Big Dance Darkhorse: The Lady Vikings

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The Big Dance, the Hawaii High School Athletic Association Hawaii State Girls Basketball Championships, is finally here. On the girls side, it’s been largely dominated by neighbor-island teams like No. 1 Konawaena and No. 2 Lahainaluna.

Unlike the boys rankings (and seedings, most likely), the girls hoops scene this year has been very static. Konawaena has been No. 1 from Week 1, and Lahainaluna has been at the second spot as long. The two teams played in the state final last year, with Konawaena winning its sixth title in 12 years under Bobbie Awa.


The Wildcats had their share of injury scares recently with all-state forward Mercedes Ihi Victor and player of the year Chanelle Molina on the shelf. Both returned, however, for the BIIF playoffs. Here’s a look at the HHSAA bracket.

Division I
Moanalua Bracket
Kaiser (11-8, 10-3) vs. Kamehameha-Maui (10-5, 10-4)
Tuesday, 5:30 pm
I’m not sure what’s happened with basketball upcountry. Aside from the King Kekaulike boys of recent years, it’s been really slippery for the rest of the programs. Can KS-Maui’s girls reverse the trend? Or are the best athletes playing volleyball, soccer and softball? This is a question I wonder about statewide because girls basketball outside of Kona, Lahaina, Hilo and a few locations on Oahu seems to be on decline. And some of the better players have transferred to the elite programs in recent years.

And yet, KS-Maui beat every D-I team in the MIL not named Lahainaluna. Things seem to be looking up for the Warriors.

Kaiser has a LOT of experience facing the state’s best teams thanks to its annual Ted Fukushima Invitational. Roselyn Shimaoka and Brooke Ho are among the top players in the OIA.

The winner will meet No. 1 Konawaena on Wednesday, 7 p.m.

Farrington (11-4, 10-4) vs. Punahou (16-9, 12-3)
Tuesday, 7:30 p.m.
Moli Heimuli was one of the bright spots for the Lady Governors, a 5-foot-11 junior with a nice shooting touch. The Govs nearly took defending OIA champion Roosevelt down in the semifinals by using a triangle-and-two defense. Crafty.

The Govs will need to play their cleanest game of the season, and by that I mean minimal turnovers. Punahou may have fallen to Maryknoll in the ILH title game, but they’re probably be hungrier for the cause now. They are solid fundamentally and have one of the best posts in the state, Tyra Moe, looking for the big prize in her senior year. She has been explosive and prolific in the past two weeks with her pal and teammate, Va‘e Malufau, out of the line (shoulder).

There’s enough talent on this team that any of the top seven or eight players would probably average 18-20 points in any other league. Kamaile Kandiah is unstoppable off the dribble, while Elle Uyeda and Lexie Taylor have been clutch from the perimeter while providing length and great defense.

The KS-Maui/Kaiser winner will meet OIA champion Leilehua, the No. 4 seed, on Wednesday, 5 p.m.


Kalani Bracket
Radford (12-6, 12-1) vs. Hilo (21-3, 10-2)
5 p.m.

The Lady Rams were on a roll before falling in the OIA playoffs to eventual champ Leilehua. Can they return to their winning ways? It’s going to be a difficult challenge against a veteran, tough and physical Hilo squad. For the past four years or so, there have been very, very few teams as willing to battle on the post and willing to hit the floor for every loose ball like the Lady Vikings — even though they often had nobody over 5-7 on the floor.

Often times, Hilo had nobody over 5-3 on the court and still won rebounding battles.

Alexis Pana is among the most versatile players in the state, but it’s Hilo’s scoring balance that is tough to deal with. They’ve always given Oahu teams a serious battle, and if not for Konawaena, the Vikings would garner more attention, certainly. But they didn’t travel to Oahu in preseason this season, and they probably didn’t need to. Arguably the darkhorse sleeper of the tournament.

Radford will be up against a tenacious man defense, but they’re going to lean on Kyle Johnson and guard Puni Seei for leadership.

The Radford-Hilo winner will face ILH champion Maryknoll on Wednesday, 7 p.m.

Mililani (12-5, 10-3) vs. Roosevelt (14-3, 12-1)
Tuesday, 5 p.m.

