Hoopbook: Big Dance Elite Eight

Kamehameha's Kaylee-Brooke Manuel (41) was fouled by 'Iolani forward Alexis Huntimer (10), right, during the second half of a game this year won by the Warriors. Photo by Jamm Aquino/Star-Advertiser.

Here’s what the slate looks like for the Division I bracket of the Snapple/HHSAA Girls Basketball State Championships.

Thursday’s Division I quarterfinals
Moanalua bracket
5 p.m. ‘Iolani vs. Maui
7 p.m. Kahuku vs. Konawaena
McKinley bracket
5 p.m. Waiakea vs. Kalani
7 p.m. Lahainaluna vs. Kamehameha

If we look at these pairings as rankings, here’s what they look like.

>> No. 1 vs. unranked
>> No. 5 vs. No. 8
>> No. 4 vs. No. 6t
>> No. 2 vs. No. 3

Rankings are completely bonkers at times. Some voters base their ballots on the past and only the past, though preseason games are often laboratory settings for many coaches who want to test their young players. Some panelists look more at potential. Others look back at the past 15 or 20 years.

But if we use balloting as a guide, ‘Iolani certainly has the lightest load. Maui is a relative unknown and is capable of anything. Remember Villanova’s upset win over Georgetown in the 1985 NCAA men’s championship game? The Wildcats shot a phenomenal 79 percent from the field. G-town had no idea what was happening. It was borderline supernatural. (Later, in a documentary, Villanova players admitted to being under the influence of an illegal substance.)

No, it wouldn’t take something drastic or mind-altering for the Maui Sabers to battle the top-seeded ‘Iolani Raiders to the final buzzer. It would take a near-perfect game, however, gauging from the numbers.

Here’s a look at the Division I matchups on Thursday.

‘Iolani (20-6) vs. Maui (13-10)
Site: Moanalua gym, 5 p.m.
Seeding: ‘Iolani is the top seed and ILH champion. Maui is the MIL runner-up and is unseeded.
Vs. Top 10: The Raiders are 12-6 against ranked teams, including a preseason victory over the MIL’s dominant program, Lahainaluna. They are 8-0 against non-Top 10 teams. The Sabers are 0-6 against Top 10 opposition. They are 13-4 against unranked foes.

Skinny: This is the first matchup between the schools in the state tourney. The Raiders have scoring, speed, depth, skill. They’re a five-out team that has been on the cusp as a contender for several seasons under Coach Dean Young. They’ve been atop the Star-Advertiser Top 10 all season long.

Since returning from the Title IX DC Classic, the Raiders have won ILH games by margins of 23, 13, 24, 21, nine and 12 points. Senior Taylor Wu is averaging 15 points per game, while sophomore Lily Lefotu Wahinekapu has been steady at 15 ppg, as well. The virtual motion offense of the Raiders makes any of the five on the floor capable of scoring. Kyra Tanabe is a sneaky-quick defender and dangerous 3-point bomber. They are a matchup concern for every foe.

Maui is coming off a 55-44 win over Kaiser in Monday’s opening round. Honey Let Padasdao, a 5-foot senior, poured in 20 points. The Lady Sabers forced Kaiser into 21 turnovers, but also committed 18 of their own. That won’t be a winning ingredient against the fullcourt pressure of ‘Iolani.

X-factor: Whether it is Alexis Huntimer or Alexsandra Huntimer, the twins, occupying the traditional roles of forward or center, they both rebound, block shots and battle in the paint on par with most quality bigs. Yet, they both have guard skills and, in particular, Alexsandra Huntimer is strong enough to score in the paint. As a lefty, she is even more difficult to cover. The Raiders’ bench includes Jovi Wahinekapu Lefotu and Kawai Kahalehoe, who are reserves in name only and would start for just about any program in the state. Accepting roles off the bench is what makes the Raiders more powerful in crunch time while other teams are wearing down.

Kahuku (14-4) vs. Konawaena
Site: Moanalua, 7 p.m.
Seeding: The OIA champion Lady Raiders are the lowest seed at No. 4. Konawaena is the four-time defending state champion, but finished as the runner-up in the BIIF and is unseeded.
Vs. Top 10: Kahuku is 2-3 against Top 10 foes, and is 12-1 against ranked competition.

Skinny: The Lady Raiders have endured, survived and excelled through the departure or injury of three players during the offseason and into the early stage of preseason. How many teams can lose an all-state Fab 15 talent like Sisilia Kaufusi and still win the OIA? The emergence of sophomore point guard/rebounding machine Leiah Naeata has revitalized the passion and pride of the girls hoops program on the North Shore. The development of Tati Kamae, Aja Tapusoa and sharpshooter/ballhandler Maya Claytor has solidified Coach Latoya Wily‘s pressbreaker.

On the flip side, there may not be a tougher scenario for Kahuku in the quarterfinals. Konawaena is young — no seniors — but is playing its best basketball of the season. Veteran coach Bobbie Awa has guided the Wildcats to nine state crowns in the past 15 seasons, extracting championship-level performances at the right time. Caiyle Kaupu shoulders the big load of work in the paint, but young contributors Kaliana Harrell-Salazar and Grace Lyn Hing are stepping up. Hing had 20 points in the opening-round win over Leilehua on Monday.

