Rise of the Owls, chapter 1


In this series of What Have We Learned — several bits of posts are coming this afternoon — we take a an early glance at the rise of success building in Mills Gym on the campus of Mid-Pacific Institute.

Yes, we have observed the amazingness and spectaculourosity (two words that do not exist, but should) of Chanelle Molina, who helped the Konawaena Wildcats win the ‘Iolani Classic, and Chance Kalaugher, who contributed to Kaiser’s 4-0 record last week, including three wins over Top 10 teams from the ILH.

But first, let’s examine the pebbles of hoop stuffs.

The boys team at Mid-Pacific looked good at the recent Surfrider Holiday Classic. The Owls reached the tourney final even with three key players sidelined — disciplined — for non-basketball reasons. It’s correctible, coach Ryan Hirata said.

Blue-collar post Justin Daise keeps rising despite injuries. There’s the comeback kid, Major Davis, who is playing well since recovering from last year’s knee injury. But the Owls are not deep enough to withstand another stretch without key players for any reason. Time will tell how they prepare for an ILH Division I that has ranked teams from top to almost bottom.

The girls team? They, like the boys’ motto, are rising. It follows a familiar pattern in the rugged Interscholastic League of Honolulu. A young coach with great potential leaves his or her alma mater to become a head coach at another ILH program. The program struggles with numbers.

For all Liz Kam did in her time at Mid-Pacific, she could not combat the immense level of competition. ILH girls basketball is possible as competitive as it has ever been with the ascent of Maryknoll and the established traditions at Punahou, Kamehameha and ‘Iolani. The Owl girls simply turned out for the team less and less, and by last season, Kam and the remaining players simply squeezed out every ounce of effort possible.

But there were players who left to play soccer or simply left, period. Some cited the uphill battle of going against Division I powerhouse. Some who remained asked about playing in Division II, which would’ve been a much better fit. Of course, changes like that do not happen overnight. The Owls stayed in D-II. Kam and MPI parted ways before the 2014-15 season.

Within a few months, she was hired to be the head coach at Punahou. The Buffanblu are potent in the paint with seniors Tyra Moe and Va‘e Malufau, and have a strong group of returnees on the perimeter. The Buffanblu are in position to battle for the ILH title — they edged Maryknoll last week — and a possible state-tournament berth.

As for the Owls, D-II has been a godsend. They are 3-0 now and 11 players participated in a 37-20 win over Hanalani on Tuesday. Cierra Kameehonua led the Owls with 12 points.

Sure, MPI would prefer to be in D-I for every sport — it wasn’t really so long ago that stars like Kiki Robertson, Jade Savusa and Ashley Watamura were doing magnificent things on the hardwood — but it’s the correct move. And maybe the best news is that Kam endured, persevered and landed on her feet at a place where she was wanted.

Note: This post has been modified to correct Kam’s time of departure from MPI. Also, She is a graduate of Maryknoll, not Punahou.


  1. Spartan December 23, 2015 12:34 pm

    Mr. Honda, Elizabeth Kam is a graduate of Maryknoll School, not Punahou School. Coach Mike Taylor coached Elizabeth at Maryknoll when he coached there for 2 years. Upon his return to Punahou, he hired Elizabeth to be an assistant girls intermediate coach at Punahou is 2001-2002.

  2. Paul Honda December 24, 2015 2:26 pm

    Thank you for the clarification.

  3. Spartan December 26, 2015 10:53 pm

    You are welcome sir.

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