Pupule: Pahoa can’t get respect

A Pupule perspective of the Star-Advertiser Boys Basketball Top 10, which was published today.

Voted on by coaches and media from around the state. First-place votes in parentheses. Ten points for first-place votes, nine for second, etc.
Team PTS. PVS.
1. Kalaheo (10) 118 1
2. Punahou (2) 110 2
3. Saint Louis 92 3
4. Kahuku 83 4
5. ‘Iolani 67 5
6. Leilehua 65 7
7. Lahainaluna 39 9
8. Farrington 28 6
9. Campbell 24 NR
t10. Maryknoll 11 8
t10. Moanalua 11 NR
Also receiving votes: Pahoa 9, Baldwin 2, Kaiser 1.

Pupule ballot
BKB 1/19/15
1. KLH (19-1, 5-0 OIA)
2. PUN (16-2, 4-0 ILH)
3. STL (13-4, 3-1 ILH)
4. KAH (8-3, 4-1 OIA)
5. LAH (13-0, 10-0 MIL)
6. IOL (9-5, 2-2 ILH)
7. LEI (12-7, 5-0 OIA)
8. PAH (14-1, 5-0 BIIF)
9. FAR (14-6, 3-2 OIA)
10. CAM (10-5, 5-0 OIA)

Close, but…
Moanalua (10-7, 4-1 OIA). Lost to Kamehameha, McKinley, Maryknoll.
Maryknoll. Lost to Mid-Pacific.
Baldwin. Lost pretty big to Lahainaluna (52-37) and earlier lost to Maui.
McKinley (9-7, 2-3 OIA). Lost to Kaiser (52-41) last week.
Kaiser. Lost to Mililani, Kalani, Moanalua.
Roosevelt (11-9, 3-2 OIA). Lost to Kailua (35-33).
Kamehameha (9-10, 1-3 ILH). Lost to Mililani, Kalani, Maryknoll 2x.
Mililani. Lost to Campbell (2x), Leilehua, Pearl City.

When fully healthy, there’s all kinds of matchup problems that Kalaheo presents. Kupaa Harrison, their versatile 6-4 senior, is playing at “80 percent” with a gimpy ankle. They have ballhandlers at every position, they’re deep and they are very long. So long that most teams have difficulty getting clean looks against Coach Alika Smith’s 2-3 zone. They even run the old flex offense once in awhile. Merv would be proud.

Punahou, like Kalaheo, presents depth, athleticism and tenacious fullcourt defense when Coach Darren Matsuda calls for it. They could do it for an entire game with the depth they possess, but this is a long season and getting through the ILH without expending maximum energy is always a plus. I’m not going to rattle off their wins or bore you with the exploits of J.B. Kam, Jordan Tanuvasa, Kanawai Noa, Micah Ma‘a, etc. But I am not above posting this 12-second sequence of events. Again.

It’s a very interesting boys season, more than the girls in this sense: There are more teams capable of winning the state title, which means a little more action and drama.

You like Lahainaluna? I probably like them more than you do. They’re No. 5 on my ballot, could easily be fourth. I saw them at the St. Francis Holiday Classic and they were steady, big and… well, they’re not flashy. But they have all the right offensive parts and tools, and they play good defense most of the time. They just bopped Baldwin by 15 last week. You fans can say it out loud if you like: Loooooooooooooooooonaaaass.

I’ve seen Leilehua play some good basketball. I really liked the way they pushed Hui Pu (China) harder than any of the four local teams did at the Walter Wong Classic. Sure, the Mules lost, but that was a great game against a very tall and talented team. No surprise that Leilehua is unbeaten in the OIA West. I’m trying to figure out why I don’t have LEI higher on my ballot. After all, they’re higher up in the poll.

Let’s look at the Mules’ record against ranked (or previously ranked) teams):
L 50-55 Punahou (James Alegre Invitational)
L 43-48 Kamehameha (OIA-ILH Challenge)
L 40-42 ‘Iolani (OIA-ILH Challenge)
L 52-71 @ Kalaheo
W 65-54 McKInley (Walter Wong Invitational)
L 37-43 Saint Louis (Walter Wong Invitational)

That’s 1-5 against ranked teams. (My apologies if Mililani has been ranked. I can’t recall that, and for the record, the Mules beat the Trojans 57-40 in their OIA West opener.) I look at the Mules this way: very good height, solid defense, just enough perimeter shooting and a solid transition game. Coach Pat Wetzel has an OIA title contender on his hands. I hope the team turns out in full force this summer so Coach Wetzel and his staff can really transform this group into a statewide powerhouse.

I have Pahoa on my ballot while Oahu-centric voters still have the young Maryknoll Spartans (they just lost to a rising Mid-Pacific squad) and Moanalua in the Top 10. I don’t know if it’s fair of me to call out panelists on this, but what more do they need Pahoa to do? The tiny school in East Hawaii has only one loss, and that was to No. 3 Saint Louis. Let me repeat, bear with me.


