Big Dance, little notes

Some late-night/early-morning thoughts and reflections on this week’s Hawaiian Airlines/HHSAA Girls Basketball State Championships.

• Wobbly timing. There was some talk about Konawaena’s injury issues coming into the state tourney, but none of the Wildcats were slated to sit out. In other words, their injury woes probably weren’t much worse than any other team in the tourney at this point in the season.

However, it turns out the Dawnyelle’s ankle injury is serious enough that it requires taping and a brace. The Wildcats were up by 20 in the final minute of play during a semifinal win over Kahuku last night. It would’ve been easy to sit Awa — just in case — but she’s been relatively free from injury during her four-year career. With a limited lineup, I don’t think it’s normal at all for the Wildcats to empty the bench. In fact, having a roster of 10 players means Coach Bobbie Awa’s guards see heavy minutes, particularly with this four-guard starting lineup.

If Dawnyelle Awa is unable to play at her usual elite level, the ‘Cats lose their glue offensively. They lose her court vision and perfectly timed passes to backdoor cutters. They lose her phenomenal ability to play the lane defensively and come up with steals.

But they’ve already adjusted to a point. She hasn’t been prolific with the thievery on defense this week, probably because of the gimpy ankle. But her defense is still solid, if more conservative.

During the ‘Iolani Classic in early December, Awa had flu symptoms and sat for some stretches. That’s when Hoku Liftee and Makayla Awa stepped into the role and brought the ball upcourt without any trouble, even against outstanding on-ball pressure from mainland teams.

And if worse comes to worse, Konawaena can turn to Lia Galdeira, the five-position phenom. Does Galdeira still have that heroic quality of stepping up when needed any time, any position? She was on the high post against Kahuku’s zone defense yesterday, something we hadn’t seen in the previous three years. If her coach asks for the world — run the point and grab every rebound — Galdeira will be ready to do so.

• 20-20 blurry vision. The ‘Iolani Raiders, champions of the ILH, entered the tourney as the No. 2 seed. They were also ranked No. 3 by coaches and media in Tuesday’s Star-Advertiser Girls Basketball Top 10. They proved they were the better team yesterday in a win over third-seeded — and second-ranked — Lahainaluna.

Yet, the Raiders committed 20 turnovers against Lahainaluna’s mix of defenses. It’s safe to say that 20 turnovers tonight against Konawaena would not be a good thing for ‘Iolani. Chances are, though, that the Wildcats of Konawaena will stay back in a halfcourt man defense, save their legs (and Awa’s ankle) and stick to the formula that brought them four state crowns in eight seasons.

Can ‘Iolani push the tempo and incite Konawaena into a full-fledged, wild tempo? The Raiders were prone to fouls in their quarterfinal win over Mililani; that’s the luxury of having 10 to 12 players ready to hit the court at any time. It might not work so well on Konawaena, though, because of the ‘Cats good free-throwing shooting as a team.

If anything, it may be possible that the Raiders might be a little more fatigued than the Wildcats after pushing tempo, pressuring on-ball in halfcourt and fullcourt nonstop for two nights. But first and foremost, their giveaways will be the litmus test.

• Red wave. Kahuku stunned Kamehameha and Pearl City en route to the semifinal round, but what’s most stunning is the tempo the Lady Raiders adopted. New coach Scott DeSilva brought his experience as a former Kamehameha player and coach, encouraging his team to slow the pace and work the ball into the post, where Leighlani Paselio did damage all season long.

They pounded Konawaena’s low-post man defense until the ‘Cats switched to a 2-3 zone. From there, Kahuku’s ball movement offensively often lost flow, and Paselio’s touches diminished. Pretty intriguing change of events, particularly because Coach Awa insists that her team plays bad zone defense.

• Thin line. More than any year I can remember in maybe a decade, perhaps even two decades, teams are simply lacking depth. Pearl City got through the long season using a seven-player rotation. Kaimuki contended for the OIA Red title despite a similar problem with a thin bench. Waiakea used just seven in its opening-round game, but the triple-overtime battle all but emptied the tanks of the Warriors by day 2.

All across the state, so many perrenially strong programs faced this problem. The exceptions are few. One is ‘Iolani. Kahuku went deep down its bench, too.

Depth, of course, isn’t everything. But it certainly separates the tiny list of tournament-strong teams from the rest.

• Rise and shine. Hanalani principal Winston Sakurai noted that the Royals will have the entire school enrollment at Blaisdell Arena this morning for their 9 a.m. game. It brings back memories of University High being in the consolation bracket on the final day some years back. The entire school walked across the street and down to Stan Sheriff Arena that day.

Hanalani is in Mililani, which means there will be traffic along the way.

Paul Honda, Star-Advertiser


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