St. Francis might show some signs of struggle this week.
Or they might not. After all, at 23-0, the Saints are the top seed at the Snapple/HHSAA State Championships.
The Saints, who have a first-round bye and play on Thursday, have played spectacularly well with a 23-0 overall record and top seeding in this tourney. But two key players, sisters Kealani and Savannah Neves, transferred before the regular season. Playing three games in three days with two fewer cogs in the rotation might be a big test for the unbeaten Saints.
The opening round is underway and features just one team ranked in the Star-Advertiser Top 10: perennial powerhouse Hawaii Baptist. While St. Francis is ranked No. 5 and HBA is No. 9 statewide, like the Saints, the Eagles have a big challenge ahead even though leading scorer and rebounder Ally Wada has been cleared medically to play.
Here’s a look at today’s opening-round matchups with overall and regular-season records.
Hawaii Baptist (24-6, 13-2 ILH D-II) vs. Pearl City (5-18, 2-8 OIA West), Kalani gym, 5 p.m. — The Lady Chargers are in the state tournament for the first time in several years. They defeated Kalaheo 39-27 in the first round of the OIA D-II playoffs to qualify for the state tourney.
The Eagles have a bit of a dilemma with Wada, their senior standout who suffered an injury to her head/neck area on Jan. 20 against St. Francis. She is cleared to play, but isn’t 100 percent. If HBA can manage to control today’s game with Pearl City without her, it’s very likely she’ll rest and heal for one more day.
That’s no guarantee, though, against a scrappy Chargers squad. Alyssa Oshita (9 points per game) is the leading scorer for a program that is trying to bring the big purple back to its glory days.
The winner will face third-seeded Roosevelt (10-9, 6-4 OIA East) on Thursday, 7 p.m., at Kalani.
Seabury Hall (11-3, 7-1 MIL D-II) vs. Honokaa (7-9, 6-3 BIIF), Kaimuki gym, 5 p.m. — The Spartans have a limited well to draw upon when it comes to off-island basketball. They came up big in a 49-41 win over Lanai for the league title. Leading scorers Anaulei Tuivai (21 ppg) and Ameera Waterford (11 ppg) are just sophomores.
The Dragons are coming off a 32-29 loss to KS-Hawaii in the BIIF D-II final. That’s two tight games with the perennial BIIF powerhouse; Honokaa won the regular-season battle 29-28. The Dragons are coached by Aaron Tanimoto.
Fourth-seeded Kauai (11-1, 8-0 KIF) awaits the Seabury Hall-Honokaa winner on Thursday. That game will be 5 p.m. at Kaimuki.
Castle (5-15, 2-8 OIA East) vs. University (10-11, 6-8 ILH D-II), Kaimuki gym, 7 p.m. — The Knights hung close with Roosevelt for a half before losing in the OIA D-II final. There’s no doubt that playing an integrated regular-season schedule against D-I and D-II competition benefited Castle. They have balanced scoring from Briarra Nahikei (9 ppg), Shayla Young (7 ppg), Tiara Hookano (7 ppg) and Sheri Alvarado (6 ppg).
The Jr. ‘Bows have similar balanced scoring: Tia Akasaki (9 ppg), Tyra Goo Sun (7 ppg), Cassidy Gelacio (6 ppg). Senior center Ti Posiulai is strong in the middle at 6 feet tall.
Castle 32, La Pietra 18
University 51, @ La Pietra 32
Nanakuli 38, Castle 24 (Kaiser tournament)
Nanakuli 35, University 31 (Lee Cashman tournament)
@ McKinley 47, Castle 26
McKinley 41, University 35 (HPA tournament)
Castle 73, @ Kalaheo 57
University 53, @ Kalaheo 40
St. Francis 48, Castle 25 (Kaiser tournament)
@ St. Francis 60, University 23
The victor takes on top-seeded St. Francis (23-0, 15-0 ILH D-II) on Thursday, 7 p.m. at Kaimuki.
Waipahu (4-13, 3-7 OIA West) vs. Le Jardin (9-9, 9-6 ILH D-II), 7 p.m., Kalani gym — The Marauders placed third in the OIA D-II playoffs. J’Anne Stewart-Neish (8 ppg), Teves Suan (6 ppg) and Hunter Quemado (6 ppg) lead their offense.
The Bulldogs lost three close games to begin the season: Pearl City (23-22), Kamehameha II (39-33) and Kalaheo (57-56) turning it around. The finished the ILH season with five wins in their last six games, including victories over La Pietra and University.
Volleyball standout Julia Fisher (13 ppg) and Maddie Venezla (8 ppg) are LJA’s leading scorers.
The winner plays second-seeded Kamehameha-Hawaii (13-4, 6-4 BIIF) on Thursday, 5 p.m., at Kalani.