Sifting through House Awa, girls hoops Top 10

Konawaena guard Cherilyn Molina hopes to cut down the net after winning a state title in 2015.  (Jamm Aquino/Honolulu Star-Advertiser).
Konawaena guard Cherilyn Molina hopes to cut down the net after winning a state title in 2015. (Jamm Aquino/Honolulu Star-Advertiser).

Depending on the schedule, even with missing scores, the Konawaena Wildcats are either 6-0 or 8-0.

Maybe 7-0. Whatever the case, the defending girls basketball state champions were a near unanimous No. 1 pick by coaches and media in Monday’s Honolulu Star-Advertiser Top 10. Here’s my look at the girls poll, compared with my ballots.

Disclaimer: I don’t treat my ballots as forecasts. I’m not voting based on where the teams will finish. It’s a weekly vote, so I base it partly on results, primarily head-to-head play, along with overall resume. So, for example, if Team B loses to Team C, but Team C has fewer Top 10 wins and/or more losses to ranked and unranked teams, i will likely lean toward Team B.

It is, always always, not real food. Polls are, at least at the prep level, fun snacks with the nutritional value of whipped cream. You can’t really survive on whipped cream. Here goes.

Star-Advertiser Top 10 ranks and my comparison
1. Konawaena (8-0, 0-0 BIIF). Pupule ballot: No. 1.
No disagreement here. Even with the departure of All-State players like Chanelle Molina (player of the year) and Ihi Victor, Coach Bobbie Awa’s team still puts defense first. The two-time defending state champion Wildcats have smothered the competition so far, including MIL powerhouse Lahainaluna. Molina’s sisters, Celena Jane and Cherilyn, are rarely matched on the defensive end.

2. Maryknoll (13-0, 3-0 ILH). Pupule ballot: No. 2.
The gap has narrowed, to be sure. Even with Molina, Konawaena had a tough time fending off the young guns of Maryknoll in the state championship game last season. The Lady Spartans have so many weapons, along with length and defensive stoppers. They may have off nights shooting the ball, but they’re balanced in the backcourt and front court. They have depth, solid role players and only by nitpicking can I find some flaws. Free-throw shooting could be better. That’s about it. Coach Chico Furtado has loosened up a bit over the years and is willing to let this speedy group run, but he won’t let them shoot themselves out of a game in the final minutes. In the ILH gauntlet, that’s a good thing.

3. (tie) ‘Iolani (5-2, 1-2 ILH). Pupule ballot: No. 6.
The ballots were collected by noon, Monday, so my viewpoint didn’t include the Raiders’ 60-50 home loss to Maryknoll. It’s no knock on ‘Iolani that they’ve faced Maryknoll twice already and lost both times. They were competitive in each game. They could easily finish the year at No. 3, and of course, some fans would be disappointed. The only reason I have them as “low” as No. 6 is not because of the losses, but because their wins matter, yet don’t have strong cache at this point: Honokaa, Kaimuki, McKinley, Kaiser. Sacred Hearts, that win is most noteworthy on their schedule to date.

3. (tie) Kamehameha (10-1, 1-1 ILH). Pupule ballot: No. 3
It’s a tight mess in the ILH, as usual. The Warriors have the arsenal, for sure, with talent with stout guards Mikiala Maio, Jewel Paaluhi-Caulk, forward Kiana Vierra and sophomore center Kalina Obrey. They beat Lahainaluna during the Moanalua tourney and handled a dangerous Farrington squad on the road. Kalani can be dangerous, too, and Kamehameha topped them by 21 on the road. The road loss to start ILH play at Punahou will lose some significance as the regular season plays out. They’ve beaten SHA, Kaiser, and then Punahou and Mid-Pacific. The latter three games were at Kaiser’s tourney, and the Punahou win doesn’t affect the league standings, of course. But on my ballot, it makes a difference.

5. Punahou (6-2, 1-1 ILH). Pupule ballot: No. 5
The Buffanblu and Warriors are a toss-up, basically, in my book. Punahou has a game changer in PG Kamaile Kandiah, who reminds me in many ways of former MPI standout guard Kiki Robertson. Kandiah can drive hard to the bucket, hit the open 3, run the offense and control any press. She’s physically stronger and bigger than Robertson was, so the impact of all that contact has been easier on Kandiah. One thing Robertson did while carrying those Owls teams of a few years back was score big when necessary. The team as a whole still faced major challenges in the ILH, but she would score 25, 30, 35 when healthy sometimes. Kandiah scored 24 against Maryknoll last week, but she had just 11 in the first three quarters. That fourth quarter, she was lights-out from the perimeter, on penetration. She may have to bring that same mindset to every game, every quarter for a Punahou team that has some nice pieces, but struggles against taller, more athletic defenses like Maryknoll’s. I’m not saying Kandiah has to be Russell Westbrook every night, but it wouldn’t hurt the cause and it would be fun as heck to see.

