Pupule ballot: How to modify weak OIA West schedule

Kapolei guard Ja’Shon Carter stole the ball away from Mililani guard Makana Ortiz during a game last month. Photo by Jamm Aquino/Star-Advertiser.

Like any pyramid-shaped format, fleshing out a Top 35 list is not easy.

It’s almost fun. But the more I do this, the more I learn about some of these middling programs that have all kinds of potential. Sometimes, determination and commitment push a team from the middle of the pack to a state-tournament berth. That’s as much (or more) a thrill as having all the talent in the world and dominating competition en route to a title.

A lot of those kind of teams that rely on teamwork and grit to eke out wins aren’t in my Top 35, but I’ve got my eyes on them now.

All win-loss records and results as of Dec. 30, 2017.

Pupule BKB Top 10 ballot 12/31/17
1. Punahou Buffanblu (16-1, 0-0 ILH)
Pupule ranking last week: No. 1.
Last week’s games
W 89-39 Hilo 12/27 Punahou Inv
W 84-42 Hawaii Baptist 12/28 Punahou Inv
W 44-41 Tesoro (Calif.) 12/29 Punahou Inv
W 59-52 #5 St. Francis 12/30 Punahou Inv
Vs. Top 10: 8-1.
Top 10 wins: Kalaheo, Reed, Buchanan (Calif.),@ Moanalua, Kahuku, @ St. Francis, Tesoro (Calif.), St. Francis.
Losses (Non-Top 10*): Lincoln (Calif.).

Skinny: Not much time to enjoy a highly successful preseason. Maryknoll awaits on Thursday.

Sumo rank: Yokozuna. Any offense that can play fast, medium and slow tempo is set up for success. Defensively, there is no team better.

2. Kamehameha Warriors (13-3, 0-0 ILH)
Pupule ranking last week: No. 2.
Last week’s games
L 68-62 Colony (Calif.) 12/27 Classic at Damien
W 59-50 Fountain Valley (Calif.) 12/28 Classic at Damien
W 63-50 Jordan (Calif.) 12/29 Classic at Damien
W 67-64 Blair (Calif.) 12/30 Classic at Damien
Vs. Top 10: 7-4.
Top 10 wins: St. Francis, ‘Iolani, Kahuku, @ Moanalua, Kalaheo, Kalaheo, Blair (Calif.)
Losses (Non-Top 10*): Taft (Calif.), Kapolei, Colony (Calif.).

Skinny: I haven’t checked in about Lele Kawaiaea in some time. This a deep, experienced team, but when he returns, he adds a major rim protector to their defensive excellence. Two shot blockers (6-6 Kobe Young) plus warp-speed transition offense is almost unfair.

Sumo rank: Yokozuna.

3. St. Francis Saints (16-3, 0-0 ILH D-II)
Pupule ranking last week: No. 4.
Last week’s games
W 69-38 Mid-Pacific 12/27 Punahou Inv
W 66-61 Sequoia (Calif.) 12/28 Punahou Inv
W 55-48 #2 Maryknoll 12/29 Punahou Inv
L 59-52 #1 Punahou 12/30 Punahou Inv
Vs. Top 10: 4-3.
Top 10 wins: @ Kailua, Kalaheo, Sequoia (Calif.), Maryknoll.
Losses (Non-Top 10*): Kamehameha, Punahou, Punahou.

Skinny: The Saints walk the walk without much talk. I’ll miss seeing them take on the best D-I teams in the state.

Sumo rank: Yokozuna. Promotion earned.

4. Maryknoll Spartans (15-3, 0-0 ILH)
Pupule ranking last week: No. 2.
Last week’s games
W 62-50 Damien 12/27 Punahou Inv
W 49-34 Corona Del Mar (Calif.) 12/28 Punahou Inv
L 55-48 #5 St. Francis 12/29 Punahou Inv
L 57-39 Tesoro (Calif.) 12/30 Punahou Inv
Note: PG Jordyn Perez DNP-injury (St. Francis, Tesoro). G Isiah Gelacio DNP-injury (Tesoro).
Vs. Top 10: 6-4.
Top 10 wins: Kapolei, Kamehameha-Hawaii, Kalaheo, Kapolei, Lahainaluna, Corona Del Mar (Calif.).
Losses (Non-Top 10*): Paraclete (Calif.), Greensboro Day (N.C.), St. Francis, Tesoro (Calif.).

