For a half, the Castle Knights played some of their best basketball of the season.
They opened a 20-13 lead on Roosevelt, a team that had won their previous matchup by 17 points. Signs of a big upset in the OIA Division II girls basketball championship game were beginning to fade. Roosevelt, which shot just 4-for-13 from the field and committed six turnovers, turned it around in the second quarter.
By the end of the third, it was Roosevelt’s game to win. The backdoor passes and weave action out of coach John Chung’s efficient offense continued to haunt the Knights. Sunshine Vincent, who finished with 18 points and three assists, had four steals as the Rough Riders asserted themselves with tough man-to-man defense.
“That gets us in the game,” Vincent said.
Roosevelt claimed the OIA Division II title with a 61-39 win over the Knights.
Castle coach Joseph Lilio says his team’s inability to protect the basket against Roosevelt’s simple backdoor plays cost them the game. But the Knights are capable of getting better with wing defense, or at least showed it during the first 12 minutes.
Roosevelt played what might have been its best game of the season at the most opportune time.
“We did a good job executing,” Chung said. “We put in the weave and backdoor the other day. I think it was yesterday.”
Roosevelt was 6-4 in the OIA East, gaining confidence each week after coach Chad Kaihe stopped down in early December. Now they look like a well-oiled machine. The D-II state tourney tips off next Wednesday and the field is wide open, even with No. 6-ranked St. Francis and No. 10 Hawaii Baptist, both of the ILH, likely to be the co-favorites.
Few teams have the scoring balance of Roosevelt, however. Haven Gabriel scored 13 points while Kaonohi Quinlan was integral with eight points and eight assists. The energizer, Mari Foster, added eight points, five boards and five steals.
Roosevelt got stronger as the game wore on. After shooting 6-for-14 in the first quarter, Castle shot 25 percent (10-for-40) the rest of the way.
Roosevelt’s OIA championship history dates back to 1982 under Peter Haliniak Sr. — who also coached the boys team when Chung was an assistant coach at age 19. The league played in one classified division until 2004, when Bobby Keanini started a new era for the Rough Riders. Hinano Higa kept the run going until retiring from varsity coaching after the 2015-16 season.
Roosevelt league titles
1982 Peter Haliniak Sr.
2006 Bobby Keanini
2007 Bobby Keanini
2014 Hinano Higa
2015 Hinano Higa
2004 Bobby Keanini
2018 John Chung