skinny: Second-best talent-wise? Probably not. But an unblemished record and even a 1-0 mark against Top 10 teams (Kailua) helps the case. This may be Coach Kelly Grant’s least flashy team, but this is a core of dedicated, year-round ballers who have high skill level. They just don’t have a dominant center anymore (Brian Washington, who moved to Las Vegas).

X factor:

Versus Top 10: 1-0.

Top 10 wins
W 68-37 Kailua 12/10

Top 10 losses

Non-Top 10 wins
W 81-24 Pearl City 11/19
W 40-38 Kalani 11/25 (McKinley tournament)
W 81-31 McKinley 11/26 (McKinley tournament)
W 71-37 Kaimuki 11/28 (McKinley tournament)
W 69-52 @ Aiea 12/3

Non-Top 10 losses

4. Kalaheo Mustangs (3-4). Pupule ballot: No. 7.
The skinny: I can’t remember the last time a team with a losing record was this high up in the Top 10, but I’m not surprised. A lot of voters are looking at Kalaheo, the established powerhouse — which won a state title just two years ago — and what this year’s team is capable of when healthy. Voters have seemed to take into consideration that top scorers Captain Whitlock and Noah Woodby have missed games due to injury. I have them at seventh because four losses regardless of injury or other factors are still four losses. Seventh to first, yes it could happen. Coach Rob Pardini has a nice collection of pieces and enough balance to compete in various styles and pace. But Whitlock (hip flexor) and Woodby (ankle) might be better off resting for at least a week so they can be at full strength for the OIA season.

X factor:

Versus Top 10: 2-3

Top 10 wins
W 60-55 Saint Louis 11/30 (Alegre Invitational)
W 54-39 Kamehameha 12/8 (OIA-ILH Challenge)

Top 10 losses
L 61-54 St. Francis 12/2 (Alegre Invitational)
L 64-54 Punahou 12/3 (Alegre Invitational)
L 74-37 Punahou 12/10 (OIA-ILH Challenge)

Non-Top 10 wins
W 43-32 Honokaa 12/1 (Alegre Invitational)

Non-Top 10 losses
L 58-44 Mid-Pacific 12/9 (OIA-ILH Challenge)

5. St. Francis Saints (7-0). Pupule ballot: No. 2
The skinny: The Saints went 3-0 at the St. Joseph tourney in historic Afook-Chinen Hilo Civic Auditorium, beating host St. Joe, Waiakea and Honokaa. Interesting because Waiakea later beat Saint Louis.

The best case against St. Francis as a No. 3 or lower is that Kalaheo didn’t have leading scorer Captain Whitlock (injury) when the teams met on Dec. 2. But there’s this: 1) Kalaheo still had everybody else available, including second-leading scorer Noah Woodby, and 2) we just don’t know if the Saints would have raised their level of play if Whitlock had been available. St. Francis is a guard-heavy team with one of the best perimeter defenders (Manoa Kualii-Moe) in the state. Not saying he’d shut Whitlock down, but things possibly would’ve cancelled out.

Whitlock could’ve scored 20, 25 and St. Francis would’ve kept running the floor and probably kept scoring. A slow, plodding team dependent on its bigs would’ve been sliced and diced by Whitlock, and the result would’ve been much different. We’ll never know; from this point on, St. Francis is stuck in a tough Division II of the ILH. University, Le Jardin and HBA would probably qualify for D-I states if they were in the OIA. Damien would be very close.

X factor:

Versus Top 10: 2-0

Top 10 wins
W 61-54 Kalaheo 12/2 (Alegre Invitational)
W 56-51 Kahuku 12/3

Top 10 losses

Non-Top 10 wins
W 61-38 Farrington 11/30 (Alegre Invitational)
W 62-40 Radford 12/1 (Alegre Invitational)
W 76-31 St. Joseph 12/8 (St. Joseph/Waiakea tournament)
W 60-48 Waiakea 12/9 (St. Joseph/Waiakea tournament)
W 78-57 Honokaa 12/10 (St. Joseph/Waiakea tournament)

Non-Top 10 losses

6. Kahuku Red Raiders (2-2). Pupule ballot: No. 10
The skinny: The talent is there to win the OIA and the state. Height. Length. Strong guards. The most versatile player in the state: Samuta Avea. But for now, they’re finding their way, building some chemistry, and their ranking by the panel has more to do with potential than actual results (barely beating Mililani, losing to St. Francis, etc.)

X factor:

Versus Top 10: 1-2

Top 10 wins
W 63-53 Saint Louis 11/29

Top 10 losses
L 61-56 @ St. Francis 12/3
L 67-57 Punahou 12/5

Non-Top 10 wins
W 50-47 Mililani 12/6

Non-Top 10 losses

7. Kamehameha Warriors (5-2). Pupule ballot: No. 8.
The skinny: It’s been a rough week-plus for Coach Greg Tacon, whose sister passed away. The Warriors have shown a lot of promise, but haven’t been consistently getting low-post looks for Kobe Young. One good piece of news is that Nakoa Pauole almost single-handedly kept the Warriors in the game against Moanalua on Saturday, crashing the offensive glass relentlessly.