Skinny: The head injury to PG Jordyn Perez played a key part in Maryknoll’s performance after the quarterfinal win over Corona Del Mar. Perez and G Isiah Gelacio sat out of the Tesoro game.

Sumo rank: Yokozuna.

5. Kapolei Hurricanes (8-4, 3-0 OIA West)
Pupule ranking last week: No. 6.
Last week’s games
W 70-38 @ Mililani 12/28 OIA
W 67-28 Waianae 12/30 OIA
Vs. Top 10: 2-4.
Top 10 wins: Kamehameha, Moanalua.
Losses (Non-Top 10*): Maryknoll, @ Kailua, Jefferson (Ore.), Maryknoll.

Skinny: Not much to nit-pick over when two wins have a combined margin of 71 points. Somewhere, some coach and team are devising ways to counter Kapolei’s 3-2 matchup zone. I’m looking forward to the day when the Hurricanes put 6-8 Julius Buelow at center with Nedd (6-4 and Marquis Montgomery (6-4) in a 2-3 zone.

Sumo rank: Ozeki. Radford has been scrappy and Pearl City is never easy with Lionel Villarmia demanding discipline from his team.

>> Bomboocha Round-Robin
Would you rather see Kapolei play in a top-tier division with Kahuku, Moanalua, Kailua, Kalani, Farmington, Leilehua, Campbell? A few years back I wrote about an insane format that would allow every OIA team to play each other once. That’s 22 teams, 21 games. That would basically eliminate most preseason games, but it could be worked around traditional tournaments (Alegre, ‘Iolani Classic, OIA-ILH Challenge, St. Francis and Punahou Invitationals, Black and Gold Classic, etc.).

As it is right now, the OIA West is well behind the OIA East from top to bottom, and that means a number of teams in the West will qualify for the playoffs though they won’t be one of the 12 best teams in OIA D-I. (The NBA had a similar issue the past few years.) I’m not 100 percent against West-East alignment. It’s practical and comforting. But Kapolei’s remaining schedule is uninspiring. Not a Top 10 team among them with the exception of Campbell, which is the regular-season finale (Jan. 25).

If there was a single round-robin, it would flush out fluke wins and losses (yes, they happen often enough late in the season). The top six D-I finishers qualify for the state tournament (D-I) and the top four D-II finishers go to the D-II state tourney. The top four D-I teams would have a semifinal round and a title game. Same with D-II. It would be an eight-week season including the playoffs. Start in late November, which would allow 1-2 extra weeks for tournaments, and finish by early February in time for the state tournament.

Think 21 games is too much? There are many teams that have already played 15 to 20 preseason games. Twenty-one is actually in line with what many teams already do (including playoffs.) Practice time? Let’s move forward as a state. Realistically, most talent is developed in the offseason, in those other nine months before preseason begins, as it is with most sports. Every OIA school has a gym that is largely underutilized in those nine months by basketball teams whether it’s restrictions by administrators or coaching staffs who don’t really want to be there for workouts, open gym time, etc.

Specialization is not bad. It has turned the OIA West into fertile recruiting ground for softball programs as far as away as the SEC. And athletes who still play multiple sports will still do their thing, as they should. This isn’t a rant or rambling about something crazy. Basketball is the one sport where safety issues aren’t anywhere close to those in football, and a smaller school like Waialua can take on a giant like Kahuku. This isn’t my favorite concept for realigning OIA basketball.

>> Two Tiers
I’d prefer three tiers, double round-robin, but two tiers would fit better with the state-tournament format (D-I and D-II). Best against the best. Waialua should play Waipahu and Waianae twice rather than once in a lower tier. But if there’s a semblance of a thought that teams like Kapolei can develop stronger and better by playing other elite-level teams, then there’s hope. They won’t get much better playing this remaining schedule: @ Radford, Pearl City, @ Waipahu, Waialua, @ Nanakuli, Aiea. Meanwhile, the ILH goes double round-robin for D-I teams Punahou, Kamehameha, Maryknoll, ‘Iolani, Saint Louis, Mid-Pacific.

Red Conference
Kapolei, Campbell, Kahuku, Kalani, Roosevelt, Moanalua, Kailua, Farrington, Kalaheo, Leilehua.

