Hoopbook: Donez, Huihui, Samura and memorable moments at states

Lahainaluna guard Lola Donez soars for an and-one layup as Waiakea's Pua Herrington defends during state-tournament action. Donez finished with 41 points as the Lady Lunas advanced, 69-66, at McKinley Student Council Gymnasium. Paul Honda/Star-Advertiser (Feb. 7, 2024)

This Hoopbook is long overdue and it took a state-tournament record night by Lola Donez to trigger it.

Donez was in sniper mode, but ordinary sniper, during a 41-point performance on Wednesday night. Green light, tough off the dribble with the mid-range J from anywhere, and especially strong going to her left — the mark of a true workaholic hoopster. Lahainaluna needed all of it in a 69-66 win over a talented Waiakea squad.

As a combo guard in a program that has not been as deep or talented in recent years — the Menehune youth program peaked some time ago — the usage is borderline burden. Donez walks the walk. The kind of body language coaches love. Calm. Persistent. Opportunistic. All 22 of her shots — except maybe a rushed wing 3 with Pua Herrington draped on her — were in rhythm, at her speed and no one else’s.

When it mattered most, during Waiakea’s multiple rally runs, Donez snipped the momentum by seeking and hitting huge shots. She almost didn’t miss a single field-goal or free-throw attempt in the first half, when she racked up 28 points. Waiakea depended heavily on Herrington and senior guard Jolie Mantz, but with Maya Kaneshiro and Hannah Iwahiro launching open 3s, the Warriors had many chances to take command of this game even with Donez having a historic night.

It was a shootout we haven’t seen at states in a long, long time. Donez counted on her teammates when Waiakea brought double and triple teams in the second half, and they came through just enough. This is not the same Lady Lunas team that struggled some at the Konawaena Invitation in mid-November. That squad lost to Kahuku, 59-48; beat Kapaa, 47-30; and lost to Waiakea, 53-51. Donez scored 20, 21, then 33 points in the tourney.

My assessment of her at the time was that she loves her mid-range looks, but could really punish defenses by attacking the rim more. The side note in that loss to Waiakea: the Lunas began to play with more flow, more structure, and actually executed a few backdoor passes for easy buckets. That, I thought, would make the difference for them long term.

Well, on Wednesday there were no easy baskets. Waiakea’s defense wouldn’t really allow it. What they did give for a full half was open mid-range looks, and Donez ate it all up.

Later, the Lunas traveled to Oahu for the I Mua Invitational. Lost to Maryknoll, 46-40. Donez had 15 points. Lost again to Waiakea, 57-55. Donez 18. Beat Kamehameha-Hawaii, 42-33. Donez 18.

In MIL play, she began to pile up big numbers, but the question would always be, what will she do against a Top-10 level team in the post-season. The MIL, like all leagues with the exception of the ILH, is down, down, down. The breadth of competitive teams is thin, shallow. At the top level, the state’s best teams and players are still elite, but when former basketball players tell me why they play only volleyball in high school, half the time their response is: “I don’t like running.”

We haven’t had an All-State basketball and volleyball player since Alohi Robins-Hardy of Kamehameha a decade ago. I’m not salty about it. I’m just glad we still have a Lola Donez to witness live. I’m glad we have Herrington and Mantz. Brooke Samura of Hawaii Prep scored 38 last night in a win over Lanai and is averaging over 35 points per game, including 30-plus point games against the BIIF’s best — Konawaena, Waiakea and giant-killer KS-Hawaii.

Donez’s return to the stomping grounds, the hometown has made all the difference for the Lady Lunas of Lahainaluna. As mentioned last summer, the 6-foot guard had been away for years, honing her craft with high-level clubs on the continent. Once she got the attention of college coaches, the return was imminent.

She signed with Cal, and if you can think of any local girls basketball player to play for the Golden Bears since Shawna Kuehu was in line to play for them after a historic career at Punahou, tell me.

Pick one: I wish we could see all games, both Division I and II, but that is unlikely to happen. This is why girls basketball fans are torn tonight. No. 7-ranked Kamehameha-Hawaii and No. 8 Maryknoll clash in the D-II semifinals. While Maryknoll was 7-3 against Top-10 teams in preseason, there has not been a true test since they began the ILH D-II schedule, even with some quality teams there.

Keanu Huihui and Maela Honma have super-charged the Warriors with supreme inside-out play. Their versatility is crucial to KS-Hawaii’s success, but their ability to crash the offensive glass is the real difference maker. In a 70-18 rout of Kapolei on Wednesday, Huihui, a 6-foot senior, had 35 points and five of her 10 rebounds were on the offensive glass. Honma, a 5-9 All-State volleyball player, had 23 points and 18 boards, including eight on the offensive side.

When they decide to torment opponents by dominating the offensive glass, they can compete and beat any team in the state. When they don’t, well, they can lose to a whole lot of teams. Officiating, court conditions, team health, off-the-court demands — none of it can really affect offensive rebounding and defensive effort.

Maryknoll is deeper, has more experience up and down the lineup. KS-Hawaii is athletic, a lot of multiple-sport athletes, and has a defensive scheme — 1-2-2 zone — that theoretically is built to tangle the flow of a perimeter-dependent team like the Spartans.

