A flawless 7-0 in preseason play, including wins over D-I Kailua and Roosevelt.
An 0-2 start in ILH Division I action.
That’s life for the Rocky Balboa of girls basketball programs, Sacred Hearts, and its nine-player roster. The Lancers have been superb, even with losses to Kamehameha and Punahou — both on the road — as Jessica Hanashiro (16 points against Kamehameha) and Pakalana Kam (12 against Punahou) have helped to lead the charge.
Ryan Hogue’s mission, aside from operating an athletic department at the Academy of Sacred Hearts (as the writing reads on the cathedral), is to transform the basketball team. The all-girls school has experienced occasional success at the D-I level, but has long been a better competitor in D-II. For years, Alan Matsui grinded and molded the team as best as any coach could.
Then came former star player Brittany Aiwohi, the Lancer I’ll always remember as the one who scored 25 POINTS IN A ROW against then-No. 1 Punahou some years back. (Some of the other Lancers decided that she wasn’t shooting all that well and started taking their own shots, and SHA’s lead shriveled to nothingness and Punahou rallied for a 55-45 win. Don’t quote me on that score. It might have been 55-44.)
That was when the crowd at Macy Nobriga gym was vibrant, and Aiwohi went on to play collegiately at the University of Hawaii.
Hogue replaced Aiwohi, bringing his experience as athletic director at now defunct-Academy of the Pacific to the table, as well as his vast playing experience (Kalaheo, UH-Hilo). He has demanded much from the Lancer basketball team in the offseason, and the work showed with an unbeaten run through preseason.
But now it’s the ILH D-I regular season and Sacred Hearts has come down to earth a bit. ILH season-opening losses to Kamehameha and Punahou were a revelation, though not a big surprise. SHA could emerge as a D-I powerhouse in time. The work ethic is there. The new court is beautiful.
The iron ceiling, as I’ll call it, in ILH D-I sports is the fact that as long as a numerical ratio is used to determine state-tournament berths, the fourth- or fifth- or even sixth-best team in the ILH could be (and often has been) ranked in the Top 10 statewide. And not eligible to play in the state tourney.
The mid-sized schools of the ILH have known this burden for decades. Good enough to beat anybody else in the state not in the ILH, but restricted. There’s no alternative for these programs that are, in a practical sense, in a specific zone that is neither D-I nor D-II. They are more like D-1.5. That would be ‘Iolani football, for sure. That’s another story.
For the Lancers, for now, they can appreciate what a difference one year of hard work can do. Hogue has been a dedicated hoopster going back to the time when he had a full head of blonde hair.
They may or may not nab a state berth this season, but the Lancers do have something that has eluded them for some time: a spot in the Star-Advertiser Top 10. Coaches and media pegged Sacred Hearts at No. 9 in Tuesday’s rankings. Pretty darn good for a fairly small school against the big programs statewide.