X factor: Freshman guard Christmas Togiai is talented, but still finding a way to be a consistent contributor. Young could be a force at the low post offensively, a 6-4 athlete with hops and quickness.

Versus Top 10: 1-1

Top 10 wins
W 50-38 Kailua 12/3 (Surfrider Holiday Classic)

Top 10 losses
L 54-39 Kalaheo 12/8 (OIA-ILH Challenge)

Non-Top 10 wins
W 65-56 Castle 12/1 (Surfrider Holiday Classic)
W 68-35 Waipahu 12/2 (Surfrider Holiday Classic)
W 57-30 @ Farrington 12/7
W 43-41 Moanalua (OIA-ILH Challenge)

Non-Top 10 losses
L 52-48 Leilehua 12/9 (OIA-ILH Challenge)

8. Lahainaluna Lunas (4-0). Pupule ballot: unranked.
The skinny: Untested. Largely untested. Leilehua is a potentially good team, very young. Farrington, young. Hayward, a decent squad, not especially skilled. Radford, young with lots of potential, not there yet. And that’s it. The Lunas were not tested when they played on Oahu, not by a Top 10 team. For me, the 10 spot came down to Kahuku or Lahainaluna. Having seen each team play other teams, a head-to-head matchup would come down to the Lunas’ methodical, structured offensive flow versus Kahuku’s explosiveness, run spurts and turnovers. Kahuku would win a close one, I think.

X factor: I don’t know how the Lunas will improve significantly without playing Top 10 and especially Top 5 teams. Every coach has a unique philosophy, but this is one I wish included the best team in the MIL showing what it has against Punahou, ‘Iolani, Maryknoll, Kalaheo, etc.

Versus Top 10:

Top 10 wins

Top 10 losses

Non-Top 10 wins
W 45-38 Leilehua 11/30 (Alegre Invitational)
W 43-26 Farrington 12/1 (Alegre Invitational)
W 51-30 Hayward (Calif.) 12/2 (Alegre Invitational)
W 61-34 Radford (Alegre Invitational)

Non-Top 10 losses

9. Kapolei Hurricanes (6-2). Pupule ballot: No. 5.
The skinny: No. 9? This team has beaten everyone on the schedule, including Kailua (which beat ‘Iolani). Kapolei’s only losses were to the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the state. Like St. Francis, it’s taking time for voters to be reasonable about Kapolei’s results.

X factor:

Versus Top 10: 1-2

Top 10 wins
W 52-49 Kailua 12/6

Top 10 losses
L 66-47 ‘Iolani 12/8 (OIA-ILH Challenge)
L 81-72 Punahou 12/9 (OIA-ILH Challenge)

Non-Top 10 wins
W 63-47 @ McKinley 11/25 (McKinley tournament)
W 47-34 Kalani 11/26 (McKinley tournament)
W 36-34 University 11/28 (McKinley tournament)
W 51-45 @ Roosevelt 12/3
W 57-52 Mid-Pacific 12/10 (OIA-ILH Challenge)

Non-Top 10 losses

10. Mid-Pacific Owls (3-1). Pupule ballot: No. 6.
The skinny: The Owls beat Kalaheo, but with Kalaheo’s top scorer, Captain Whitlock, playing with a hip flexor, voters may have put no stock into the win. The one loss was to Kapolei on Saturday, a team that has lost only to the top two teams in the state. The Owls, no doubt, haven’t convinced enough voters that they belong much higher in the poll.

X factor:


Versus Top 10: 1-0

Top 10 wins
W 58-44 Kalaheo 12/9 (OIA-ILH Challenge)

Top 10 losses

Non-Top 10 wins
W 48-28 Roosevelt 12/2
W 75-70 Moanalua 12/8 (OIA-ILH Challenge)

Non-Top 10 losses
L 57-52 Kapolei 12/10 (OIA-ILH Challenge)

## Kailua Surfriders (3-3). Pupule ballot: No. 9
The skinny: Their win over ‘Iolani remains a signature win for Coach Wally Marciel since his arrival at Kailua.

X factor:

Versus Top 10: 1-2

Top 10 wins
W 47-43 ‘Iolani 12/2

Top 10 losses
L 50-38 Kamehameha 12/3
L 68-37 @ Maryknoll 12/10

Non-Top 10 wins
W 57-31 @ Aiea 11/26
W 54-47 Waianae 12/1 (Surfrider Holiday Classic)

Non-Top 10 losses
L 52-49 @ Kapolei 12/6

## Waiakea Warriors (1-1). Pupule ballot: unranked.
The skinny: The Warriors might turn out to be a sleeper. They beat Saint Louis and lost to St. Francis during the St. Joseph tourney.