No doubt Roosevelt will come out firing and maybe a little stirred up after losing to Leilehua in the OIA final on Saturday. Mililani could be a tough matchup, however, with some size in the paint and a long point guard who has nice court vision and scoring ability in Jazmina Lafitaga (5-9 senior).

When Keala Quinlan is on, there are few other players who can answer. The 6-1 senior drilled a pull-up 3 to give Roosevelt the lead with less than a minute left in the game against Leilehua. Otherwise, she was quiet with nine points in all, settling for contest mid-range shots instead of attacking the paint.

Here’s my pupule view: if Quinlan takes at least 10 free throws, Roosevelt has its best opportunity to reach the final. Her free-throw total against Leilehua? Zero for zero. Roosevelt will also need more from explosive point guard Ashley Kiko (six points against Leilehua).


It’s a tough call for longtime coach Hinano Higa, who doesn’t have a deep bench. She could let the reins loose and let her best players run and gun for three quarters or more. But would they have anything left in the tank for the final 8 minutes?

This winner will face No. 2 seed Lahainaluna on Wednesday, 5 p.m.

COMMENTS

  1. The Rim February 10, 2016 8:32 am

    How does Leilehua the 4th seed draw the winner of Kaiser/Kam Maui? While Konawaena, the 1 seed draw Punahou? Something is wrong with that bracket. Kaiser/Kam Maui winner should have played Konawaena and Punahou should have been playing Leilehua.


  2. Bball Fan February 10, 2016 10:27 am

    The format is flawed. It happens every year. This should not surprise anyone. If I was Kona I would want to face Punahou, then Maryknoll, and then Lahainaluna. after I beat them there would be no doubt about who is the best. If you want to be the best you should want to beat the best, not have a cake walk into the finals. How impressive is that?


  3. The Rim February 10, 2016 2:07 pm

    @Bball Fan – Are you saying there would be a question if Kona won without playing any one of those teams? Come on, its not about cakewalk into the finals its about earning the right to be seeded #1 and having the top four teams meet in the semi-finals. I think Kona has proven they are willing to take on all competition and nationally ranked teams and to me they are the best right now. Your statement should be directed at the other teams and not Konawaena, want to be the best, beat Kona.


  4. The Rim February 10, 2016 8:22 pm

    @Bball Fan – I guess Kona had a cakewalk so far? 51-27 over Punahou the #2 ILH…….now they play Kaiser so I guess they now they get a cakewalk?


  5. Bball Fan February 10, 2016 9:33 pm

    Kaiser is terrible. Kona is by far the best team in spite of their coaching. They are talented. But what happens in college? The few girls that get to play college basketball struggle the first few years since they struggle to learn sets and schemes since Kona runs none at all. They just let them play which is actually smart since they are the most talented and athletic team. But does that translate to college? I don’t really think so.


  6. Bball Fan February 10, 2016 9:33 pm

    Hilo got blown out.


  7. jc February 11, 2016 1:08 am

    Dunno….but I’m watching the rebroadcast of the Kona/Pun game and at 29-20 Coach Awa calls a timeout and I can read her lips in the huddle and she’s calling to CHERILYN we’re running box and they hit a post slip to Victor for a basket and then an elevator screen out of the box set for a 3. I also see Kona running about 3 or 4 different sets….4 out set, the H set and a inside X set and just before the half they ran an innovative double X out of the spread 4 and plus they ran the “Old Iolani Wheel” which is like a three Molina weave into a drive and a baseline cut. But Kona’s defense is so aggressive and causes turnovers plus they’re playing with almost 4 ball handlers that once they get a defensive board, they’re transitioning and they get buckets out of they’re transition breaks and they’re secondary….so they don’t need to set up offensive sets. And that’s only from one game….I saw them at Iolani Classic and Awa was running other stuff against the mainland teams…so I’m not sure how you can say “despite they’re coaching”!!!


  8. A Fan February 11, 2016 8:14 am

    @The Rim yes they did. Everyone knows this is a down year. Only good teams are Kona & Lahaina. Kona should beat them by 10-12. They are extremely talented. But they are not being prepped for the next level. How many plays for college? And for the few that get there, how hard is the transition. While Galdeira did well statistically at WSU her three years there, we all know she struggled to learn basketball concepts and plays her freshman year. The coach even publicly stated it. And as for taking her academics seriously, well that is a totally different story. Kind of seems it wasn’t learned through high school and it followed her unfortunately to college.


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