White Conference
Kaiser, McKinley, Castle, Aiea, Mililani, Radford, Nanakuli, Waianae, Kaimuki, Pearl City, Waialua, Waipahu.

There are a lot of tweener teams, which the aforementioned single round-robin format would take care of. If the HHSAA started a D-III state tourney, Waialua would be a good candidate. So would any of the teams with smaller enrollments.

A Red/White setup could be double or single round-robin. It would scrape away the unnecessary games between strong programs and true D-II level teams. But is it as necessary to change OIA basketball alignment as it would be to have three tiers in OIA football? Nope. Not even close.

6. ‘Iolani Raiders (8-5, 0-0 ILH)
Pupule ranking last week: No. 5.
Last week’s games
W 76-48 King Kekaulike 12/28 Lahainaluna Inv
L 69-54 Palo Alto (Calif.) 12/29 Lahainaluna Inv
W 52-50 @ #8 Lahainaluna 12/30 Lahainaluna Inv
Vs. Top 10: 3-5.
Top 10 wins: @ Kailua, Kahuku, Lahainaluna.
Losses (Non-Top 10*): Kamehameha, Montverde (Fla.), Rainier Beach (Wash.), Taft (Calif.), Palo Alto (Calif.)

Skinny: Tough win over the Lunas in their home gym on Saturday. The Raiders are more brains than brawn this season, which will work out fine.

Sumo rank: Ozeki.

7. Kahuku Red Raiders (15-3, 1-0 OIA East)
Pupule ranking last week: No. 7.
Last week’s games
W 48-45 @ McKinley 12/28 OIA
W 62-56 Moanalua 12/30 OIA
Vs. Top 10: 1-3.
Top 10 wins: Kalaheo, Moanalua.
Losses (Non-Top 10*): Kamehameha, ‘Iolani, Punahou.

Skinny: Which carries more weight: the two-point, buzzer-beater loss to No. 1 Punahou, or the losses to Punahou, Kamehameha and ‘Iolani as a whole? Maybe Kahuku should be No. 2 based on that game with Punahou. Until they post more Top 10 wins, it’s a tough crowd to get through. Everyone has a better resume, though ‘Iolani’s 45-40 win over Kahuku came with C Tolu Smith sidelined (injuries).

Sumo rank: Ozeki. Of the Ozeki status teams, Kahuku probably has the best chance to become Yokozuna.

8. Kamehameha-Hawaii Warriors (9-3, 2-0 BIIF)
Pupule ranking last week: No. 8.
L 62-50 Sequoia (Calif.) 12/27 Punahou Inv
W 55-48 Mid-Pacific 12/28 Punahou Inv
W 55-47 Damien 12/29 Punahou Inv
W 62-55 South Anchorage (AK) 12/30 Punahou Inv
Vs. Top 10: 2-3.
Top 10 wins: Kailua, South Anchorage (Alaska).
Losses (Non-Top 10*): Maryknoll, Trinity Christian (Texas), Sequoia.

Skinny: This part of the ballot was a battle between Lahainaluna and KS-Hawaii. That would be a game I’d love to see. The Warriors have a matchup problem for other teams with 6-5 scorer Nalu Kahapea.

Sumo rank: Ozeki. Promotion from Sekiwake.

9. Lahainaluna Lunas (8-6, 3-0 MIL)
Pupule ranking last week: No. 9.
Last week’s games
L 74-48 Palo Alto (Calif.) 12/28 Lahainaluna Inv
W 70-64 Saint Louis 12/29 Lahainaluna Inv
L 52-50 #4 ‘Iolani 12/30 Lahainaluna Inv
Vs. Top 10: 1-5.
Top 10 wins: Moanalua.
Losses (Non-Top 10*): Kalaheo, Moanalua, Montverde (Fla.), Maryknoll, Palo Alto (Calif.), ‘Iolani.

Skinny: The Lunas have played well over the last two weeks. It wouldn’t have been overly surprising if they’d beaten ‘Iolani at the Lahaina Civic Center. Talk about a magical venue.

Sumo rank: Sekiwake.

10. Campbell Sabers (10-5, 3-0 OIA West)
Pupule ranking last week: No. 10.
Last week’s games
W 47-37 @ Waianae 12/28 OIA
W 58-44 Radford 12/30 OIA
Vs. Top 10: 1-2.
Top 10 wins: Kailua.
Losses (Non-Top 10*): Kahuku, Kamehameha, @ Saint Louis*, St. Francis, Kahuku.

