Kalani, Radford deserve Top 10 turf

Paul Honda believes that Sonia Palik and Kaimuki are on the verge of a spot in the Star-Advertiser's top 10. Matt Hirata / Special to the Star-Advertiser
Paul Honda believes that Sonia Palik and Kaimuki are on the verge of a spot in the Star-Advertiser’s top 10. Matt Hirata / Special to the Star-Advertiser

Here’s how I voted in the Star-Advertiser Girls Basketball Top 10 on Monday.

## Maryknoll Spartans (19-1, 5-0 ILH). Pupule ballot: No. 1
Last week: def. Claremont 54-28; def. @ Punahou 57-30.
The skinny: Still unbeaten against Hawaii teams. The biggest differences between Maryknoll, ‘Iolani and Konawaena: A) Maryknoll has beaten ‘Iolani in both games so far, B) Maryknoll and ‘Iolani beat Salesian; Konawaena lost to Salesian by 25 points.

## ‘Iolani Raiders (12-8, 4-2 ILH). Pupule ballot: No. 2
Last week: 2-2 at Nike TOC.
The skinny: The Raiders, with just one player taller than 5-foot-7, took a beating during the TOC, but emerged with two victories in four games.

## Konawaena Wildcats (9-2, 1-0 BIIF). Pupule ballot: No. 3
Last week: vs. James Logan (Calif.)
The skinny: As erratically as the Wildcats played against nationally-ranked teams at the ‘Iolani Prep Classic, they will settle in and develop. They will likely continue to wipe out BIIF competition and won’t get a serious challenge until they play Hilo late in the regular season.

## Kamehameha Warriors (11-3, 2-3 ILH). Pupule ballot: No. 4
Last week: def Sacred Hearts 49-27.
The skinny: Is it difficult to view a team playing B+ basketball as underachieving? Of course not. The Warriors have some great pieces, and facing ‘Iolani — a team stocked with returning starters — early in the season helped them recognize how high the bar is.

## Punahou Buffanblu (7-5, 2-4 ILH). Pupule ballot: No. 5
Last week: lost to Maryknoll 57-30.
The skinny: The controversy over Liz Kam’s coaching stint has ended with her resignation last week. Or has it? Punahou has been through four coaches in five years. Since her resignation, Punahou lost to Maryknoll last Tuesday. The first time the teams met (Nov. 29), Maryknoll won 57-49. One game isn’t much data in the post-Liz Kam era, but for those who clamored for her dismissal and expected instant results, the second loss to Maryknoll was a jolt.

## Lahainaluna Lunas (6-2, 3-0 MIL). Pupule ballot: No. 6
Last week: bye.
The skinny: The Lunas are in a similar scenario to Konawaena. Except there is no challenger like Hilo is to Konawaena. It’s a situation longtime coach Todd Rickard knows well, and he and his staff excel and developing their players, especially the youngest, to play the Lunas’ brand of basketball.

## Hilo Vikings (6-0). Pupule ballot: No. 7
Last week: bye.
The skinny: The Vikings have been one of the smaller, yet tougher teams in the state for a long time. it will take a sea change for the Vikings to paddle higher in the poll. If there’s one difference between the girls and boys hoops polls, the girls almost always have less parity and less turbulence in the top five to six spots. Hilo will have to do a lot just to protect its spot. Here’s a look at who the Viks play:
Kealakehe, Dec. 27 — Never been the same since A‘Oia Basketball Club closed more than a decade ago.
Pahoa, Dec. 30 — No feeder program.
@ Kohala, Jan. 2 — Hasn’t been the same since the Annette Marquez/Kim Caravalho years.
@ Honokaa, Jan. 5 — Dangerous game, even though the Dragons have struggled so far. Any game at Lester Bryan Armory is a difficult one.
Kamehameha-Hawaii — Another dangerous game, though the Warriors are a notch down since the Poe sisters graduated.
@ Keaau, Jan. 10 — No feeder program.
@ Ka‘u, Jan. 12 — Nice, new gym, but no feeder program.
@ Konawaena, Jan. 16.
@ Waiakea, Jan. 18 — Arguably the third-best team in the BIIF.

## Kalani Falcons (9-5, 4-0 OIA East). Pupule ballot: No. 8
Last week: def. Moanalua 58-53; def. Castle 57-27.
The skinny: When we talk about all the ILH coaching talent spread out among other schools on Oahu, Chi Mok may be the least known — for now. The Lady Falcons have beaten exactly one ranked team: Leilehua (52-46, Nov. 30). That’s enough for me to bump them higher on my ballot. They have also lost to a ranked team: Sacred Hearts. More on that later.