X factor:

Versus Top 10:

Top 10 wins
W Saint Louis 12/10 (St. Joseph/Waiakea tournament)

Top 10 losses
L 60-48 St. Francis 12/9 (St. Joseph/Waiakea tournament

Non-Top 10 wins

Non-Top 10 losses

## Saint Louis Crusaders (4-3). Pupule ballot: unranked.
The skinny: Returning All-State guard Jaymason Nunuha is a cornerstone for the Crusaders and center Chris Sykes is finding his footing as their key post scorer. Coach Allan Silva’s team is developing one step at a time. Josh White, a 6-5, 375-pound transfer from Texas — son of former Campbell football standout Josh “Zeus” White — could become a key contributor. White has 3-point range and is easily the biggest center in the ILH.

X factor:

Versus Top 10: 0-3

Top 10 wins

Top 10 losses
L 63-53 @ Kahuku 11/29
L 60-55 Kalaheo 11/30 (Alegre Invitational)
L Waiakea 12/10 (St. Joseph/Waiakea tournament)

Non-Top 10 wins
W 63-56 Radford 12/2
W 63-54 Moanalua 12/3
W 74-70 Kamehameha-Hawaii 12/8
W 12/9 (St. Joseph/Waiakea tournament)

Non-Top 10 losses

## Kamehameha-Hawaii Warriors (2-4). Pupule ballot: unranked.
The skinny:

X factor:

Versus Top 10: 0-2

Top 10 wins

Top 10 losses
L 74-70 Saint Louis 12/8 (St. Joseph tournament)
L 78-76 Honokaa 12/9 (St. Joseph tournament)

Non-Top 10 wins
W 44-23 Pahoa 12/1 (Waiakea tournament)
W 39-27 Hawaii Prep 12/3 (Waiakea tournament)

Non-Top 10 losses
L 38-28 Kalani 11/30 (Waiakea tournament)
L 52-40 Kealakehe 12/2 (Waiakea tournament)

## Kaiser Cougars (6-1). Pupule ballot: unranked.
The skinny: What to do for an encore after a highlight-loaded 2015-16 season. So much talent, now graduated. The Cougars are off to a nice start with returnees and new talent from a successful JV program.

X factor:

Versus Top 10:

Top 10 wins

Top 10 losses

Non-Top 10 wins
W 78-31 @ Waipahu 11/23
W 56-48 @ Hawaii Baptist 11/26
W 53-47 Aiea 11/30
W 45-40 Nanakuli 12/6
W 57-40 Seabury Hall 12/8
W 79-44 Kapaa 12/9

Non-Top 10 losses
L 62-51 @ Damien 12/3

## Waianae Seariders (2-1). Pupule ballot: unranked.

The skinny:

X factor:

Versus Top 10: 0-1

Top 10 wins

Top 10 losses
L 54-47 Kailua 12/1 (Surfrider Holiday Classic)

Non-Top 10 wins
W 43-39 Campbell 12/2 (Surfrider Holiday Classic)
W 56-35 Baldwin 12/3 (Surfrider Holiday Classic)
Non-Top 10 losses

## Damien Monarchs (2-0). Pupule ballot: unranked.

The skinny:

X factor:

Versus Top 10:

Top 10 wins

Top 10 losses

Non-Top 10 wins
W 62-51 Kaiser 12/3
W 75-62 ‘Iolani I-AA 12/10

Non-Top 10 losses

## Le Jardin Bulldogs (6-1). Pupule ballot: unranked.
The skinny: The Bulldogs have shown signs in recent seasons of turning the corner, and right now it looks like they’re at the on-ramp to the freeway. The Bulldogs have endured their share of struggle in years past, but the girls volleyball program turned into a Division II state champion after just two seasons with Coach Lee Lamb. The boys basketball team has eked out a few close wins, but also has double-digit wins over Pearl City and Mililani. The ILH D-II season promises to be one of the most competitive and talent-stocked ever.

X factor:

Versus Top 10:

Top 10 wins

Top 10 losses

Non-Top 10 wins
W 56-44 Lanai 11/19
W 48-46 @ Waipahu 11/21
W 50-34 Saint Louis I-AA 11/23 (Castle tournament)
W 59-52 Campbell 11/25 (Castle tournament)
W 46-31 Pearl City 12/3
W 69-48 @ Mililani 12/8

Non-Top 10 losses
L 50-46 Punahou I-AA 11/26

## University Jr. ‘Bows (2-1). Pupule ballot:
The skinny:

X factor:

Versus Top 10:

Top 10 wins

Top 10 losses


Non-Top 10 wins
W 65-60 Mililani 11/25 (McKinley tournament)
W 43-40 Campbell 11/26

Non-Top 10 losses
L 34-36 Kapolei

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