Hoopbook: When a Top 5 team is left behind

Jalen Tanuvasa (13) may not be back at Maryknoll for her junior season. Photo by Dennis Oda/Star-Advertiser.

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.


  1. 88 January 25, 2019 12:23 pm

    Take the 12 best teams regardless of conference. Problem solved. But this probably has something to do with $$$$$ and not the kids.

  2. Game January 25, 2019 12:37 pm

    To satisfy the need to see the best teams in the state in the tournament, ILH should be given 3 slots to the state tournament, OIA 5, MIL 2 and BIIF 2. It’s only fair!!! And this is coming from an OIA parent.

  3. HILifer January 25, 2019 12:44 pm

    Mid-Pacific, last place in ILH D1, beat OIA champ Kahuku earlier this season to give you an idea on the relative strength of teams in the two leagues. BIIF is tough though.

  4. 88 January 25, 2019 12:54 pm

    That’s preseason.. C’mon. Those games are meant to workout kinks and establish depth. Kahuku beat Kamehameha earlier in the season. The same Kamehameha who beat #1 Iolani and Maryknoll. Stop talking out your @$$.

  5. JJ January 25, 2019 12:57 pm

    To satisfy the need for the best teams in the state, ILH should get 3 berths into the state tournament, OIA 5, BIIF 2 and MIL 2. Just saying

  6. Necole January 25, 2019 1:31 pm

    How is the the 3rd place BIIF choosen?

  7. 8FatFat8 January 25, 2019 2:19 pm

    Did Sisi play in that preseason game against Kamehameha?

    Maybe Girls and Boys Basketball should have inter-league play like football did this year. Instead of the OIA Division 1 teams beating up on the Division 2 teams like Anuenue and Waialua they should play the ILH Division 1 teams. That would put all this to rest and maybe provide a better way of ranking/qualifying teams for the State Tournament. But really, the OIA wouldn’t let that happen. At least for football they agreed to inter-league play, but still only 1 ILH team in the State Tournament.

  8. 8FatFat8 January 25, 2019 2:33 pm

    Just want to put this out there for discussion:

    Mililani v Maryknoll
    Kaiser v Punahou
    Leilehua v Sacred Hearts
    Radford v Mid Pac

    Anyone know the lowest seed OIA team that reached the Semifinals or Championship. game in the State Tournament?

  9. Burgla January 25, 2019 5:20 pm

    It’s a shame that No one cares about these girls other than their parents! Every last conference mentioned only care about their bottom line; which is money and politics. Poor officiating doesn’t bother them, poor morale doesn’t bother them and it won’t change anytime soon.

  10. Awtrue! January 26, 2019 8:34 am

    First of all wake up ILH! You recruit 99% of your players! Stack the crap out of your team! Then call it even, shadduppp! Take Maryknoll thats the whole 808 Basketball team! Kamehameha has 2 of them. You guys have fewer schools an pick the crwam of the crip! If you cannot win then fire the Coach! These Coaches now a days like turn key players, while OIA gotta teach an work with the district. Always crying play yourself in your 3 team circle an have your own championship crybabies!

  11. BangkokJoe January 26, 2019 9:11 am

    The States’ being held “hostage” by the oia is not new. Basically Hawaii Prep sports has not had “best team” scenarios even with the advent of divisional brackets. Yes it’s about money, but more so about egos….Big EGOS .

  12. 88 January 26, 2019 9:56 am

    Your right. The 5th and 6th place OIA teams should not be given automatic births to the State Tournament. Instead have the ILH 3rd and 4th or one of the outer island teams and the OIA 5th and 6th play for those last 2 spots.

  13. Burgla January 26, 2019 10:43 am

    I agree with the Big Egos

  14. ??? January 26, 2019 1:25 pm

    Is on point!!

  15. M.T. January 26, 2019 2:14 pm

    Recruiting for girls basketball? HAHA.

    When I coached we didn’t recruit.

  16. M.T. January 26, 2019 2:14 pm

    Also I saw the Kahuku vs Maryknoll and Kahuku vs. Iolani game. It was ugly.

  17. HILife January 26, 2019 6:44 pm

    88 doesn’t even make sense. Did she even play sports?

  18. CynHyn January 26, 2019 6:51 pm

    The OIA needs to take their 22 team league and only play within league. ILH can take their teams, play among each other and declare their champ as the #1 team in the State. There. Everybody happy.

  19. Awtrue! January 26, 2019 6:54 pm

    You win they come!! Recruiting is real if you never oh well explains why u not coaching.

  20. CynHyn January 26, 2019 6:57 pm

    Good thing Konawaena on big Island because ILH teams would recruit them to weaken them. Good job Awa.

  21. Winner January 27, 2019 2:00 pm

    Win and get in, is the name of the game!!! Lose, then cry like baby!!!

  22. JJ January 27, 2019 2:01 pm

    Cyber bullying at its best

  23. PUKANET January 28, 2019 9:09 am

    I never understood why HHSAA would allow the predetermined number of teams from each conference to enter into the State Tournament in all sports. I think their reasoning is fairness. So they take a percentage of the number of teams in each conference. Ok. Their are 14 OIA D-1 teams, that “pad” their season records by playing OIA D-2 teams and 6 automatically go to the states (42 per cent) 6 ILH teams with 2 going to the states (33 per cent). 5 Big Island teams with 2 going to the states (40 per cent). 5 Maui teams with 2 going to the states (40 per cent). “Houston, we have a problem”. 1 solution I heard years ago is for the ILH to add another team then they would have 3 representatives.
    Ok, ILH find a team any team. A team like Baldwin, who lost ever game it doesn’t matter if they are any good. Just need warm bodies. On the other hand. I just think that the HHSAA is AFRAID to change the culture and instead of automatic berths, to pick the deserving teams. Or maybe they don’t trust their decision making.

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