Not much to bicker about here. The Star-Advertiser Top 10 girls basketball poll matched up with my ballot exactly the same, a rarity. (Non-subscribers can see the poll on the front page of this blog.) I’ve been voting in polls for more than a decade, and this kind of stuff almost never happens. Maybe once a year, if that. But right now, the landscape of island prep basketball is fairly predictable. There isn’t a lot of depth at most schools, but there’s a lot of talent that has funneled into a bunch of programs. The rest of the programs are dormant.
The Lady Lunas and Spartans are tied for No. 1 in the Top 10. That’s a fair state, I suppose. But after seeing both teams in preseason, there’s no question that Lahainaluna has a higher ceiling. More depth. More height. More length. More athleticism. But I’ve always voted with head-to-head accomplishments as a major criteria in mind. Maryknoll beat then-No. 1 Kamehameha. Period. That makes this tough to pick, and I have the Spartans basically as a 1B to Lahainaluna’s 1A status.
The difference between the top and the lower half is not much. Roosevelt could wind up at No. 1 at some point this season and it wouldn’t surprise me. They have offensive firepower to match any foe and then some. The hand-check enforcement this season will really be an obstacle for coaches who have always relied on physical, punishing team defense more than developing skilled offensive players.
So far, Hilo has been erratic (against elite competition). Konawaena is not deep at all, but Chanelle Molina is showing signs — 45 points in a win over Ka‘u — of accepting the role of dominant player and leading figure. Not everybody likes that role, but once a player like Molina or Delcie Williams (Kailua) embraces it, the game is so much different. Restrictions, usually self-imposed, disappear. Doesn’t mean players with this kind of talent automatically average 45 a game, but the psychological aspect can’t be downplayed.
Green light is good, not spooky, anymore.
‘Iolani continues to run and gun. Honokaa? We’ll see how their chemistry develops. The pieces are there, but when I saw them early in preseason, there was much work to be done. Time is on their side.
The best scorer besides Williams who isn’t in the poll — and Kailua would probably be 12th or 13th on my ballot if this were at Top 15 — might be LaChae McColor of Moanalua. She’s matured and blossomed into a 20-plus point scorer for Moanalua. The big challenge might be this: as defenses prepare for her, can Moanalua continue to succeed when their top scorer is double- and triple-teamed?
Same question applies to Molina, Williams and other big scorers. Molina doesn’t have a lot of help; several of her teammates are first-year players. Williams benefits from the talent of low-post scorer Patria Vaimoana and sharpshooting point guard Tara Takata. Molina doesn’t have consistently strong competition in the BIIF, so it’s possible she hits 40 again at least four or five times. She might even pull a Kahea Schuckert (Honokaa, early 1990s) and go off for 55 one night.
Williams, by nature, is content to share the scoring load. Maybe she hits 40 again, maybe not. But if she scores 20, Takata hits 20 and Vaimoana tallies 20, Kailua wins most of those games.
There are some other interesting scorers (Lady Cougars, anyone?). More on them later. I just wish I could’ve videotaped that wild 94-90 triple-overtime game between Kailua and Kaiser.