This is why we play the game.
In Hilo, anything can happen with a field this balanced. Now we have the ILH’s first-, second- and third-place teams in the final four of the Snapple/HHSAA Girls Basketball State Championships in Division II.
Parity, or ILH D-II, now rules, and defending state champion Hawaii Baptist is back in the picture after finishing third in the ILH. The Eagles’ 50-37 win over 2-seed Seabury Hall says a lot about the tough ILH Division II schedule, and the lack of competition for Seabury Hall in MIL D-II.
Would Seabury Hall have become a better team by playing in the tough MIL D-I? Of course. There’s no rule against scheduling exhibition games against Top 10 teams like Lahainaluna, King Kekaulike and Maui. Or even Kamehameha-Maui. The D-II schedule clearly hurt the Spartans, who nearly upset Punahou in November, and later beat Maui, which was in the Top 10.
For HBA, a skilled, experienced team that struggled in big games this season, timing is everything. Sasha Phillip has a big double-double with 11 points and 14 boards against Seabury Hall, a team that beat HBA in preseason. Alexis Dang carried on the family legacy with 18 points, 10 rebounds and four of her team’s 10 steals. Emi Wada also fired up the family tradition with 15 points, 3-for-3 from the arc. HBA shot 16-for-21 at the foul line, 6-for-13 from 3 and even won the battle of the boards, 38-37.
Seabury Hall, which had not played at Top 10 team since preseason, shot 27 percent from the field, including 3-for-18 fro the arc. Add 18 turnovers and the Spartans’ dream of a state title went down the drain in the quarterfinal round.
Hanalani’s stunning 63-60 win over Waimea is another testament to the quality of basketball in ILH D-II. Waimea may be better than it was last year when it reached the D-II state semifinals. Hanalani? Four scorers in double figures, a nice resume of wins over OIA D-I teams.
On paper, Waimea did some things well enough to win. At the arc, 7-for-14, including 4-for-6 by Hazel Serapio. Kaye Serapio 13 points, 14 rebounds. Keirstin Gummerus tallied 18 points before fouling out. But the Menehunes shot just 33 percent from the field, were just 5-for-11 at the foul line and got outrebounded 49-42.
Is this the year for Hanalani? Maria Ralar (23 points), Jacie Nava (14), Faith Mersburg (10 points, nine boards, seven assists) and Lishae Scanlan (9 points, 10 boards, three blocks) are elevating the Royals to another level. They’ve been good before. This team has more balance. Scanlan’s length and defense make her a Top 5 player in the sophomore class, perhaps Top 3.
Yet, the time is not right for Hanalani, HBA or even Mid-Pacific to move up to ILH D-I. Or is it? This pupule litmus test is simple. If a coach has a solid eight rotation players, D-I is best. No point in dominating a lesser classification. But if a team has only three or four D-I level starters, that’s a bubble situation. And that’s where the best ILH D-II teams are right now. Good enough to compete against the rest of the state, and capable of upsetting the big girls (‘Iolani, Maryknoll, Kamehameha, Punahou) occasionally. But demanding any of the D-II programs to move up strictly because of success in the lower division is ludicrous, especially if there will be immediate, significant losses to graduation.
Top seed Mid-Pacific advanced with a 59-41 win over Damien. The Owls led 35-17 at the half. Madi Sagawa scored 24 points in just 22 minutes, but that was because she fouled out. As a team, the Owls had 14 turnovers and shot just 40 percent from the field, but were sparkling at the free-throw line (16-for-21, 76 percent) and limited Damien freshman phenom Teresa Anakalea to 12 points on 4-for-15 shooting.
Fourth-seeded Kamehameha-Hawaii, the hometown team (Keaau is a 15-minute drive from Hilo), jumped to a 19-2 lead and coasted to a 51-37 win over OIA D-II champion Farrington. High-scoring Dominque Pacheco scored “only” 13 points, but had seven steals and seven rebounds, plus three dimes. The Warriors got scoring punch from Sara Schubert (14 points, 12 rebounds) and Megan Baldado (10 points). They shot 45 percent from the field, 50 percent from 3 and 58 percent at the foul line.
The biggest math factor: KS-Hawaii forced Farrington into 22 turnovers. The biggest what if: Govs’ gunner Shaylen Tatupu-Timu did not play.
Here’s a look at tonight’s semifinal matchups.
Hawaii Baptist (16-8) vs. Hanalani (13-2)
Afook-Chinen Hilo Civic Auditorium, 5 p.m.
Skinny: The old school versus the new D-II powerhouse. When the teams met on Dec. 14 in the regular-season opener, Hanalani prevailed 59-47. The Royals had home court that day, and it has been a long seven weeks since for the Eagles.
