Kahuku-Maryknoll, Lunas-Waiakea in tough D-I quarterfinal matchups

Maya Claytor and the OIA champion Kahuku Red Raiders have a tough first game in the state tournament against ILH runner-up Maryknoll. Photo by Marco Garcia/Special to the Star-Advertiser.

When two of the Top 5 teams in the state are unseeded underdogs, the quarterfinal round can be magnetic.

Day two of the Snapple/HHSAA Girls Basketball State Championships brings us a Top 3/4 league runner-up (Waiakea), a long-range bomb squad with a puncher’s chance (King Kekaulike), and a season-long Top 4 (Maryknoll) that is a decided favorite against an OIA champion.

Here’s a look at tonight’s quarterfinal round, split at two sites. Who misses the years when girls basketball had Stan Sheriff Center all to itself for four days, morning to late night?

DAY TWO: Quarterfinals
‘Iolani (22-2, 11-1 ILH) vs. Moanalua (13-7, 8-3 OIA)
Moanalua gym 7 p.m.

Factoids: What more can be said of the dynastic Raiders? Let’s try. They’re 18-2 against Top 10-level teams. One of those losses was to national powerhouse Mater Dei, a close 63-57 game. Since losing to Maryknoll on Jan. 20, the Raiders have won five in a row, all against Top 6 teams, by margins of eight, 20, 20, 18 and seven points. ‘Iolani hasn’t met Moanalua yet this season, but has played OIA champion Kahuku, winning 46-30 on Nov. 15.

Na Menehune advanced to the quarterfinal round by outlasting OIA sixth-place finisher Kaiser, 34-28, on Monday.

Skinny: Moanalua is quick, tenacious in its fullcourt press, and aggressive from the 3-point line. If that sounds like ‘Iolani, then yes, they have similarities. The problem will be in the paint, where ‘Iolani’s Alexsandra Huntimer, Kylie Yung, Lily Wahinekapu and Jovi Lefotu bang and board like no other team except, perhaps, Maryknoll. Rebounding depth is a coach’s favorite pillow.

X-factor: The Raiders could go scoreless from 3-point range and still dominate most Hawaii competition simply with great execution. If Kyra Tanabe connects from deep early, it could be a runaway.

Pupule prediction: Moanalua has the grit to make things difficult for ‘Iolani, at least for a half. Pupule says: Raiders 59, Na Menehune 42.

Lahainaluna (11-6, 9-2 MIL) vs. Waiakea (18-3, 9-1 BIIF)
Moanalua gym, 5 p.m.

Factoids: For the Lady Lunas, the numbers have been erratic, or were, for much of the season. Then Taylor Eldredge found her niche, scoring a season-high 30 points in a key win. The 164-game win streak in MIL play came to an end, but the relentless, pressing Lunas are now on a seven-game win streak in a league that has three Top 10 teams. (Seabury Hall would be the fourth, but played strictly in D-II of the MIL.)

The Warriors are clutch, plain and simple. Yes, they lost to Konawaena 43-42 in the BIIF final, but Coach Alika Smith doesn’t take unnecessary risks. He banks on his team making sound decisions wire-to-wire, hitting big shots. Lahainaluna is the 4-seed, lowest of the league champions, but Waiakea has been ranked higher in the Star-Advertiser Top 10 since week one. Waiakea is currently ranked No. 4 and Lahainaluna No. 9.

Hawaii commit Kelsie Imai is still aggressive to the bucket. Keeli-Jade Smith is clutch and consistent. Tayvia Cabatbat is one of the best on-ball defenders in the tourney. There are very few easy buckets against this group.

Skinny: Waiakea is Marvelous Marvin Hagler, a team that will not touch the canvas and has immense skill an grit at all positions. The Lunas can stay close, but a high turnover count will be lethal against the efficient Warriors. Can the Lunas get good shots consistently without Abigail Akamine (knee injury)?

X-factor: The stretch skills of Destynee Williams is a matchup issue for every opponent. The Waiakea wing splashed a clutch 3 in the comeback win over Hilo at the BIIF semifinals. She also hit 3-for-4 from the arc on Monday in the opening-round win over Mililani.

Pupule prediction: The Warriors didn’t dominate Mililani on the boards (28-25), but shot a steady 47 percent from the field and committed just 13 turnovers in the win. They’re more experienced, bigger and healthier. Pupule says: Warriors 52, Lunas 43.

Konawaena (21-3, 10-0 BIIF) vs. King Kekaulike (17-4, 8-4 MIL)
Kalani gym, 7 p.m.

Factoids: Well, here’s Konawaena. Nine state titles in the past 16 years, all under Coach Bobbie Awa. Between post boss Caiyle Kaupu (17 ppg), speed demon Kaliana Salazar-Harrell (20 ppg) and Braelyn Kauhi (11 ppg) plus savvy guard Gracie Hing, the ‘Cats have a nucleus that can get hot quickly from deep, but depends more on high-percentage halfcourt execution for layups. There has never been a program this consistent over this long a span at an elite level.