X-factor: Kahuku’s ability to handle Kalani’s fullcourt press in the OIA final was phenomenal for most of the way. If the Lady Raiders commit only 12 turnovers or less, that’s a winning ticket.

Did you know: Konawaena’s nine state titles are only two behind all-time leader Punahou (11).

Kalani coach Chi Mok has his Falcons in the D-I state quarterfinals. Photo by Steven Erler/Special to the Star-Advertiser.

Waiakea (20-4) vs. Kalani (20-6)
Site: McKinley, 5 p.m.
Seeding: BIIF champion Waiakea is seeded No. 2. OIA runner-up Kalani is unseeded.
Vs. Top 10: The Warriors are 4-4 against Top 10 opponents, including two wins over 10-time defending BIIF champion Konawaena. The first victory broke the Wildcats’ 124-game win streak in league play. The second win brought the league title to Waiakea. The Lady Falcons are 4-6 against ranked teams. They have been superb at home (8-1) and on opponents’ courts (7-0), but are 5-5 on neutral floors.

Skinny: The Lady Falcons got a jolt earlier in the week when senior center Kandyce Woods did not suit up for an opening-round 70-43 win over Radford. Though Coach Chi Mok has not confirmed (nor denied) that the hard-working post has left the team, she was seen at the Radford game seated away from the team, out of uniform. If she has quit the team, Kalani loses a valuable, strong defender in the paint who can score from mid-range in. If she were to return, it would be fitting for a Kalani squad that has stepped closer to its potential bit by bit since preseason began. It is difficult to replace experience.

Waiakea has multiple players who can score double-digits every night. From Kelsie Imai, a deceptively effective rebounder with point-guard skills, to Jazelle Dorser to Destynee Williams to Keeli-Jade Smith, the Warriors are a difficult team to scheme against. But can the Warriors keep Kalani’s versatile Kamalu Kamakawiwo‘ole from doing damage in the paint? Can they stop PG Kalena Halunajan from exploding into the key for her ambidextrous layups?

X-factor: The Warriors are deep, fast, persistent and not the tallest of teams. With most of the squad now in their third season under Coach Brandon Kauhi, chemistry is a big plus. Tayvia Cabatbat’s gem of a night in the BIIF final against Konawaena, her former team, is another headache for opposing teams.

And-1: Kalani-Waiakea pits two teams that are born to run. But if the Falcons get past the BIIF champions, can they stonewall a force like Kamehameha’s Kalina Obrey? Could they corral another athletic big like Lahainaluna’s Susitina Namoa? Should Konawaena reach the final two rounds, would Kalani’s athletic, but slender posts Kamakawiwo‘ole and Shelby McDaniel have enough fight and girth to counter Konawaena’s Kaupu?

It’s out of Kalani’s hands, if Woods truly is done with her high school basketball career. But it sure is some incredible timing.

Lahainaluna (20-4) vs. Kamehameha (16-6)
Site: McKinley, 7 p.m.
Seeding: The Lady Lunas return as MIL champions again and are seeded No. 3. Kamehameha, the ILH runner-up, is unseeded.
Vs. Top 10: Lahainaluna is 3-4 against ranked foes with victories over Hilo, Konawaena and… Kamehameha. The Lunas haven’t faced a Top 10 team through the entire MIL season. The Warriors are 10-7 against Top 10 foes, facing them regularly in the ILH. They dominated Mililani 41-17 in the opening round. On paper, this is a matchup of the No. 2 and No. 3 teams in the Star-Advertiser Top 10.

Skinny: When they met in the Matsumoto Law Group Black and Gold Classic ages ago (Nov. 10), it was a bit of a surprise. The Lunas had looked tired and lethargic in their first two matchups against Maryknoll and ‘Iolani, losing by margins of 18 and 14 points. Coach Todd Rickard wasn’t concerned, though, and his team stepped up to beat Kamehameha 46-39. Namoa was a major contributor, leading the Lunas in scoring while defending in the post against Warriors standout Obrey. Few defenders have the strength and savvy to counter Obrey, and this rematch will be intriguing because of Namoa-Obrey.

The influence and impact of the Menehune youth basketball program in West Maui continues to feed talent into the Lunas program. Sisters Ashley and Abigail Akamine have filled in for departed graduates Braeanna Estabillo-Donato and Rachel Balagso.

Coach Pua Straight has the Warriors playing shut-down defense of late. Mililani managed to shoot 7-for-47 from the field. The Warriors’ defensive energy is completely contagious from top to bottom of the roster.

X-factor: Namoa has been relatively healthy all season, but her knee issue could resurface with three consecutive days of basketball. It wasn’t a problem in preseason, however, so there is hope that she can be at full strength. Courage is never in short supply for Namoa and the longtime powerhouse Lunas.

A coulda-been for Maryknoll, Hilo
There are consumers and there are tinkerers.

Lately, there has been more of the latter watching the format of the girls basketball state tourney. And more and more are wondering about the alluring possibilities that weren’t to be.