Again, HBA later lost at Mid-Pacific — yes, the two toughest games on the league schedule were on the road — by the narrowest of margins, 29-28. The Eagles have now won six games in a row. They are 0-5 against Top 10 teams, but two of them are ‘Iolani and Lahainaluna, and two are California teams. The other, Seabury Hall, is out of title contention.
HBA is 16-3 against unranked teams, one being Kalani, which made the D-I state tourney. The other two? Hanalani and Mid-Pacific. It is almost as if the Eagles have their hit list, and they’re X’ing off everyone they can, one at a time.
The Royals have reached the semifinal round twice, in 2013 and last year. As Seabury Hall and Waimea can attest, there’s no better time than now because greater success beyond this year is never a guarantee.
X-factor: HBA’s experience is vast. If Phillip continues to play lights-out, the Eagles are the team to beat. Since struggling early on, she has found her groove during the win streak, averaging 14 points per game. She had just four in the loss to Hanalani.
Pupule prediction: When this much is at stake, defense usually succeeds. But defense can only go so far. Hanalani shot 10-for-23 at the foul line against Waimea. Edge to HBA, but the Eagles also turned the ball over 16 times against a Seabury Hall squad that has a tight rotation. HBA had more giveaways than field goals (14). It’s tough to doubt the reigning champs. Maybe Hanalani is a year away. Pupule says: Eagles 45, Royals 41.
Mid-Pacific (20-3) vs. Kamehameha-Hawaii (12-5)
Afook-Chinen Hilo Civic Auditorium, 7 p.m.
Skinny: The Owls sat for 19 days without a game, but handled Damien and now takes on the lowest seed. The busy preseason included a Big Island trip, three wins at Ka Makani Tip-Off in early December.
MPI is the only D-II team in the current Top 10. KS-Hawaii will have the force with it. If the Owls aren’t careful, Pacheco could have another one of her 40-point games.
X-factor: Officiating, or adjusting to officiating, is always key in state-tourney games. If MPI has foul issues again, this is a toss-up.
Pupule says: Owls 61, Warriors 51. Warriors have pride and extra adrenaline fueled by their home crowd. This will be closer than most expect.
Side note: Just a hunch, but if the Big Island crowd — not just Kamehameha alumni — doesn’t turn out to support its D-II league champion, there might be a push from the rest of the state to stop rotating this event to the neighbor islands completely. Don’t imagine for a second that Oahu, Maui and Kauai supporters of girls basketball won’t discuss this at the next HIADA conference. An audience of less than a 100 or 200 in a fine venue like the Civic is preposterous when there are barely any fans from the host island at the games. Or is the rivalry with KS-Hawaii that strong for many BIIF programs? Fill it up, Big Island hoops fans.
HHSAA D-II State Tournament
|1||Feb. 5||McKinley vs. Damien||DMS, 37-25||Hilo Civic|
|2||Feb. 5||Hanalani vs. Campbell||Han, 64-29||Hilo Civic|
|3||Feb. 5||Farrington vs. Lanai||Far, 44-36||Hilo Civic|
|4||Feb. 5||Hawaii Prep vs. Hawaii Baptist||HBA, 54-16||Hilo Civic|
|5*||Feb. 6||McKinley vs. Lanai||Lan, 46-32||Hilo Civic|
|6||Feb. 6||(3) Waimea vs. Hanalani||Han, 63-60||Hilo Civic|
|7||Feb. 6||(1) Mid-Pacific vs. Damien||MPI, 59-41||Hilo Civic|
|8||Feb. 6||(2) Seabury Hall vs. Hawaii Baptist||HBA, 50-37||Hilo Civic|
|9||Feb. 6||(4) KS-Hawaii vs. Farrington||KSH, 51-37||Hilo Civic|
|10*||Feb. 7||Campbell vs. Hawaii Prep||Camp, 44-12||Hilo Civic|
|11*||Feb. 7||Waimea vs. Seabury Hall||SH, 62-42||Hilo Civic|
|12*||Feb. 7||Damien vs. Farrington||DMS, 51-47||Hilo Civic|
|13||Feb. 7||Hanalani vs. Hawaii Baptist||Han, 52-42||Hilo Civic|
|14||Feb. 7||Mid-Pacific vs. KS-Hawaii||MPI, 32-28||Hilo Civic|
|15*||Feb. 8||Lanai vs. Campbell||Lan, 49-40||Hilo Civic|
|16*||Feb. 8||Seabury Hall vs. Damien||SH, 53-30||Hilo Civic|
|17*||Feb. 8||Hawaii Baptist vs. KS-Hawaii||HBA, 37-29||Hilo Civic|
|18||Feb. 8||Hanalani vs. Mid-Pacific||Han, 40-37||Hilo Civic|
|* — consolation|