Day 2 of the New City Nissan/HHSAA Girls Basketball State Championships is here.
Questions abound. First, how good is Baldwin? The Bears ousted a good Leilehua squad 44-30 on Tuesday in the McKinley bracket. It was 18-15 at halftime, Baldwin ahead, and they simply pulled away. They kept wraps around high-scoring guard Jerri Maluyo (five points) and post scorer Tywanna Abbott (no points). I don’t know if Abbott got hurt or was in foul trouble or both, but the Bears advanced.
Konawaena (27-1, 12-0 BIIF) vs. Punahou (11-6, 9-4 ILH)
McKinley bracket, quarterfinal round, 7 p.m.
Ranking: Konawaena is seeded No. 1 and has been ranked No. 1 in the Star-Advertiser Top 10 all season. Punahou is ranked No. 5.
Skinny: The Buffanblu outscored Kailua 70-60 in a game that was much higher scoring than I expected. Kevin Velasco is as crafty and motivating as coaches go, and he put his depth and speed to use against the Surfriders.
Kailua’s power trio of Patria Vaimaona (15 points), Tau Williams (15) and Tara Takata (18) got their offense going, but it wasn’t enough to keep up with Punahou’s deep rotation. Kamaile Kandiah had a team-high 15 points as 13 Buffanblu got in the scoring column. In fact, Tyra Moe scored just three points — Punahou led 41-33 at the half — and her team still scored big overall.
That depth should help them recover for tonight’s big battle with the favorite, Konawaena. It’s a bit odd to consider the defending champions, Punahou, an underdog, but that’s what the rough ILH road can do to any powerhouse program.
X Factor: Both teams prefer to play strong, tight man-to-man defense, which puts a lot of the onus on referees tonight. In the end, players and coaches have to adjust to the officials. Konawaena has already proven that they can bang with the nation’s best (and tallest) hoopsters after knocking off Riverdale Baptist (Md.) and Miramonte (Calif.) at the ‘Iolani Classic.
We’ll see if Wildcat posts Ihi Victor and Celena Jane Molina win the battle inside against Moe and Va‘e Malufau. If Victor and Celena run motion cuts all game long, it could be a long, tiring night for Punahou’s bigs.
Punahou won’t lean on a zone defense in most matchups, but if returning all-state player of the year Chanelle Molina dominates early, the Buffanblu may not have a choice.
Pupule says: The HHSAA always wants at least one marquee matchup in the quarterfinal round and it doesn’t get bigger than this. The quiet country school from the Big Island against prestigious, big-time Punahou. It makes no sense than a No. 1 seed is playing the state’s No. 5-ranked team in a quarterfinal while other seeded teams are playing lower or unranked teams.
I doubt Konawaena and Punahou like this matchup so early, but it is what it is.
Pupule pick: Wildcats 54, Buffanblu 49.
Next: The winner will play the Roosevelt-Baldwin winner on Thursday, 7 p.m., at McKinley.
Lahainaluna (22-1, 14-0 MIL) vs. Radford (13-4, 11-3 OIA)
Moanalua bracket, quarterfinal round, 7 p.m.
Ranking: Lahainaluna, seeded second, is ranked No. 3 in the Top 10. Radford is No. 8.
Skinny: The Rams have twin towers in Kennedy Johnson and Jasmine Moody, but Mililani found a way to contain them last night. They stuck with a 2-3 zone after opening in man defense, but Moody still got her looks and putbacks (14 points, seven boards, four steals).
It was defense, a move from man to 2-3 zone by the Rams, that proved pivotal. The Rams kept their turnovers (12) down against Mililani’s fullcourt pressure, but they’ll see a much faster tempo and bigger accent on defensive on-ball pressure from the rested Lady Lunas.
X Factor: Radford’s ability to use the versatile Johnson and speedy Tanisha Elbourne on its pressbreaker will be crucial.
Pupule says: A second game in as many nights against a deep, versatile, tall and fast squad like Lahainaluna is almost as tough a challenge as any in this tournament. I doubt Lunas coach Todd Rickard will allow Radford to chew up the clock with patient halfcourt sets. He will probably opt to gamble defensively, force the Rams into a helter-skelter pace, and wear them down. Conditioning is key, but there’s no way to prevent fatigue when running with the Lunas.
