Girls hoops Top 10: No question about top ‘Cats

Most teams are lucky to get one shot at greatness. Konawaena got three and took down two nationally-ranked powerhouses at the ‘Iolani Classic. Unheard of. Photo: Paul Honda.
Most teams are lucky to get one shot at greatness. Konawaena got three and took down two nationally-ranked powerhouses at the ‘Iolani Classic. Unheard of. Photo: Paul Honda.

The Star-Advertiser girls basketball Top 10 is out for the first time this season.

Rank, School, (first-place votes), points, last year’s final ranking
1. Konawaena (14), 149, 5
2. Roosevelt, 110, 6
3. Lahainaluna, 109, 2
3. Maryknoll, 109, 7
5. Punahou (1), 101, 1
6. Iolani, 62, 10
7. Hilo, 51, 4
7. Kamehameha, 51, 8
9. Mililani, 32, 3
10. Kaiser, 14, NR
Also receiving votes: Nanakuli 10, KS-Hawaii 9, Kailua 8, Moanalua 4, Leilehua 4, Honokaa 1, St. Francis 1.

Please consider this: Voters (media and coaches) didn’t have access to a lot of scores, and even this far along — the third or fourth week of preseason is on us and ILH girls start regular-season play this week (unless that Punahou-Sacred Hearts opener really was this past Saturday), there’s enough data to process in our hoopaholic minds.

Here’s my take on how the voters voted.
Konawaena (13-1) is truly the cream of the crop. Thing is, any fan who doesn’t know better would look at the Wildcats’ team photo and think, well… they’re going to get crushed by these mainland teams with 6-foot-4 Division-I college recruits. And I really don’t blame people with that generic viewpoint. The eye test says, No Way. But Konawaena went to the ‘Iolani Classic, dispatched two nationally ranked teams and almost knocked off a third. If you take a group of players who range from 5-2 to 5-8 and figure out a way to beat programs that are borderline college-level competitive, you are a GENIUS coach. You’ve sold the kids on the value of fundamental basketball, no matter how much taller, longer and faster another team may be. Bobbie Awa, five-time state championship coach, did the teaching and her students solved just about every problem with teamwork. It was a beautiful thing to witness.

Roosevelt (5-2) has a weakness or two, as do all teams, but what they do well is hard for most local teams to counter. They’re fast, they can shoot from long range, and they can pressure the ball from start to finish, end to end. What they don’t do well at this point is score in the post. If they can establish some semblance of a post game, that’ll make close games easier to finish. Simpler, too. There may be some players or coaches or parents who believe that college recruiters don’t want a 5-7 or 5-11 kid who plays in the post. Really? Chanelle Molina of Konawaena spends most of her time on the high post, yet has several D-I offers. They know what she can do. Same goes for any post player who has handles and 3-point range, I believe. If the recruiters have seen the player do everything a 1 or 2 or 3 needs to do, it doesn’t really matter where he or she plays during the high school season, or in the halfcourt offense.

Lahainaluna is a work in progress of the highest nature. I thought they’d have some real struggles when three key guards departed, but they were tough and good and resilient at the Ted Fukushima Invitational. I know they are at least 7-2, but I’ve still got some missing scores. Whatever the case, I am not going to argue against the Lady Lunas at No. 3. They’ve already given Konawaena a decent challenge (in defeat), and they’ve already beaten some very good teams (Punahou, Hilo).

Maryknoll is 7-0 at last check, though my guess is the Lady Spartans have played more games. It’s tough for me to justify how an unbeaten team isn’t at or near the top of this poll. So that’s on the voters. It’s been a couple of weeks since I got to see this team and they were running, running, running at that time. Coach Chico Furtado had to implore his players to keep running the floor in transition. I wonder how far they’ve come along since then. With the depth and athleticism they have, fastbreak layups and transition threes should be the norm. Fun for fans, too.

Punahou is the defending state champion, but with at least two close losses (Roosevelt, Lahainaluna), it’s not easy to bicker with voters on this one. In fact, this doesn’t hurt any coach, really, when there are one- and two-week gaps between games. Coach Kevin Velasco is a patient teacher, and two very close defeats is automatic fuel for motivation in the classroom. Let’s just say an unbeaten team may not be as hungry as a defending champ that is ranked this low, almost slighted, maybe. Whatever works for motivation is good. Most of the time.

‘Iolani is another run-and-gun squad with depth and solid fundamentals. Like Roosevelt, however, the Raiders lack a consistent post game. They’ll get by on speed, skill and tough fullcourt pressure. Sierra Buscher, the standout volleyball player, is a tough defender in the paint. They’re 5-2 by the results I’ve seen), the last two games being losses to nationally-ranked mainland teams. It’ll be interesting to see which program that runs a fast pace can get a consistent post scorer going first, ‘Iolani or Roosevelt. Maybe neither does it and they win most of the time, anyway. Again, like Roosevelt, ‘Iolani can be a lot of fun to watch. All those gunners who spent day after day in the off-season putting in 100, 200, 300 shots from the arc — we can see who they are. As for the “shooters” on other teams that are erratic long-range shooters? There’s always next off-season.

HIlo is another tough, defensive-minded team. Coach Ben Pana demands that of his crew, regardless of their lack of height. They boxed out well in the game I saw at the Ted, a close loss to Roosevelt. Alexis Pana will probably have a fine season, but if she has to take the brunt of defending bigger players in the post, it could wear her down. My guess is that in most BIIF games, the Lady Vikings will be stealing the ball in the backcourt so often that low-post play won’t be a real factor.

Kamehameha has talent and the right pieces to make a big run. It might take some time for new coach Joseph Cho to get his team into a nice flow, but they can play some rugged defense. I saw them lost a close game to Roosevelt a few weeks ago, and they’ve got the right mix of bigs and guards. The Warriors at No. 8 is a good spot to be in.

Mililani – I have not seen the Lady Trojans yet this season. I have heard, though, that Shantel Appleby is doing well. Can she carry this team deep into the playoffs? We shall see.

Kaiser is promising. They aren’t especially tall or deep, but Coach Simon Bitanga will wring out every last bit of effort from the Lady Cougars. As I noted a few weeks back, their JV team is far, far taller and bigger than the varsity. Maybe some talent there that’ll develop into varsity-ready contributors come playoff time.

Also receiving votes
Haven’t seen Nanakuli, KS-Hawaii, Moanalua, Leilehua and St. Francis. I have seen Kailua twice and they have the pieces to make a nice run. Depth is an issue, but if they can develop some role players, that’s all they need.

Here’s how I voted.
Pupule ballot
BKG 12/15/14
1. Konawaena 
2. Maryknoll
3. Lahainaluna
4. Roosevelt
5. Hilo
6. Punahou
7. ‘Iolani
8. Kamehameha
9. Kamehameha-Hawaii
10. Kailua

This is where they are now through my pupule-tinted glasses. Not a forecast of future results or based on last year, etc. There is, really, almost no difference between the 2 and 8 spots. I think Maryknoll is a stronger team than Kamehameha, but when I say there’s little difference, I mean this would be a fairly close game. This season is going to come down to staying healthy, free from injuries, seeing which players develop into true leaders and go-to performers and, of course, great coaching. And there’s a lot of that in Hawaii girls basketball.


  1. George Kaeo December 16, 2014 6:41 pm

    here are mine: konawaena, punahou, lahainaluna, maryknoll, roosevelt, hilo, iolani, kamehameha, kailua, kaiser.

  2. Paul Honda December 17, 2014 8:04 am

    Can’t argue with your ballot. The only difference with mine is you have Kaiser and I have KS-Hawaii. That would be a good game.

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