Skinny: The big cats from Ewa Beach keep grinding away. Their core of tall guards and spunky defenders will make the matchup with Kapolei a must-see. Seeing them play well against Kahuku (the first time) is hard to forget.

Sumo rank: Sekiwake.


11. Kalani Falcons (6-2, 3-0 OIA)
Pupule ranking last week: No. 19.
Last week’s games
W 61-46 Kaiser 12/28 OIA
W 51-42 @ #10 Kailua 12/30 OIA
Vs. Top 10: 1-1.
Top 10 wins: Kailua.
Losses (Non-Top 10*): Kapolei, @ Campbell*.

Skinny: Once in awhile, the pieces of this puzzle start to fit together somewhat. One of those is Kalani. The win at Kailua just two days after the Surfriders had a brilliant performance in an OT win over Moanalua, that’s great timing. Clutch, really. Also, Kalani’s only losses are to Kapolei and Campbell. Which makes the Falcons a perfect fit between Campbell at No. 10 and Kailua at No. 12 on this ballot.

Sumo rank: Komusubi. Winning on the road against a Top 10 team never hurts. Promotion earned. With Kahuku and Kalaheo on the docket this week, the Falcons could confirm that the D-II label is nothing more than vapor.

12. Kailua Surfriders (13-5, 2-1 OIA East)
Pupule ranking last week: No. 11.
Last week’s games
W 84-80 ot Moanalua 12/28 OIA
L 51-42 Kalani 12/30 OIA
Vs. Top 10: 1-3.
Top 10 wins: Kapolei, Moanalua.
Losses (Non-Top 10*): ‘Iolani, St. Francis, Kamehameha-Hawaii, Campbell*, Kalani*.

Skinny: This has been quite the roller-coaster ride so far for the Surfriders. Everett Torres-Kahapea pumped in 42 points against Moanalua. Then Kalani brought an antidote.

Sumo rank: Sekiwake. No serious penalty (or demotion) for losing to Kalani. That game said more about Kalani than anything else.

13. Moanalua Na Menehune (9-8, 1-2 OIA East)
Pupule ranking last week: No. 15.
Last week’s games
L 84-80 ot @ #10 Kailua 12/28 OIA
L 52-56 @ #6 Kahuku 12/30 OIA
Vs. Top 10: 2-6.
Top 10 wins: Lahainaluna, Hayward (Calif.).
Losses (Non-Top 10*): Mid-Pacific*, Kamehameha, Punahou, Rainier Beach (Wash.), Lahainaluna, Kapolei, @ Kailua, @ Kahuku.

Skinny: Normally, an 0-2 week is followed by a drop on this ballot. But both losses were against higher-ranked teams, both very close games. Moanalua belongs right here.

Sumo rank: Komusubi. Despite the losses, Na Menehune earn a promotion.

14. Kalaheo Mustangs (11-9, 1-1 OIA)
Pupule ranking last week: No. 14.
Last week’s games
W 32-27 McKinley 12/30 OIA
Vs. Top 10: 1-7.
Top 10 wins: Lahainaluna.
Losses (Non-Top 10*): Punahou, St. Francis, @ Kamehameha, Bishop O’Dowd (Calif.), Maryknoll, Kamehameha, Pearl City*, @ Kahuku.

Skinny: The ‘Stangs ended a six-game losing skid with the tough win over McKinley. Like many teams, they’re recuperating from a busy December in and out of the classroom.

Sumo rank: Komusubi.

15. Roosevelt Rough Riders (9-3, 3-0 OIA)
Pupule ranking last week: No. 18.
Last week’s games
W 50-48 @ Farrington 12/28 OIA
W 53-48 Kaiser 12/30 OIA
Vs. Top 10: 0-1.
Top 10 wins: None.
Losses (Non-Top 10*): Hawaii Prep*, ‘Iolani, Saint Louis*.

Skinny: A veteran backcourt makes a big difference — the difference being two- and three-point games. Making good decisions with the final five or six possessions of the game, young teams don’t do that. Jared Elwin and Micah Visoria have started together for two seasons now, and this might be a Top 10 backcourt statewide.

Sumo rank: Komusubi.

