A capsule look at the opening-round games of the ‘Iolani Classic girls tournament, which tips off today.
Konawaena, Roosevelt, ‘Iolani are the darkhorses in a tourney featuring three nationally-ranked teams. Riverdale Baptist of Upper Marlboro, Md. was 28-3 last year and is a clear favorite in the Classic. They won the Dick’s Nationals title last season.
Shenzen (China) vs. Riverdale Baptist (Md.), 3:30 p.m.
Word is Riverdale is the real deal, the favorite to win this tournament. It’s a long, long way from Crabcake country — flying East Coast to West is bad enough, but then another 2,000-plus miles to rainy Hawaii? Those poor kids.
But they’re probably aware that they’re the favorites, and with rain washing away all the great sightseeing, this has possibly turned into more of a business trip — rather than a working vacation — than the Marylanders (is that a word?) expected.
Riverdale features 6-foot-2 guard Lena Niang, who has signed with North Carolina State. Center Zion Campbell, a 6-4 senior, transferred from Hilton Head, S.C. and has signed with Mississippi State. USA Today cites another prominent guard, Honesty Grayson, a freshman transfer from New Jersey.
Riverdale is 3-1 and ranked No. 1 in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 Writers Poll.
They were No. 2 in the MaxPreps Preseason 25 (Nov. 19).
After the preseason 25 was released by MaxPreps, something called the MaxPreps Maryland Girls Basketball Fab 5 was released, and Riverdale is No. 1 in that.
Riverdale lost to Bishop McNamara in nonconference play on Dec. 2, 46-45. The next day, they beat TPLS Christian Academy in a league game, 77-58.
Then they were elevated in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 to No. 1, but that poll accounted only for the first game of Riverdale’s season (a win).
USA Today seems to have more of a grasp. In their preseason rankings, Riverdale Baptist is No. 16.
Shenzen? A total mystery. Remember, there’s not a whole lot of high school basketball in China to begin with, and whatever there is, isn’t exactly publicized on the internet. I suppose we all will get a good dose this afternoon.
Konawaena vs. Miramonte (Calif.), 5 p.m.
It was a few years back when Konawaena won the tournament with a dominant player — Lia Galdeira on both ends of the floor — and a perfectly adaptable point guard in Dawnyelle Awa.
This is a different Wildcats squad, though, that hasn’t won a state title since those two standouts graduated. In a way, Konawaena (11-0) is still finding its identity when it comes to off-island competition, and this may be the year when Chanelle Molina finds her Inner Lia. She’s already a dominant playmaker, and with a strong complementary cast, the Wildcats are clearly the best team in the islands.
Freshman Cherilyn Molina, the youngest of the sisters, is now the starting point guard, while middle sister Celena Jane Molina is a post/wing with hops. Ihi Victor is a returnee in the post, and all four are lifers in Coach Bobbie Awa’s Stingrays program. The addition of more Stingrays-turned-Wildcats, plus transfers Lindsay Bates, Taylor Bates and Aloha Salem, has given Awa one of her deepest rosters in years. The Bates sisters and Salem, who played for state finalist Lahainaluna before moving to the Big Island as seniors, are long-range shooters.
What will they see tonight? Miramonte, of Orinda, is 3-0. The Matadors have beaten St. Joseph (82-28), Santa Rosa (91-46) and Saint Mary’s (60-50). Coach Kelly Sopak’s team was 30-2 overall and 12-0 in their conference last season, ranked No. 23 nationally by MaxPreps.
Miramonte plays in the CIF’s North Coast Section, Division 3. The Matadors averaged 78.3 points per game and allowed just 41.4 per game. They defeated St. Mary’s 94-79 to reach the regional semifinals, where they edged Carondelet 92-87. Miramonte lost to Salesian College Prep 78-64 in the regional final. Salesian went on to lose to Long Beach Poly 70-52 in the state final.
‘Iolani vs. Kalani, 6:30 p.m.
The Raiders (4-0) are unbeaten in nonconference play, showing a talent for raining treys. They hit nine in a win over Kaiser and eight more in a victory over Kailua. What makes the Raiders dangerous isn’t just their affinity for launching from deep.
It’s their transition speed and depth. They will push the ball relentlessly, and any defense that runs out of gas is in trouble. ‘Iolani’s rotation runs deep, and there are multiple 3-point gunners on the floor in any mix of starters and reserves. Defenses that try to focus on Emily Nomura, Skylar Nakata and Brooke Maeda will get burned off the dribble by sophomore slasher Cami Aguinaldo.
The Raiders can jump to big leads when their shooters get hot, but without a consistent low-post offense, they’ve also allowed foes to stay close when the long-range shooting goes cold.
Kalani has struggled thus far against a preseason schedule that included Mid-Pacific (45-29), Sacred Hearts (43-42), Maryknoll (65-20) and Kamehameha (77-29). It’s a homecoming of sorts for Kalani coach Chi Mok, who spent years as a coach in the ‘Iolani system.
Roosevelt vs. St. Mary’s (Calif.), 8 p.m.
The Rough Riders (4-0) are looking like a team in midseason form. They’re runners, and they will launch from deep often. Like ‘Iolani, they have a formidable backcourt, but unlike the Raiders, Roosevelt has more experience as a whole. Sharice Kawakami, Starr Rivera and Ashley Kiko comprise a solid three-guard attack, and Coach Hinano Higa has more firepower off the bench.
The frontcourt isn’t big, though sophomore Keala Quinlan, at nearly 6 feet, is as good a 3-point shooter as there is in the OIA among forwards and centers.
St. Mary’s, of Stockton, is ranked No. 13 nationally by MaxPreps. If Riverdale Baptist is the favorite to win the tourney, St. Mary’s is a favorite to at least reach the final.