Pre-game: OIA Red playoffs, girls hoops

Really, this is a day that has a lot on the line teams that are 12-1 and 4-10.

Drama. Sure, if your favorite girls basketball team is enjoying a smooth route in the Oahu Interscholastic Association Red Conference playoffs, today is a semifinal step. But a loss is just a loss in the double-elimination format. There’s that backup route.

If your team has lost once already, this is elimination day. The winners of games between McKinley and Mililani, Castle and Kapolei, qualify for the state tournament. The losers are done.

Sure, it’s easy to say, well, almost everybody in the OIA Red makes the playoffs, and that would be correct. Twelve of the 14 teams get into the tournament.

Yes, it’s also correct that of those 12, half will get state berths. The OIA, being a massive vessel — largest basketball league in the state — has six of the 12 slots for Division I.

But ask anyone facing elimination tonight, and it’s the biggest game of her life. A quick look at tonight’s matchups.

Moanalua (12-8, 9-5) at No. 4 Farrington (18-4, 12-1). The Lady Governors swept their regular-season series. They’re bigger, deeper and have a swagger that few girls teams have.

Moanalua? After eking out a win over Waianae, Na Menehune went to Mililani and won 44-42, a back-to-back-nights kind of win that can really boost confidence.

Farrington is beatable, but Moanalua will need a smart game just to stay close with the likes of Brydgette Tatupu-Leopoldo and Kirsten Liana. The Govs are getting more contributions from their rotation now, and playing at home on a Saturday night is always a plus for the Govs.

No. 7 Roosevelt (15-3, 12-1) at No. 9 Pearl City (19-3, 12-1). These teams have not met yet this season. The Chargers are senior-heavy, have mastered The Secret with plenty of unselfish play and precise chemistry. Add a home crowd to this and Pearl City will be very tough to overcome for any opponent.

The Rough Riders are capable of offensive spurts matched by few teams statewide, but will stumble occasionally with turnovers. Mikela Thoemmes will certainly face double teams tonight, which should give perimeter shooters like Nicole Ramirez open looks, if Ramirez is healthy (ankle).

This is the Chargers’ rare window of opportunity, another step toward a first OIA girls basketball title. If there isn’t a packed house at their gym tonight, it would be pretty sad.

Elimination games!

McKinley (4-10 OIA) at Mililani (10-3 OIA). When the Trojans lost at home to Moanalua last week, it confirmed what fans have known for years: the East is a beast. A West runner-up losing to the East’s third-place team (Moanalua) wasn’t a surprise.

McKinley arrives as the fifth-place team from the East and happens to be playing its best basketball of the season. Guards Jackie Tihano and Kylie Sato are tough and relentless. Center Mele Kuma has improved drastically this season, now finishing tough putbacks and using leverage to create separation on the low post against some of the OIA’s toughest bigs.

Mililani guard Amber Ogata has been a big-time scorer this season, but the Tigers thrive on a tough man-to-man defense. Who else will step up for the Trojans in an elimination game?

Castle (7-7 OIA) at Kapolei (10-4 OIA). The Knights suffered the pain of a back-to-back situation, winning on Tuesday before losing 52-21 at Pearl City. A few days of rest should help them, though Kapolei will be fresh, too.

Both teams have played their share of low-scoring, defensive-minded games. With a state-tourney berth at state, it’s all about performing under pressure. Diamond Carter and Leilani Tauani-Fifita are among the Hurricanes’ top scorers.

Castle is athletic, especially with Leisha Liilii, a softball standout.

By Paul Honda


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