16. Farrington Governors (4-5, 0-2 OIA)
Pupule ranking last week: No. 20.
Last week’s games
L 50-48 Roosevelt 12/28 OIA
Vs. Top 10: 0-3.
Top 10 wins: None.
Losses (Non-Top 10*): Punahou, Kamehameha, @ Kapolei, Kalani*, Roosevelt*.

Skinny: The losses to Kapolei (67-51), Kalani (50-41) and Roosevelt aren’t positive, but the Govs did beat Saint Louis (63-61) and gave Kamehameha a scare (61-59 loss).

Sumo rank: Maegashira. The 16-20 slots are on a slippery slope as teams pile up losses, and then it becomes a matter of which losses were of better or worse quality.

17. Saint Louis Crusaders (6-11, 0-0 ILH)
Pupule ranking last week: No. 21.
Last week’s games
L 75-34 Palo Alto (Calif.) 12/27 Lahainaluna Inv
W 60-37 Maui 12/28 Lahainaluna Inv
L 70-64 @ #8 Lahainaluna 12/29 Lahainaluna Inv
W 64-46 Seabury Hall 12/30 Lahainaluna Inv
Vs. Top 10: 0-7.
Top 10 wins: None.
Losses (Non-Top 10*): Farrington*, Kalaheo, @ Moanalua, Kahuku, St. Francis, Palo Alto (Calif.), Lahainaluna.

Skinny: The Crusaders have been learning a new system under a new coach, finding themselves as their very young guards develop. The tough battle with Lahainaluna is a good sign, but at some point, the Crusaders need to push through. They’re getting quite close.

Sumo rank: Maegashira.

18. Leilehua Mules (4-9, 1-1 OIA)
Pupule ranking last week: No. 17.
Last week’s games
W 42-34 Mililani 12/30 OIA
Vs. Top 10: 1-8.
Top 10 wins: Hayward (Calif.).
Losses (Non-Top 10*): Saint Louis*, Lahainaluna, Punahou, ‘Iolani, Kamehameha, Fairfax (Calif.), Moanalua, Kamehameha, @ Kapolei.

Skinny: Getting healthy is key for the Mules, who hustle from start to finish and need Liam Fitzgerald on the floor as close to 100 percent as possible to be at their best. They nearly upset Kapolei at Kapolei 10 days ago, but the early loss to Saint Louis keeps Leilehua right here.

Sumo rank: Komusubi.

19. Mid-Pacific Owls (6-6, 0-0 ILH)
Pupule ranking last week: No. 13.
Last week’s games
L 69-38 #5 St. Francis 12/27 Punahou Inv
L 55-48 #9 Kamehameha-Hawaii 12/28 Punahou Inv
W 73-53 Punahou II 12/29 Punahou Inv
L 65-62 Hilo 12/30 Punahou Inv
Vs. Top 10: 1-2.
Top 10 wins: @ Moanalua.
Losses (Non-Top 10*): Roosevelt*, Roosevelt*, Leilehua*. St. Francis, Kamehameha-Hawaii, Hilo*.

Skinny: A rough week it was, but the young Owls never stop battling. Roosevelt is a notch ahead of Moanalua even though the Rough Riders haven’t beaten a ranked team yet — because MPI lost to them twice. There’s the win over Moanalua on their court. But the loss to Hilo has repercussions on this ballot.

Sumo rank: Komusubi.

20. Damien Monarchs (5-5, 0-0 ILH D-II)
Pupule ranking last week: No. 22.
Last week’s games
L 62-50 #2 Maryknoll 12/27 Punahou Inv
W 68-52 @ Punahou II 12/28 Punahou Inv
L 55-47 #9 Kamehameha-Hawaii 12/29 Punahou Inv
W 52-44 Kamehameha II 12/30 Punahou Inv
Vs. Top 10: 0-4.
Top 10 wins: None.
Losses (Non-Top 10*): @ Campbell*, @ Kahuku, @ Kaiser*, Maryknoll, Kamehameha-Hawaii.

Skinny: Six freshmen, three of them start, and they showed the ups and downs of being this young during the Punahou tourney. The ups are quite astounding.

Sumo rank: Maegashira.

21. Kamehameha-Maui Warriors (7-3, 1-1 MIL)
Pupule ranking last week: No. 34.
Last week’s games
W 60-48 @ King Kekaulike 12/27 MIL
L 59-28 @ Lahainaluna 12/30 MIL
Vs. Top 10: 0-1.
Top 10 wins: None.
Losses (Non-Top 10*): University*, @ Kapaa*, @ Lahainaluna.