“Just imagine if it had been Maryknoll-Kalani and Hilo-Kamehameha on neutral courts,” a longtime observer said.

Imagine the tourney as a two-weekend event. No consolation games — which would not make neighbor-island traveling teams happy, to say the least, from what I recall hearing from administrators at HIADA conferences in years past.

Whatever semantics are involved in a fantasy format, one that involves no ratios, if roundballheads had their way, YES, Maryknoll-Kalani and Hilo-Kamehameha as opening-round matchups would have been potentially epic.

Maryknoll vs. Kalani
The senior-less Lady Spartans against the one player who would have been their only senior, Kamakawiwo‘ole, and a talented Kalani squad. With Kamakawiwo‘ole suiting up in Falcon white and red as a senior, the Falcons would get a fiery challenge from Maryknoll.

But with two teams relying heavily on speed, finesse, fastbreaks and fullcourt pressure, it could’ve been a scoring bonanza. An 82-81 game. Especially with Kalani senior center Kandyce Woods apparently done playing. She was seen in the gym when Kalani played Radford in the real game on Monday, out of uniform, wearing street clothes and nowhere near her teammates.

Hilo vs. Kamehameha
Really, with Kamehameha routing Mililani 41-17 on Monday, just complete defensive domination, would the Hilo Vikings fare any better?

Maybe not in the paint, but the Viks were the only team in the BIIF to beat Waiakea twice. Would they have been able to contain Obrey? Would Obrey and her post teammates like Noelle Sua-Godinet been able to cover Hilo’s speedy wings in four- and five-out sets?

The biggest question would have been where the game would be played. A neutral court could mean a gym on Oahu or a gym on the Big Island. Maybe play on Maui? An inter-island home-court advantage has to be worth at least 10 points. Especially same-day travel on a school day.

Regardless, the sight of Hilo finally back in the state tournament with a Top 10 team, well, that would’ve been heavenly. Same with Maryknoll. Two third-place teams from the state’s best basketball leagues, each capable of going deep at the big dance.

HHSAA D-I State Tournament

Match #DateMatchupTime/ScoresSite
1Feb. 4Konawaena vs. LeilehuaKona, 61-41Konawaena
2Feb. 4Maui vs. KaiserMaui, 55-44Maui
3Feb. 4Radford vs. KalaniKaln, 70-43Kalani
4Feb. 4Kamehameha vs. MililaniKSK, 41-17Kamehameha
5Feb. 7(1) 'Iolani vs. MauiIol, 67-32Moanalua
6Feb. 7(4) Kahuku vs. KonawaenaKona, 46-42Moanalua
7Feb. 7(2) Waiakea vs. KalaniKaln, 73-57McKinley
8Feb. 7(3) Lahainaluna vs. KamehamehaKSK, 47-30McKinley
9*Feb. 8Maui vs. KahukuKah, 60-19Stan Sheriff Center
10*Feb. 8Waiakea vs. LahainalunaWaik, 60-54Stan Sheriff Center
11Feb. 8Kalani vs. KamehamehaKSK, 62-49Stan Sheriff Center
12Feb. 8'Iolani vs. KonawaenaIol, 43-22Stan Sheriff Center
13*Feb. 9Kahuku vs. WaiakeaWaik, 56-53Stan Sheriff Center
14*Feb. 9Kalani vs. KonawaenaKona, 52-44Stan Sheriff Center
15Feb. 9Kamehameha vs. 'IolaniIol, 52-49Stan Sheriff Center
* — consolation

HHSAA D-II State Tournament

Match #DateMatchupTime/ScoresSite
1Feb. 6Farrington vs. St. FrancisFar, 41-35Damien
2Feb. 6Waimea vs. WaipahuWaim, 59-48Damien
3Feb. 6Ka'u vs. UniversityULS, 54-40Kalani
4Feb. 6Hanalani vs. KS-HawaiiHan, 44-28Kalani
5*Feb. 7St. Francis vs. WaipahuWaip, 39-36Damien
6*Feb. 7Ka'u vs. KS-HawaiiKau, 46-35Kalani
7Feb. 7(1) Hawaii Baptist vs. FarringtonHBA, 50-29Damien
8Feb. 7(4) Hawaii Prep vs. WaimeaWaim, 53-14Damien
9Feb. 7(2) Seabury Hall vs. UniversitySH, 62-53Kalani
10Feb. 7(3) Castle vs. HanalaniHan, 63-50Kalani
11*Feb. 8Waipahu vs. KauWaip, 52-38Stan Sheriff Center
12*Feb. 8University vs. CastleULS, 52-49Kalani
13*Feb. 8Farrington vs. Hawaii PrepHPA, 47-38Kalani
14Feb. 8Seabury Hall vs. HanalaniSH, 55-43Damien
15Feb. 8Hawaii Baptist vs. WaimeaHBA, 56-47Damien
16*Feb. 9University vs. Hawaii PrepULS, 37-29Stan Sheriff Center
17*Feb. 9Hanalani vs. WaimeaWaim, 72-60Stan Sheriff Center
18Feb. 9Seabury Hall vs. Hawaii BaptistHBA, 43-39Stan Sheriff Center
* — consolation


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