Cheewiz… Tolby Saito is one of the top players in the state that almost nobody has seen. Maybe that’s part of the problem, that the Daggers haven’t travelled to Oahu for a preseason tournament since, well, I can’t even think of one instance. But Saint Louis coach Keith Spencer calls Saito one of the best shooters he’s ever seen. Spencer compares Saito to former Hilo High, UH-Hilo and HPC (now known as HPU) great Alan Tanabe.

That is the highest praise anyone can get in terms of island guards. There’s Tanabe, Alika Smith and a handful of others who simply couldn’t be stopped. Tanabe had (and probably still possesses) the best floater I’ve seen. But I digress…

Someone said to me over the weekend that I’m from the Big Island. I’m not. I spent eight years there covering prep sports. Laying out pages every night. Traveling on my nights off to cover games near and far. Mostly far. But it was always fun. But I’m a Kaimuki graduate, and if I seem to accentuate the progress and merits of a BIIF team, it’s not because I’m biased. It’s because I know how easy it is for Oahu voters (and fans) to have tunnel vision and ignore (yes, that’s the accurate word here) what goes on elsewhere. That described me for the first 24 years of my life before transplanting to the Big Island, and yes, it’s commonplace to have that outlook.

But the Top 10 panel? I expect a little more introspection from them. Pahoa is 14-1. If Hilo were 14-1, I’m certain our voters would have the traditional power in the poll.

Look, Maryknoll is very talented and very young. Justice Sueing Jr. is the best wing man in the state even if he’s just a sophomore. He can explode past most defenders and finish at the rim, using his 6-foot-5 frame to extend over any guard. He also can stop and pull up for a smooth lefty jumper with in 10 feet of the hoop, and his 3-point shot is pretty good. He’s the second-best 3-point shooter on the Maryknoll campus. The other would be Coach Kelly Grant. And 6-5 Brian Washington is the best freshman defender in the state. Talk about spider arms. He’s getting better fast on the offensive side. He’s made huge progress there in the past two years.

But they’re young, prone to lapses that come with 14- and 15-year-olds. They could make states. They could also lose every ILH game by 1 point and finish last. I think after this season, as long as Sueing and Washington are together, Maryknoll could win the next two state titles.

Moanalua is playing well — the 55-46 win over Farrington probably stunned some fans — and Coach Byron Mello has done another solid job crafting a group of fast ballers into a winning team. They are deserving of a spot in the Top 10. My only argument that tips the scales toward Pahoa is that the Daggers have a stronger resume. They have won 14 of 15 games and I wouldn’t be shocked if hit a late-season tailspin due to fatigue and/or injuries. That happens to smaller teams with less depth.

But up to this point, Pahoa a resume that trumps some of the teams in the Top 10. Today, Moanalua (10-7) lands in the rankings, Maryknoll is still in it despite the loss to an unranked team, and Pahoa is on the outside looking in. That’s a matter of just a few votes. That’s just a matter of the plain fact that most voters, like most teams, are on Oahu, and that’s a theme that follows most statewide polls across the country. The Metro Effect. Rural teams don’t get the same credit until much later.

Moving on.


  1. fred January 20, 2015 10:53 pm

    FYI Pahoa beat Lahainaluna in Waiakea Tournament

  2. Hoopwaiian January 21, 2015 11:21 am

    Not only Pahoa. Kohala will bust the Top Ten. More dangerous than Pahoa. Nine deep and don’t miss a beat when sub’s come in. Their best team in four years! And their press? Possibly the State’s best.

  3. Paul Honda January 21, 2015 11:55 am

    Appreciate that, Fred! My Waiakea tourney scores aren’t complete 🙁

  4. Paul Honda January 21, 2015 11:57 am

    Any Kohala game videos online? Figueroa should be having a beast season.

  5. A Fan January 21, 2015 12:13 pm

    After talking to several ILH and OIA coaches, they like the scoringlive top 10. They don’t think Pahoa has done enough to be in the top 10. Who has Pahoa beaten? A D2 Kaiser team with 6 losses? A Kamehameha-Hawaii team with 10+ losses? A Lahainaluna team that beat Kailua by single digits? When Pahoa schedules games against the Punahous, Iolanis, Kalaheo’s, etc. the voters will probably take them more seriously. If they want to be ranked I would suggest fundraising early so they can travel to an Oahu Tournament next year.

  6. fred January 21, 2015 8:22 pm

    I watched the video of the Punahou miracle shot but had many questions the first being why did St. Louis even in bound the ball with 2.0 seconds left. The player should of just let it bounce around. Punahou had no timeouts or just throw it the length of the court. Miracle is an understatement. St. Louis should of been coached on the final play.

  7. The rim January 22, 2015 6:03 pm

    Both Kohala and Pahoa are well coached and I wouldn’t put too much stock into the preseason games or Pahoa’s record. Kohala is hitting on all cylinders and are playing like the old Hilo High teams that press and run all game. Kohala, Pahoa, and HPA are undefeated and have yet to face each other but Kohala has already beaten Kona, KS-Hawaii, and Waiakea.

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