Skinny: So what do we really know about the Pukalani men of war? They got pummeled by University (72-44), lost at Kapaa (46-42), but got past two very competitive D-II teams, Kauai (47-44) and Kamehameha II (69-62). They’re much too strong for MIL D-II teams St. Anthony (48-12), Ka‘u (56-21) and Molokai (47-29). And they edged Seabury Hall (47-44). I think the Warriors are my litmus-test team of the MIL. They are the cutoff point between MIL top dogs and teams below the mean.

Sumo rank: Juryo. On paper, Baldwin should win, but KS-Maui was largely underrated on this ballot. Promotion from Makushita to Juryo earned.

22. Seabury Hall Spartans (9-7, 0-0 MIL D-II)
Pupule ranking last week: No. 26.
Last week’s games
W 53-37 King Kekaulike 12/29 Lahainaluna Inv
L 64-46 Saint Louis 12/30 Lahainaluna Inv
Vs. Top 10: 0-1.
Top 10 wins: None.
Losses (Non-Top 10*): Kalaheo, Roosevelt*, Punahou II*, @ Baldwin*.

Skinny: Things flesh out with time. The Spartans lost on the road at Baldwin on Dec. 9. Six days later, they beat Baldwin 43-31 in Makawao. Seabury Hall also lost to Kalaheo 83-82 back on Nov. 26. What does all that mean? I think in a 3-team tournament, Sparta cages the Bears and Sabers. They have beaten Baldwin TWICE.

Sumo rank: Maegashira.

23. Baldwin Bears (5-5, 1-2 MIL)
Pupule ranking last week: No. 24.
Last week’s games
W 56-53 @ Maui 12/30 MIL
Vs. Top 10: 0-2.
Top 10 wins: None.
Losses (Non-Top 10*): Kalaheo, Seabury Hall*, Maui*, Seabury Hall*, Lahainaluna.

Skinny: That was not expected. Maui’s been through a pretty tough preseason. But Baldwin, stepping up.

Sumo rank: Maegashira.

24. Maui Sabers (9-7, 2-2 MIL)
Pupule ranking last week: No. 12.
Last week’s games
L 68-47 @ #8 Lahainaluna 12/27 MIL
L 60-37 Saint Louis 12/28 Lahainaluna Inv
L 56-53 Baldwin 12/30 MIL
Vs. Top 10: 1-5.
Top 10 wins: Kalaheo.
Losses (Non-Top 10*): ‘Iolani, Campbell*, Kahuku, Kahuku, @ Lahainaluna, Saint Louis*, Baldwin*.

Skinny: This is a scrappy, hustling team that could use a break, and they have one until Jan. 10. They beat Kalaheo by 2. Baldwin lost to Kalaheo by 33. Five weeks later, Baldwin beats Maui. At Maui.

Sumo rank: Maegashira. This team really should be a Komusubi, but the lopsided loss to Saint Louis and the home loss to Baldwin are tough to ignore.

25. Hawaii Baptist Eagles (13-5, 1-0 ILH D-II)
Pupule ranking last week: No. 27.
Last week’s games
W 60-59 South Anchorage (AK) 12/27 Punahou Inv
L 84-42 @ #1 Punahou 12/28 Punahou Inv
L 84-63 Leigh (Calif.) 12/29 Punahou Inv
L 82-67 Sequoia (Calif.) 12/30 Punahou Inv
Vs. Top 10: 1-3.
Top 10 wins: South Anchorage.
Losses (Non-Top 10*): Kalani*, @ Baldwin*, @ Punahou, Leigh (Calif.), Sequoia (Calif.).

Skinny: The best thing I saw at the Punahou tourney for HBA is this: Micah Mitchell doesn’t settle. He could keep launching 3s day and night and watch his team lose most battles for offensive boards. But he has added strength in the past two years and is resilient when it comes to driving to the hoop and drawing contact. That’s basically HBA’s version of a post-up opportunity and it gets Mitchell to the line often. That mentality isn’t as common as it should be at the prep level and should serve him and the Eagles well in the coming ILH D-II season. It’s the difference between a nice high school player and a small-college contributor.

Sumo rank: Maegashira.

