The D-II brackets are narrowing and St. Francis, even with missing or departed players, are the clear team to beat again.
The Saints outlasted Roosevelt 62-51 in the quarterfinal round last night at the Saints’ gym. The top-seeded team and defending state champion will host Kauai in tonight’s semifinal round. Kauai edged Hawaii Prep, the No. 4 seed, 53-50 last night.
If you are a traditionalist and likes to see the KIF champion get the unofficial No. 5 seed when it is not among the four seeds, then this was justification for that approach.
In the other bracket, No. 2 seed Kalani ousted Honokaa 51-33 and unseeded Damien got past No. 3 seed Seabury Hall 57-45.
Here’s a look at tonight’s semifinal matchups, both at St. Francis. Teams, overall records (including nonconference games) and regular-season league records are listed.
St. Francis Saints (27-3, 10-0 ILH D-II) vs. Kauai Red Raiders (11-4, 8-1 KIF)
St. Francis gym
Skinny: The Saints are 5-3 against Top 10 teams and 22-0 against everybody else. Kauai had a competitive, yet unimpressive nonconference slate with a win over King Kekaulike and losses to Kamehameha-Maui, University and Konawaena. Could there be a more dangerous situation for St. Francis?
The Saints are without glue man/defender/shot blocker/passer Manoa Kuali‘i-Moe (no longer enrolled at St. Francis). However, sharpshooter Bryce Nishida returns after completing a suspension that carried over from the 2017 state tourney. Kameron Ng (38 points against Roosevelt, 14-for-14 at the foul line) is talent enough to carry most D-II teams, but the Saints have tremendous defense with Boris Vukovic, a 6-3 senior, and 5-9 jumping jack Kordel Ng.
The Red Raiders got 19 points and eight rebounds from C.J. Cromartie in the win over HPA. Gunnar Burkina (14 points) and Christian Manera (11) provided enough scoring for Kauai on a night when Ka Makani missed a whopping 14 free throws (8-for-22).
Kauai kept the rebounding battle close against a bigger team (28-25) and shot a fire-hot 9-for-16 from 3-point range, getting four treys from Burkina, two from Manera and two from Cromartie.
The KIF, particularly Kauai, has sent some tough teams to states before, but the league has never won a state title.
X-factor: Good free-throw shooting teams like Kauai (8-for-9 against HPA) are usually willing to spread the floor and manage the clock. The Red Raiders could run the court and take their chances, but the more touches Kameron Ng gets, the worse those chances are for Kauai.
Kalani Falcons (14-4, 8-2 OIA East) vs. Damien Monarchs (15-8, 7-3 ILH D-II)
St. Francis gym
Seed: No. 2. Def. Honokaa 51-33 on Wednesday.
Seed: Unseeded. Def. Seabury Hall 57-45 on Wednesday.
Skinny: These teams did not meet in nonconference play, and even if they had, the Monarchs are a different team without their former starting center (suspension). Damien has plenty of leadership and composure with junior guard Kolin Galdiano and senior Crumel Mooring, who can and has played every position.
Kalani, though, may be the most disciplined team in the state. PG Max Pepe and his teammates, including 6-2 wing Kapaa Nishimura and slasher Isaiah Lee, work patiently for high-percentage shots, and that’s a big reason why the OIA East’s D-I programs have tough battles with the D-II Falcons.
Damien has enough size to close out on rebounds, but it’ll be a big test for the Monarchs to contend with Kalani’s highly-effective 6-2 post, Brandon Chung.
X-factor: Kalani has been in the D-II state tourney just about every year, while Damien is in the big dance for the first time since 2014.
|1||Feb. 14||(4) Hawaii Prep vs. Kauai||Kauai, 53-50||St. Francis|
|2||Feb. 14||(1) St. Francis vs. Roosevelt||StF, 62-51||St. Francis|
|3||Feb. 14||(3) Seabury Hall vs. Damien||DMS, 57-45||'Iolani|
|4||Feb. 14||(2) Kalani vs. Honokaa||Kaln, 51-33||'Iolani|
|5*||Feb. 15||Seabury Hall vs. Honokaa||Hon, 47-41||Kaimuki|
|6*||Feb. 15||Hawaii Prep vs. Roosevelt||Roos, 44-43||Kaimuki|
|7||Feb. 15||Damien vs. Kalani||DMS, 45-37||St. Francis|
|8||Feb. 15||Kauai vs. St. Francis||StF, 65-42||St. Francis|
|9*||Feb. 16||Honokaa vs. Roosevelt||Roos, 54-44||Stan Sheriff Center|
|10*||Feb. 16||Kalani vs. Kauai||Kaln, 42-38||Stan Sheriff Center|
|11||Feb. 16||Damien vs. St. Francis||StF, 76-52||Stan Sheriff Center|
|* — consolation|