Some thoughts on tonight’s championship games. Roosevelt ran away from Mililani 62-44 in the Red title game and Farrington topped Kalani 68-58 in the White final.
• Penina Faumui. The Farrington forward is more than just the glue of the Lady Governors. She had 22 points and 18 rebounds in a remarkable title-game effort, but it was the little things she did that made the biggest difference. She was composed and reliable as a key part of her team’s pressbreaker against Kalani’s swarming defense. There is no statistic (none that I’m aware of) that rewards a player for his or her effectiveness against a fullcourt press, but there should be. My guess (until I get a look at my video later) is that on possessions when she handled the ball on the pressbreaker, Farrington broke it 90 percent of the time and scored on 75 percent of those possessions.
Another “little” difference: She was 8-for-8 at the foul line. Mind you, Faumui attracted a lot of attention and didn’t shoot well in the first three quarters. She was 1-for-8 from the field in the first half, 3-for-15 through three quarters. But she rebounded, handled the ball and kept the Govs afloat. She scored 16 points in the fourth quarter as Farrington broke a 44-all tie.
• Jeneva Toilolo. The Farrington post was incredible tonight with 20 points and 21 rebounds. While Faumui had her cold shooting hand early, Toilolo was more consistent with six points in the first quarter and six more in the second. She was a workhorse, grabbing 14 rebounds and blocking three shots by halftime.
• Switcheroo. Govs coach Steven Leopoldo called an early time out, had a TV time out a few minutes later, and then called another TO early in the second quarter. His point of emphasis: switch on all of Kalani’s weave-motion action. Kalani’s offense is very much like ‘Iolani’s motion attack — drive and handoff, drive and handoff — possibly because Falcons coach Chi Mok is a product of the ‘Iolani system. That offense got Kalani guard Carly Kakuda (21 points) some easy buckets early. Once the Govs adjusted, Kalani found easy buckets far and few in between.
• Live by the 3. The Falcons were 7-for-32 from the arc, 21.8 percent. Most teams can live with 33-percent accuracy from deep, which is why Coach Mok was generally OK with tonight’s game. He just wished a few more threes had splashed. So do I. After all, when David (Kalani) meets Goliath (Farrington), a close finish is something I long for. But Kalani shot 4-for-20 from 3-point land in the second half. A 33-percent clip would’ve netted seven treys instead of four, or nine more points.
Maybe that’s not enough to win the game, but certainly enough to swing momentum. Still, it was a pretty good tempo and a lot of pace for a high school game. As a fan, of course, I’m grateful.
• Sarah Liva. She finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds — and four blocks — despite a punishing Roosevelt defense. Liva never caught the ball without some kind of contact from the front or back, precisely what the Rough Riders needed to do against arguably the state’s finest center. But this second-quarter stat is more telling than anything else: 2-for-3 from the field, one rebound.
Liva never stops battling for position on the low post, but Roosevelt did what Moanalua did with some success last week. The Rough Riders brought tough defensive pressure all over the floor. In that second quarter, Mililani had five turnovers — compared to just three in the first quarter — and the lead disappeared. It didn’t help that PG Jaime Yuki reinjured her right shoulder in the first half and was playing in pain.
When the Trojans get the ball into their offense, it’s terribly difficult to stop their post game. If it’s not Liva scoring — she had nine points in the third quarter as her team rallied from 16 down to within 47-40 — sophomore Shantel Appleby is a capable producer. She got to the line on two occasions in the third as Mililani took advantage of Roosevelt miscues and hammered their foes on the low post.
But once Roosevelt scored again, the press came with it, and the Trojans couldn’t get any continuity going.
• No sleeping allowed. The Rough Riders’ run to a 45-29 lead was a mix of transition baskets off both Mililani misses and turnovers. But that lead slimmed down quickly as the Rough Riders kept the pedal to the floor. Unlike some coaches, Hinano Higa doesn’t believe in killing the clock, or trying to, too early.
A 3-pointer by Keala Quinlan (17 points, nine boards, three blocks) put a halt to Mililani’s run. Roosevelt then opened the floor up with a semi-delay game and went on a 15-0 run to put the contest out of reach.
• Redemption. There are teams that have known disappointment deeply, then rebounded a year later to reach new highs. Konawaena lost in the state final four years ago after being seeded and ranked No. 1. The Wildcats came back to win two titles in the following two years. Roosevelt was upset in last year’s OIA quarterfinals by Kaimuki, but matured and became a league champion this season.
Roosevelt has been higher than Mililani in my more recent Top 10 ballots because they simply have more quality depth. While Mililani has steady role players in the starting lineup and off the bench, Roosevelt brings players who can handle the ball, shoot the 3, run the floor and apply fullcourt pressure. A big part of that is due to Coach Hinano Higa’s year-round 808 Basketball club’s training. But maturity is a key factor. Of all the players in the rotation, none are afraid to step up and take the open shot, to run the floor, to crash the boards — even against strong post players like Liva and Appleby.
This Roosevelt championship was born in part out of pain, forged through the fire, and is now a part of Rough Riders history.