26. Punahou II Buffanblu (3-6, 0-0 ILH D-II)
Pupule ranking last week: No. 25.
Last week’s games
L 57-43 Corona Del Mar (CA) 12/27 Punahou Inv
L 68-52 Damien 12/28 Punahou Inv
L 73-53 Mid-Pacific 12/29 Punahou Inv
W 72-58 Sequim (Wash.) 12/30 Punahou Inv
Vs. Top 10: 0-3.
Top 10 wins: None.
Losses (Non-Top 10*): @ Kalaheo, @ Baldwin*, @ Kailua, Corona Del Mar (Calif.), Damien*, Mid-Pacific*.

Skinny: I finally got to see this team play and there are so many creases that I’d like to unfold here. 1. They have talent. As with almost all D-II teams at Punahou, there is enough here to challenge any opponent in Hawaii. 2. They rotate basically 10 players, and from this perspective, cutting into Ty Shishido’s minutes makes a big difference. Maybe he can’t play more than 20-24 minutes for health reasons. I don’t know. I just know when he’s on the court their backcourt defense is insanely different. He gets tips, steals, easy buckets. 3. They gave CDM, a very good CIF team, a good battle for three quarters. Prior to that, they almost won at Kailua (62-56), which had been in the Top 10 for most of the season. But the margin of losses to Damien and Mid-Pacific, by 16 and 20 points, were very surprising. All in all, talent alone doesn’t lead to wins. Or I simply overestimated the D-II Buffanblu.

Sumo rank: Maegashira.

27. Kaiser Cougars (10-6, 0-3 OIA)
Pupule ranking last week: No. 16.
Last week’s games
L 61-46 @ Kalani 12/28 OIA
L 53-48 @ Roosevelt 12/30 OIA
Vs. Top 10: 0-2.
Top 10 wins: None.
Losses (Non-Top 10*): St. Francis, Moanalua.

Skinny: Check back in a week or two and this team could be in the 10-15 range. Or not. The East is unpredictable.

Sumo rank: Maegashira.

28. McKinley Tigers (6-10, 0-3 OIA)
Pupule ranking last week: No. 29.
Last week’s games
L 48-45 @ #6 Kahuku 12/28 OIA
L 32-27 @ Kalaheo 12/30 OIA
Vs. Top 10: 0-7.
Top 10 wins: None.
Losses (Non-Top 10*): St. Francis, Maryknoll, Hawaii Baptist*, @ Maryknoll, @ Baldwin*, St. Francis, Campbell*, @ Kailua, @ Kahuku, @ Kalaheo.

Skinny: That’s four close losses in a row including Campbell (46-45) and Kailua (52-49). There were also close losses earlier at Maryknoll (48-43) and Baldwin (64-55). Maybe coming home will help. The Tigers host Moanalua on Friday. They’ll have to game plan for no Kyle Moraga, however.

Sumo rank: Maegashira.

29. Waiakea Warriors (10-10, 2-1 BIIF)
Pupule ranking last week: No. 32.
Last week’s games
W 49-48 Honokaa 12/28 BIIF
W 64-52 @ Kealakehe 12/30 BIIF
Vs. Top 10: 0-6.
Top 10 wins: None.
Losses (Non-Top 10*): Kohala*, Mid-Pacific*, Hilo*, Kailua, Kamehameha-Hawaii, Kamehameha-Hawaii, Punahou, Kailua, Kamehameha-Hawaii.

Skinny: A loss to a scrappy Honokaa squad wouldn’t have hurt the Warriors on this ballot a whole lot, but as far as the BIIF standings go, they avoided a major slide. Losing a home game in the BIIF is big thanks to the major distance between most schools, playing on school nights, losing sleep, etc. The Warriors kept it fairly close in losses to MPI, Kamehameha-Hawaii (twice), and they have wins over Keaau, Kohala, Hilo and University. But they also beat Honokaa by 15 earlier in preseason, so either the Warriors have plateaued or the Dragons have really improved.

Sumo rank: Maegashira.

30. Hilo Vikings (11-8, 2-0 BIIF)
Pupule ranking last week: No. 33.
Last week’s games
L 89-39 @ Punahou 12/27 Punahou Inv
L 59-48 South Anchorage (AK) 12/28 Punahou Inv
W 51-50 Sequim (Wash.) 12/29 Punahou Inv
W 65-62 Mid-Pacific 12/30 Punahou Inv
Vs. Top 10: 0-5.
Top 10 wins: None.
Losses (Non-Top 10*): Kealakehe*, Kaiser*, Kailua, Maryknoll, Trinity Christian (Texas), Waiakea*, @ Punahou, South Anchorage (Alaska).