The biggest question is this: when Maryknoll utilizes its speed in transition, will KS-Hawaii keep up? It’ll be a game of chess for veteran coach Chico Furtado and Warriors coach Donald Yamada. One of the biggest factors in the new shot-clock era is that any team in striking distance doesn’t have to foul to get the ball back. It’s one of the beautiful aspects of the shot clock that Oahu’s youth leagues have enjoyed for more than a decade.

Top dogs: Kapaa got a monster 21-point, nine-rebound, five-assist, five-block, four-steal from Olivia Malafu in a 64-32 win over Hawaii Baptist on Wednesday. Malafu and the Warriors struggled mightily at the Konawaena Invitational, particularly against fullcourt pressure. Malafu was clearly the best ball handler they had. For sure, she had the most confidence, and seeing her regularly slash to the basket made it clear that she is not relegated to one position, one spot on the floor.

How Hanalani, a young, talented squad, matches up with Malafu will be interesting in the 7 p.m. game tonight at Kalani. The simplest game plan would be to double Malafu and cross the fingers when Kapaa’s perimeter shooters launch. Kapaa was 2-for-10 from the arc against HBA.

Trinity Guillen amassed 19 rebounds for Kapaa. Nine were on the offensive glass. The Warriors had 19 steals and 29 turnovers in a 32-point win. Are they the top team in the D-II tourney? They get to prove it soon.

Bump up, bump down: The difference between BIIF officiating and Oahu officiating has been debated for decades. I recall covering games in the 1990s on the Big Island that had more than 60 fouls called. For years, neighbor-island teams have experienced a certain level of contact by the small pool of referees on their island. Then they come to states and are in shock for two or three quarters at the state tournament.

It happened to the Maui team that was 27-0 before states. The Finau brothers were talented, active and physical, but they weren’t used to what Oahu officials allowed. That team didn’t get adjusted to the physicality until the second half. When the HHSAA seeding committee relies heavily on history to make its decisions, indirectly, this difference in officiating from Oahu to its neighboring islands is a part of the equation.

It was true on Tuesday, when HBA’s girls edged Hawaii Prep. Samura came into the tournament averaging 36 points per game, but was limited to 24 while being bumped in the lane like a pinball. Her strength allowed her to stay somewhat balanced and get off a lot of 10-foot shots, but the weird reality is this: if Samura was not as strong and fell to the ground on those bumps from HBA’s defenders, there probably would have been at least 10 fouls called. Most of those would’ve been shooting fouls.

Samura would’ve taken around 16 to 24 more free throws. How do I know? I was sitting there behind the basket. The thing is, it was the same on both ends for most of the game. Instead of calling a normal game, the crew opted to let hackers hack and slappers slap.

The end play, however, is something that will never be forgotten. HBA played it correctly, and whether tackling Samura inadvertently or purposely — i think it was the former — it prevented the sharpshooter from taking a 3-point shot to potentially tie the game. Time ran out, and HPA left the court after shaking hands.

I know of at least a dozen coaches who would have argued with the officials crew point-blank without hesitation. Oh, saliva would have been flying. That’s not Hawaii Prep’s style, and most fans in Earl C. Holmer Gymnasium wondered, what in the heck just happened?

The perils of an all-Oahu crew include this exact scenario. Nobody was biased, I think. But if the crew had included someone from the Big Island, then there would be a different level of respect and communication. Two officials might allow heavy contact, but the BIIF ref calls what he or she called all season. There’s no flexibility or adjustment, which sometimes is a good thing for crews.

In this case, it just took away from the game. Apathy can be awful.

Big showdown? Kahuku did something that few teams do. The Lady Raiders limited Nihoa Dunn to just seven points. They even forced the Warriors of Kamehameha into 20 turnovers and 33-percent field-goal shooting. Yet, Kamehameha walked away with a 47-31 quarterfinal win on Wednesday.

Kahuku’s young team — only one senior starter — had a rough night from the field, shooting 24 percent (11-for-45). After dominating the OIA and beating defending champ Campbell in the final, Kahuku was outrebounded by Kamehameha, 47-28. Sisters Tuisila and Tailele Wily-Ava combined to shoot 2-for-20 from the field, well below their norm.

It really pushes hoopheads to wonder, do we really want to see Kahuku, Moanalua, Campbell play a full, blended regular-season schedule? The plethora of 60- and 70-point margins this season was not enjoyable. But the last thing we may ever see is ILH-OIA crossover games in girls basketball.

It would work. Fans and families don’t get excited about a 50-point loss. They do like Division II schedules, which is what the ILH and MIL have. The ILH, down to just three D-I teams, would probably jump at the chance to meet Kahuku, Campbell, Moanalua, maybe Mililani, one to two times.

It worked well in football prior to COVID. Is it time to expand possibilities in other sports? ILH D-III makes it even better. Would we like a Waialua-Island Pacific matchup rather than Waialua-Campbell? Yeah.

On the boys side, it’s less of a need for the ILH, but giving an OIA D-II team a choice between playing Kailua and Kahuku, or Hawaii Baptist and Hanalani, it’s not very hard. HBA, Hanalani, Damien, Le Jardin and more, all solid teams that are better competition for most OIA D-II squads.


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