This is how the West, and possibly the OIA, was won.
There have always been good players and teams in OIA West girls basketball. But it has been some time since three of the OIA’s four Division I semifinalists came from the West side, where softball and soccer has ruled girls’ athletic success in team sports for years.
On Thursday, West 1 Campbell dispatched East 4 Kahuku, 54-27, West 2 Mililani ousted East 3 Moanalua, 37-32, and West 3 Radford repelled East 2 Roosevelt, 56-28. Kaiser, which ran the table in the OIA East, survived on Thursday with a 37-32 win over West 4 Nanakuli.
Is the West that much stronger this year?
“Yes, without a doubt,” Roosevelt coach Joe Cho said.
All four OIA D-I quarterfinal winners earned state-tournament berths. Two more state berths will be at stake in the consolation semifinals on Monday.
The OIA D-I semifinals will be on Monday, followed by the championship game on Wednesday.
A West girls basketball program has not won the OIA D-I championship since 2016, when Elroy Dumlao led Leilehua to the crown. Back in ’12 and ’13, the West had back-to-back OIA champions in Pearl City, under Mike Morton, and Dumlao’s Mules. However, since D-I was implemented in ’04, the East has won 13 of 16 league titles.
In the history of OIA girls basketball going back to the inaugural season in ’77, the West has won only five league championships in girls basketball. Besides Leilehua’s two titles and Pearl City’s one, Waipahu (’81, Ed Angel) and Waianae (’84, Chuck Stutz) brought OIA titles to the West.
“It could be a coincidental cycle or just putting in more time across the board. The only thing I can think of is when I watch summer basketball, I don’t see a lot of East teams involved,” Chico Furtado said.
Furtado coached Kalaheo to five OIA titles in a row (1998-2002), then led Maryknoll to four consecutive ILH crowns.
“The kids on the West side are having more year-round opportunities or it’s a cycle,” said Furtado, who is now the director of girls basketball at Maryknoll.
The influx of basketball talent at Maryknoll sparked a renaissance of sorts for ILH powerhouses ‘Iolani and Punahou. A vast majority of elite talent in Honolulu has gravitated to the ILH for decades, but apparently more so in girls basketball in the past decade. Coupled with more participation in volleyball, soccer and softball, that leaves OIA East teams with lower numbers in girls basketball. There were more forfeits in OIA hoops than ever seen in recent memory.
The best of the best, though, are not lacking numbers. Dumlao’s Leilehua squad was eliminated by Kahuku in the opening round. He is not surprised by the West’s surge, nor the success of the East in decades past.
“In my opinion, the East teams were always on top of their game. They had great coaches. Players attended great clubs with quality coaches. Kalakaua, 808 (Basketball), Eastsidaz. They set a standard,” Dumlao said. “On the other hand, the West side started to develop great coaches that have passion and desire. Little clubs started to pop up to help develop our student-athletes. Off-season leagues helped, too.”
Buy-in from players and having a senior-heavy roster help tremendously, he added. Offseason workouts, though, are the biggest factor.
“Working out during the pandemic helped, too. Some schools were not allowed to,” Dumlao said. “Every team’s success during the regular season is based on what you do during the offseason. There is no way you can start to train on tryout day and play at a high level now in the playoffs.”
On Thursday, Radford’s wipeout of Roosevelt was arguably the most stunning quarterfinal result. The Lady Rams’ win on the road against a technically higher seed is prominent, but the margin of victory is the largest by a West road team over a top-two East team in recent memory. Is it a total surprise?
Radford showed its tremendous lineup balance and ability to control tempo in a 47-23 rout of East 6 Kalani on Wednesday. Roosevelt has experienced senior guards, but their lone post presence is freshman Makalah Richardson, a true wing with point-guard skills. Roosevelt, and most OIA teams, doesn’t have a true post who can battle Radford’s Angel Asaah in the paint.
Asaah had nine rebounds and three assists, doing her best Draymond Green impression, in the win over Kalani. She had 11 points against Roosevelt, and Jirah Villanueva, the court maestro, had 10. Mailana Mattos stepped up with a game-high 16 points.
The Lady Rams also have depth with Olena Umetsu and Khloe Williams adding scoring punch. They locked down defensively, limiting the high-scoring Richardson to score just two points before Richardson suffered an ankle injury during the fourth quarter.
It’s been a strong bounce-back by Radford, which lost at home to Mililani in the regular-season finale last week. Mililani got 16 points from Mahealani Choy Foo in its victory over Moanalua. Aside from a 36-18 loss to Campbell in mid-January, Moanalua is the only team to stay within single digits of the Lady Trojans.
Campbell ran the table in the West behind balanced scoring and tenacious defense. Julien Parado scored 17 points and Vaelua Fatu had 12 in the quarterfinal rout of Kahuku.
After all these years, Campbell is just two wins away from its first OIA championship in Division I. Coach Jazmine Corpuz, a teacher at the school, has been in the program for eight years, now in her third season as a head coach.
“The offseason really does make the difference. these girls took the opportunity during the pandemic, they never stopped playing. Whether they had to play in PAL or whatever they got in, they did their best to stay on the court. It really makes a difference when the kids have the motivation. That’s where we’re at right now. these girls really share the passion for the game. They stayed in shape and worked on their skills,” said Corpuz, who played under Gilbert Silva at Maui before matriculating to UH-Hilo.
A win over Radford in the regular season has no meaning now. Coach Corpuz’s one-day-at-a-time approach means Campbell is grounded
“Coach Charles (Chong), you cannot put it past that guy. They’re a very well-coached team. They’re well balanced and they execute whatever coach’s game plan is,” Corpuz said. “Luckily, Radford is not too far away, not much of a bus ride. For me the homecourt advantage, there is an advantage when you’re shooting in your home gym, but in the playoffs, it’s a different pressure a different type of game. We’re really keeping the focus on ourselves and what we need to execute as a team.
“We’d much rather not play Radford at Radford, but we can’t control that.”
From this point on, Radford will have homecourt advantage as the site for the semifinal and championship rounds. Mililani will play the East’s lone survivor, Kaiser, in Monday’s 5 p.m. game. Campbell and Radford will follow in the 7 p.m. nightcap .
“We beat Radford at their house during our run for the OIA title,” Dumlao said of Leilehua’s ’16 season. “I believe home court has an advantage during the regular season, but in the playoffs every team is going to continue its journey or go home.”
Meanwhile, Moanalua will host Nanakuli on Monday for a state berth. Roosevelt and Farrington will duke it out for the other state berth. When Kahuku visited Roosevelt two weeks ago, it was a nail-biter to the finish before the Rough Riders pulled out a 34-27 win.
Roosevelt was 5-0 at home (not including a forfeit win over Anuenue) before last night’s loss. There is no word yet on Richardson’s status for Monday’s game.
Dumlao, eternally young at heart, hasn’t lost his fire for the game. He sees one team as the ultimate champion.
“Campbell. Senior leadership. They play for each other. Nice offensive execution. Decent defense,” he said. “And hungry coaches and players.”