There have been clusters. Punahou won three in a row from 1979 to ’81. Kamehameha took titles in ’88, then ’90 to ’93. Punahou had four titles in an eight-year span from ’05 to ’08. There’s nothing like Konawaena, which won the koa trophy in ’04, ’07, ’09, ’11, ’12, ’15, ’16, ’17 and ’18. The Wildcats also reached the final in ’05 (52-50 OT loss to Punahou), ’10 (47-45 loss to Lahainaluna), and ’13 (45-39 OT loss to Kamehameha).

Konawaena is the second seed. King Kekaulike is the runner-up from the MIL. King Kekaulike has no state titles, has been a second (or third) fiddle to Lahainaluna for years, but has that Thomas Hearns effect on any opponent. Give Na Alii an opening, and they could knock you out. They ended Lahainaluna’s massive win streak. They slumped. They bounced back and earned the league’s second state berth.

In their 61-35 rout of Radford on Monday, they hit 7 of 17 shots from 3-land as five different Na Alii launched bombs. They don’t depend on one scorer. Cailyn Ukida (12 points), Ledjan Pahukoa (12) and Namahana Kaeo-Young (11) led a balanced attack.

King Kekaulike has not left the island of Maui this season, and of the three wins over Top 10 opponents, none were against the state’s best five teams. Konawaena has been third or higher all year.

Skinny: Radford’s Angel Assah had 19 points and 11 boards — seven caroms on the offensive glass — while shooting 6-for-11 at the foul line. She also took 14 free-throw attempts. If Asaah can do this against King Kekaulike, what will Kaupu do?

X-factor: If King Kekaulike goes by the book, collapses on Kaupu on the block, denies Salazar-Harrell, that leaves Kauhi open from long range. If Na Alii opt to attack Kaupu, she could get into foul trouble again.

Pupule prediction: King Kekaulike will stick with the recipe and play its game: live and die from the arc. Pupule says: Wildcats 54, Na Alii 39.

Kahuku (17-7, 11-0 OIA) vs. Maryknoll (17-7, 7-5 ILH)
Kalani gym, 5 p.m.

Factoids: On Nov. 23, Maryknoll traveled to Kahuku and won 58-32. Kahuku played without double-double point forward Leiah Naeata (family trip). True enough, but going to another team’s gym, one of the toughest home courts in the state, for a wipeout win? Remove one of Maryknoll’s best players from the lineup, maybe Mahalo or Aloha Akaka, or Serenity Moananu, and Maryknoll still wins that game.

Yet, that was more than two months ago. Maryknoll has collected 11 wins over Top 10 teams. The Spartans also got game action on Monday in a 59-42 win over Kalani. Lilly Koki (14 points, seven rebounds), Serenity Moananu (12 points) stepped up on a night when illness was a factor for the Akaka sisters.

OIA champion Kahuku steamrolled through the OIA with Naeata, long-range shooter Maya Claytor, versatile Tati Kamae and a never-ending supply of tenacious defenders.

Skinny: Maryknoll has been content to stay in zone defense and keep the tempo even. They’re athletic enough to press, but opt instead to keep their key players away from foul trouble. Taimane Faleafine-Auwae is a top-line shot blocker, and Koki and Moananu bring muscle under the boards. The Akaka sisters may be the best rebounding backcourt in the state.

Kahuku has a total of two wins over Top 10 teams (2-7), but their IQ against defensive pressure has improved significantly since preseason.

X-factor: If Maryknoll is still hampered by the cold bug, Kahuku’s defensive pressure could be more effective than expected.

Pupule prediction: Potentially, best game of the day in either tournament. Pupule says: Spartans 48, Red Raiders 42.

HHSAA Division I Tournament

Match #DateMatchupTime/ScoresSite
1Feb. 3Moanalua vs. KaiserMoan, 34-28Moanalua
2Feb. 3Waiakea vs. MililaniWaik, 55-42Waiakea
3Feb. 3Radford vs. King KekaulikeKK, 61-35King Kekaulike
4Feb. 3Maryknoll vs. KalaniMryk, 59-42Maryknoll
5Feb. 6(1) 'Iolani vs. MoanaluaIol, 65-31Moanalua
6Feb. 6(4) Lahainaluna vs. WaiakeaWaik, 37-26Moanalua
7Feb. 6(2) Konawaena vs. King KekaulikeKona, 40-37Kalani
8Feb. 6(3) Kahuku vs. MaryknollKah, 43-27Kalani
9*Feb. 7King Kekaulike vs. MaryknollMryk, 69-40Blaisdell Arena
10*Feb. 7Moanalua vs. LahainalunaLah, 52-39Blaisdell Arena
11Feb. 7Konawaena vs. KahukuKona, 56-39Blaisdell Arena
12Feb. 7'Iolani vs. WaiakeaIol, 57-44Blaisdell Arena
13*Feb. 8Maryknoll vs. LahainalunaMryk, 50-38Blaisdell Arena
14*Feb. 8Kahuku vs. WaiakeaWaik, 56-44Blaisdell Arena
15Feb. 8Konawaena vs. 'IolaniIol, 55-46Blaisdell Arena
* — consolation


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the Star-Advertiser's TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, email hawaiiprepworld@staradvertiser.com.