The girls basketball season has entered jettison stage.
There is shrinkage and not everyone likes it this way. In the Oahu Interscholastic Association, six teams qualified for the state tournament this week. That’s half of the state field because the OIA has half of the teams in all of Division I girls basketball.
What longtime hoops fans lament is that the Interscholastic League of Honolulu, by that same ratio formula, is permitted just two state entries. That’s why Kamehameha’s 68-64 win over Maryknoll on Thursday night sticks in the craw of many observers who agonize over the departure of teams like Maryknoll — ranked No. 5 in the Star-Advertiser Top 10 — in the current format.
>> Maryknoll 20-5 overall (7-3 regular season)
The Spartans were 6-5 against Top 10 teams. Only two other teams had more victories over ranked opponents: ‘Iolani and Kamehameha.
>> Punahou (11-6, 5-5 regular season)
The Buffanblu went 4-5 against Top 10 foes. Only three teams had more Top 10 wins: ‘Iolani, Kamehameha and Maryknoll. Kalani was 4-6 against the Top 10.
There are quite a few suggestions to go around, and here is an offering from one of the most seasoned watchers of the state tournament going back more than three decades.
“Reform the state format (in D-I) to include three ILH, three BIIF and four OIA (teams). Two weekends, Friday and Saturday only, no school-next-day nights. The second weekend, only Final Four. D-II, only eight teams. No huge-enrollment schools allowed.”
This fan’s dream scenario isn’t for everybody. The OIA would be less than enthused. But the balance of competitive power is reflected in his distribution. And there would be pushback from proponents of Title IX if D-II girls basketball had a reduction of teams, from 12 to eight.
Of course, this longtime viewer wants to see the 12 best teams in the tourney without losing representation from each league statewide that has D-I teams. If this was the case, simply locking in the dozen best, it might look like this, based on this week’s results (ILH and BIIF champions have not been crowned yet) and the Star-Advertiser Top 10.
Top 4 (seeded teams)
1 – ILH champion*
2- Lahainaluna (MIL)
3- BIIF champion
4 – Kahuku (OIA)
* If ‘Iolani wins the ILH, seeded 1. If Kamehameha wins, seeded 2 based on Lahainaluna’s win over Kamehameha in nonconference play.
5 – ILH runner-up
6 – ILH third place (Maryknoll)
7 – BIIF runner-up
8 – BIIF third place
9 – OIA runner-up (Kalani)
10 – OIA third place (Mililani)
11 – OIA fourth place (Kaiser)
12 – MIL runner-up (King Kekaulike)
Eschewing a by-law that requires the seeding committee to prevent same-league matchups in the first round, this would be a possible bracket.
5 ILH runner-up vs. 12 King Kekaulike
6 Maryknoll vs. 11 Kaiser
7 BIIF runner-up vs. 10 Mililani
8 BIIF third-place vs. 9 Kalani
Next step, instead of locked bracketing, use re-seeding to reward league champions. This would have more flavor if the league playoffs were done by now, but isn’t this already a little more interesting for fans?
The quadrant, neighbor-island satellite sites would still be in play for the first two rounds.
Here’s what we do have. State qualifiers. State non-qualifiers.
ILH (2) ‘Iolani, Kamehameha
OIA (6): Kahuku, Kalani, Mililani, Kaiser, Leilehua, Radford
MIL (2): Lahainaluna, King Kekaulike
BIIF (2): TBA. Two state berths will be secured by tonight’s semifinal winners. Waiakea vs. Kealakehe, Hilo vs. Konawaena.
ILH: Maryknoll, Punahou. They lost their playoff semifinal games on Thursday.
BIIF: TBA. One of the teams on the outside looking in will be Hilo or Konawaena.
In the end, the state’s largest league is unlikely to ever let go of the ratio formula. That’s of no consolation to Maryknoll, which routed new OIA champion Kahuku 63-33 nearly two months ago. Kahuku is a much improved team since, as is Maryknoll. But a Kahuku-Maryknoll pairing in the state tourney won’t be possible
And a child shall lead them
It’s not like one player can beat the Kalani Falcons. Far from it. Kahuku’s ballhandling and execution as a team may have been the biggest reason the 2019 OIA title plaque went to the North Shore on Thursday night.
In a 63-59 win, the Lady Raiders committed just 12 turnovers against Kalani’s fullcourt pressure, even after Leiah Naeata fouled out with 1:10 to play.
But getting to that point, it was Naeata at the wheel. Thirty-three points on 9-for-16 shooting from the field. Eight rebounds. Seven assists. This comes after a 17/10/7 performance in a semifinal win over Kaiser.
For the season, the sophomore guard is averaging nearly 17 points per game. This week put Naeata on the radar for coaches and media who vote in the All-State panel.
There are a host of talented players who will be in the running. Kalina Obrey of Kamehameha has led the Warriors back to the state tourney. She is a double-double machine, and also one of the state’s top free-throw shooters. Kamalu Kamakawiwo‘ole of Kalani, who had 21 points in the OIA final against Kahuku. Susitina Namoa of Lahainaluna, a post scorer, ballhandler, rebounder, part-time wing. Caiyle Kaupu of Konawaena, capable of dominating game. Jalen Tanuvasa of Maryknoll, arguably the strongest slashing scorer statewide. Kaelyn Espinda of Kaimuki saw her team dwindle down to five players at one point, but she still carried the team with 20 points per game, another consistent double-double threat.
There’s no telling who gets the attention of voters at the state tourney, which begins in 10 days, but Naeata is certainly in the spotlight now.