## Radford Rams (5-3, 3-0 OIA West). Pupule ballot: No. 9
Losses: LAH, MS, KLN (39-38)
Last week: bye
The skinny: Though the Lady Rams were idle, the shuffling going on by teams in the poll between the 8 and 10 spots was significant. Radford’s losses were to Top 10 teams with one exception: Kalani (39-38). That’s why I have Radford just behind Kalani, and ahead of Campbell. Radford’s 44-37 win over Campbell (Dec. 15) is proving pivotal. Had Campbell won that game before upsetting then-No. 8 Mililani last week, I’d probably have the Sabers somewhere around this spot.

## Sacred Hearts Lancers (7-7, 0-5 ILH). Pupule ballot: No. 10.
Last week: Lost to Kamehameha 49-27.
The skinny: The margins are getting wider for the Lancers, who have been fairly competitive in ILH play with single-digit losses early on. Losing to teams ranked higher shouldn’t equate to slippage in the poll, but when there are other teams playing better each week, it’s difficult to justify keeping SHA at No. 8 or 9 on my ballot. I’d be surprised if voters keep SHA in the poll after losing their fifth ILH game in a row. They had a 43-28 win over Hawaii Baptist in preseason, and along with those close losses to ‘Iolani (56-53) and Punahou (45-40), the edge goes (just barely) to SHA ahead of Kaimuki.

## Kaimuki Bulldogs (9-7, 5-0 OIA East). Pupule ballot: unranked.
Last week: def. @ Kailua 46-32; def. @ Roosevelt 58-31.
The skinny: SHA’s move into the Top 10 last week means Kaimuki now has a win over a ranked team. They’re playing well enough to deserve a spot in the Top 10, even with losses to Mililani, Leilehua, HBA — all ranked or previously-ranked foes — as well as St. Francis and Radford. At some point, though, Kaimuki will land in the poll. The emergence of Kaelyn Espinda and Peka Scott mean the ‘Dogs have three scorers capable of double digits in any game, and that’s something a lot of teams simply don’t have.

## Mililani Trojans (10-3, 4-1 OIA West). Pupule ballot: unranked.
Last week: def. Aiea 64-15; lost to Campbell 58-55
The skinny: Mililani’s only other loss to an unranked team was on Nov. 12 on the road at Nanakuli, a team the Trojans later beat 51-26. At this point, they haven’t played a Top 10 team yet.

If I had to guess, the OIA West is a toss-up. Several quality programs, and now Campbell is back among the cream of the crop. If the Trojans had lost this game away, I’d still possibly tuck them into the 10 spot on my ballot. Losing at home close, hard to make argument in spite of that. But the Lady Trojans get a shot at Radford this week. By the time the regular season is over, it would not surprise me if we have a two- or three-way tie atop the West standings.

## Hawaii Baptist Eagles (9-2, 4-1 ILH D-II). Pupule ballot: unranked
Last week: def. St. Andrew’s 50-14
The skinny: Ugh, losing to Mid-Pacific two weeks ago still feels twisted. The Eagles’ two losses were to teams that are really at a Division 1.5 level. Sacred Hearts has improved drastically, good enough to beat a lot of OIA teams, if not all. Hawaii Baptist, similar, except that it lost 43-28 to SHA and then 58-44 to MPI. The latter defeat sticks because it was the Owls who reeeeeally wanted to move down to D-II two years ago. Now the Owls are pulverizing tiny schools with minuscule resources, facilities and budgets in comparison. And HBA lost to them. A school that has soccer/basketball players who choose soccer will always struggle to play at the highest level of hoops UNLESS it is a loaded athletic program with great numbers (Punahou, Kamehameha). Even Konawaena has struggled to field a full roster, losing players to soccer. I call this the Social Agenda equation. Not as in social media, but as in socializing with friends. This is more true in girls sports than boys for whatever reasons. Girls want to play with their friends. If that means going to clinics, camps, offseason training, offseason clubs, then that’s where they go. Soccer by nature has more players — more friends — out there than basketball. That’s what happened at Mid-Pacific when the going got tough in ILH Division I, and that’s what’s happened to an extent at Konawaena, which still found ways to win state championships. What does this have to do with HBA? Nothing. Their soccer kids play for Pac-Five. Just another almost random tangent. And I’m not suggesting in any way that HBA should be in D-I. The Eagles are precisely where they should be. Mid-Pacific, mmmm… yeah, I guess. They were close and competing in D-I not so many years ago.

## Waiakea Warriors (6-2, BIIF 1-0). Pupule ballot: unranked
Last week: def. @ Pahoa 52-19
The skinny: The Warriors meet Honokaa on Tuesday night. If the Dragons can play at the level they’ve been at the past three seasons, they could really spoil things for a lot of teams on the Big Island. They all need the competition, that’s for sure.


  1. Chris December 28, 2016 10:25 am

    Sounds like Paul really hates the fact that mid pacific is D2. Long analysis about mid pacific in the HBA section. How do teams move between D2 and D1. Looking at D2 scores it looks like there is a wide gap between the top and the bottom. I would push for HBA and mid pacific move to D1? they don’t lose very much in D2

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