Skinny: The toughness of these Vikings is worth how many points? Liko Medeiros almost broke his jaw, falling headfirst after being fouled on a layup against Mid-Pacific. He bleeds, he gets taped up, he returns and helps the Viks rally to beat the Owls. There’s no statistic for that. So my gut says Hilo belongs much higher than last week’s #33 ranking.

Sumo rank: Maegashira.

31. University Junior Rainbows (7-4, 0-0 ILH D-II)
Pupule ranking last week: No. 30.
Last week’s games: None.
Top 10 wins: None.
Losses (Non-Top 10*): @ McKinley*, Kapolei, Kahuku, Waiakea*.

Skinny: The break time before ILH regular season should help this young, promising group.

Sumo rank: Maegashira.

32. Konawaena Wildcats (6-0, 2-0 BIIF)
Pupule ranking last week: No. 31.
Last week’s games
W 50-43 Ka‘u 12/30 BIIF
Vs. Top 10: 0-0.
Top 10 wins: None.
Losses (Non-Top 10*): None.

Skinny: Shouldn’t an unbeaten team be much higher on this ballot? The basic math says yes. Six wins in six games is a 1.000 winning percentage. But this young, talented squad has yet to play a team in the Top 10, let alone the Top 20. The margins of victory: 3, 3, 4, 6, 16 and 7. It’s a good move to let these young pups grow in confidence. Now their first tests are directly ahead: Kamehameha-Hawaii (tonight) and Hilo (Thursday).

Sumo rank: Maegashira. Promotion earned.

33. Keaau Cougars (4-4, 1-1 BIIF)
Pupule ranking last week: No. 35.
Last week’s games
W 59-54 Hawaii Prep 12/28 BIIF
Laupahoehoe 12/30 BIIF
Vs. Top 10: 0-0.
Top 10 wins: None.
Losses (Non-Top 10*): Roosevelt*, Waiakea*, @ Maui*, Konawaena*.

Skinny: Like Kamehameha-Maui, the Cougars are sort of a litmus-test team within the BIIF. They’re good enough to push Roosevelt, Waiakea and Maui, losing those games by 6, 6 and 6 points respectively. They wallop small schools. But they’ve yet to beat a Top 10 team or a title contender, and until the Cougars do that, they won’t have their golden seal or signature win to build their identity on. Or maybe they’ve reached their peak and this is as good as they get. I hope not. There has ALWAYS been basketball talent in Keaau, Pahoa, Mountain View and all the way into to Waiakea, Hilo and Keaukaha. When the school opened, they also had covered courts next to the gym. How could this not turn into a basketball powerhouse? The opportunity is there. This might be the best Keaau team in years.

Sumo rank: Maegashira. Double bump higher from Makushita past Juryo right to Maegashira.

34. Aiea Na Alii (4-5, 3-0 OIA West)
Pupule ranking last week: No. 35
Last week’s games
W 68-67 @ Radford 12/28 OIA
W 41-30 @ Pearl City 12/30 OIA
Vs. Top 10: 0-2.
Top 10 wins: None.
Losses (Non-Top 10*): @ Kailua, Moanalua, @ Damien*, University*, Kaiser*.

Skinny: They’ve beaten Kaimuki, Waianae and Radford, all by margins of 10 points or less, in addition to Radford and Pearl City. Aiea won the OIA D-II JV title last year, if I recall correctly, so this step forward isn’t surprising. How far will they go?

Sumo rank: Juryo. Big two-win week earns Na Alii a promotion from Makushita to Juryo.

35. Kauai Red Raiders (4-3, 2-0 KIF)
Pupule ranking last week: Unranked
Last week’s games: No games.
Vs. Top 10: 0-0.
Top 10 wins: None.
Losses (Non-Top 10*): Kamehameha-Maui*, University*, Konawaena*.

Skinny: The resume has wins over King Kekaulike, Castle, Waimea (66-45) and Kapaa (46-23).

Sumo rank: Juryo.


  1. Burgla January 6, 2018 10:53 pm

    Kaimuki not rated??

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