Nitty-gritty time is here in girls basketball.
In the OIA, the East has been the beast with three of the four teams in the semifinal round. Tonight at McKinley Student Council Gymnasium, East 1 Kahuku takes on East 3 Moanalua, the latter being the hottest team — with the biggest wins — of the past two weeks. Moanalua knocked off frontrunners Kahuku and Kalani in back-to-back games.
Moanalua (15-9, 7-3 OIA East) eliminated West 6 Kapolei 38-22 on Tuesday and then toppled West 2 Radford 43-36 the next night to capture a state-tournament berth. With Delylah Sanerivi and Kelcie Leong playing some of their best basketball of the season, Na Menehune have emerged as the Cinderella team.
That would’ve sounded strange when the season began with a team that has experience and talent like Moanalua. Kahuku (10-9, 8-2 OIA East) stepped into that role and was a Cinderella story. A team heavily dependent on underclassmen, Kahuku stunned the rest of the East en route to first place. Sisi Kaufusi (21 points per game) has been a double-double machine and freshman point guard Leiah Naeata has been a revelation for the Lady Raiders, who overpowered Campbell 52-30 on Wednesday to seal a state berth.
Tip-off for Kahuku and Moanalua is 5:30 p.m.
In the other OIA semifinal, Kalani meets Mililani in a battle between the East’s second-place team and a Lady Trojans squad that went 10-0 in regular-season play. Kalani (12-8, 8-2 OIA East) walloped Leilehua 61-20 on Wednesday to earn a state-tournament berth. The Lady Falcons have been in close battles with Moanalua (60-55 loss) and Kahuku (41-38 loss), but have otherwise been highly successful.
Their preseason schedule may have been, pound for pound, one of the toughest in the state: Maryknoll, Kamehameha, Punahou, Southridge (Ore.), Miramonte, ‘Iolani. Against unranked teams, Kalani is 12-2.
Mililani struggled in preseason with the sudden departure of longtime head coach Patrick Basilio. The Lady Trojans then put it together during the OIA West season, playing their best basketball deep into the schedule. However, they lost defensive stopper Kalena Gibson to a knee injury during a playoff win over Kaiser on Wednesday.
The Trojans have one of the OIA’s top offensive weapons in sophomore guard Dahlis Sablay. Center Cheyenne Ardona is a constant in the paint defensively. Gibson had the potential to score in double figures with putbacks and slashing drives to the rim. She had 11 points in the game against Kaiser.
Interim coach Francis Dagan expects guard Taysia Canon to continue her ascent offensively. Canon had non-sports related surgery early in preseason, and since returning, has become a key part of the Trojans’ attack.
The Kalani-Mililani game will tip off at roughly 7 p.m.
The OIA D-I championship game will tip off at roughly 7 p.m. on Wednesday following the D-II title title. Both games will be at McKinley.