Pupule pick: Lunas 64, Rams 48.
Next: The winner will play the Maryknoll-Hilo winner on Thursday, 5 p.m., at McKinley.
Maryknoll (18-2, 11-1 ILH) vs. Hilo (13-4, 10-2 BIIF)
Moanalua bracket, 7 p.m.
Rankings: Maryknoll, seeded third, is ranked No. 4 in the Top 10. Hilo is No. 6.
Skinny: This is a matchup that the Spartans probably don’t love a whole lot. The Vikings were outstanding on Tuesday night in a 64-41 win over Nanakuli, dominating from the opening tip. Hilo has all the elements of the kind of team Maryknoll may struggle against: speed, 3-point shooting and a lot of motion on offense. When ‘Iolani beat Maryknoll in the ILH playoffs recently, I’m pretty sure the Spartans weren’t looking forward to a rematch. When Punahou ousted ‘Iolani with a double-OT win, that spared Maryknoll to an extent.
The thing is, Maryknoll has the speed to keep up with Hilo if the game goes in that direction. Coach Chico Furtado will likely opt for a more controlled tempo and get Maegen Martin heavily involved on both ends. Though Maryknoll isn’t extremely tall — only one player stands taller than 5-10 — the Spartans have better success in a slower tempo (wins over Punahou) than a faster one (loss to ‘Iolani). That’s splitting hairs, considering how much Maryknoll has won this season, but it’s there.
Hilo’s man defense is stout, quick, tough-nosed. And they run the floor well, sharing the ball without hesitation.
X Factor: Chaley Cabalis got off to a quick start, driving for buckets and playing good defense. If she gets untracked early, it’s a good sign for the Big Islanders.
Pupule says: Hilo is the one of just two teams from the islands that has given Konawaena a tough game. The Viks will give Maryknoll all it can handle. Playing a second game in less than 36 hours doesn’t help Hilo. I wouldn’t be shocked to see them reach the finals, but right now, a rested Maryknoll squad is hungry.
It was interesting to see Alexis Pana, Hilo’s long, versatile and talented guard, in more of a complementary role during Tuesday’s opening-round game. She took command in the third quarter, attacking the man defense without much resistance. She is, my opinion, the best player on the floor in this matchup. How she asserts herself will be crucial.
Pupule pick: Spartans 51, Vikings 50.
Next: The winner takes on the Lahainaluna-Radford winner on Thursday, 5 p.m., at McKinley.
Roosevelt (19-2, 13-0 OIA) vs. Baldwin (8-5, 7-5 MIL)
McKinley bracket, quarterfinal round, 5 p.m.
Rankings: Roosevelt is ranked No. 2 in the Top 10, but just fourth in the HHSAA seedings. Baldwin is unranked.
Skinny: The mystery team of the opening round may turn out to be the Cinderella team of this big dance. Baldwin hadn’t posted a significant win since the days of Kami Kapaku. The victory over Leilehua was both stunning and eye-opening.
Ashley-Christian Kaaea (13 points) and Dayna-Jo Calubaquib (11) led the Bears’ offense, but it’s that defense that shut down Maluyo and Abbott that intrigues me. Can they contain Roosevelt’s ‘stretch 5’, 6-foot-1 Keala Quinlan? Can they contain Roosevelt’s lineup of 3-point shooting slashers?
X Factor: Can the Bears keep up with the warp-speed fastbreak of the Rough Riders? Roosevelt is still feeling some of the pain of last year’s early exit (at the hands of Hilo). Roosevelt will bring its speed.
Pupule says: Baldwin’s got to find a way to slow the Roosevelt transition game. The Bears could pressure the outlet passer to buy time, or simply do what most coaching staffs would never do: send at least four back on defense on any shot attempt without crashing the boards.
Pupule pick: Rough Riders 69, Bears 50.
Next: The winner will play the Konawaena-Punahou winner on Thursday, 7 p.m., at McKinley.