6. Lahainaluna (2-2, 0-0 MIL). Pupule ballot: No. 4.
The Lady Lunas may actually be 3-2, depending on whether they actually started their MIL slate last week. Either way, sure, they lost some great talent to graduation (two Division I college freshmen), but they are who they are. Coach Todd Rickard and his staff built up the Lunas via the feeder program in West Maui (Menehunes), emulating what Awa and her staff did at Konawaena (Stingrays). We may not see Lahainaluna at its best until late in the season. That’s the nature of young teams. But they have posted double-digit wins over Radford and Leilehua, and lost narrowly to Maryknoll (38-33) and Kamehameha (33-25). They did it with just five active players during an Oahu trip in mid-November. ‘Nuff said.

7. Hilo (2-0, 0-0 BIIF). Pupule ballot: No. 7.
I’m surprised the rest of the voting panel has the Vikings this high up. That says a lot about how voters outside the Big Island view Coach Ben Pana’s leadership. The Vikings will miss his daughters, who were outstanding defenders and ballhandlers before graduating. The Viks beat Honokaa and Leilehua so far, and there doesn’t seem to be a major test on the schedule until they visit Konawaena in the last week of the BIIF regular season.

8. Mililani (6-2, 0-0 OIA). Pupule ballot: No. 8.
The Lady Trojans have a loss to Konawaena at Waiakea’s tourney, and an earlier road loss at Nanakuli. Other than that, they’ve beaten Kaimuki, Hanalani, Roosevelt (twice), a revenge win over Nanakuli, and Honokaa. At this point, the West is theirs for the taking. Coach Patrick Basilio has quietly built an annual title contender. I still wonder what could have been for last year’s team if not for the injury to talented forward Shantel Appleby.

9. Hawaii Baptist (3-0, 0-0 ILH D-II). Pupule ballot: No. 9.
The Eagles beat Kaiser, Kaimuki and ‘Iolani II, and league play begins this week. It’s not easy to gauge a strong D-II program sometimes when there aren’t many or any matchups with Top 10 teams. However, HBA has been solid in girls and boys basketball for a long time now, and if Kaiser and Kaimuki have stellar seasons, that will probably help boost the Eagles in the minds of voters. It’s a tough nut to crack when it comes to the panel and D-II results. HBA could go unbeaten, but might never rise higher in the rankings. The parallel on the boys side would be St. Francis, which is having an outstanding preseason and already has two wins over Top 10 teams. Two very different programs and philosophies, of course, but my point is that St. Francis scheduled the big boys. HBA is content to stay in its lane. For this year, anyway.

10. Leilehua (5-5, 0-0 OIA). Pupule ballot: unranked.
The 10 spot in this week’s ballot was extremely difficult to solve. I eventually settled on Sacred Hearts over Leilehua and Kalani. Here’s my pupule logic: Leilehua’s five wins were over Castle, Kaiser, Kaimuki, Maui and Kamehameha-Hawaii. The KS-Hawaii win is most significant, along with Kaimuki, which I consider a sleeper. The Lady Mules’ five losses: Waiakea, Konawaena, Hilo, Lahainaluna and Kalani. The Waiakea loss was by 16. They played closer against Hilo (36-29). The loss to Lahainaluna was in the Lady Lunas’ gym (51-37). But the loss to Kalani closed the case for me, at least for this week. I had to consider Kalani the better team right now. Coach Elroy Dumlao works wonders with his program every year, and right now, I’d have them 12th.

Kalani (5-5, 0-0 OIA). Pupule ballot: unranked.
The Lady Falcons began the season with four rough matchups, but that’s what Coach Chi Mok and his staff want. It wasn’t very long ago when the program was ascending and occasionally knocking off ranked teams. So after losses to Sacred Hearts (55-52), Maryknoll (50-44), Punahou (47-29) and Kamehameha (65-44), Kalani won three in a row (Aiea, Radford, Leilehua). Then came another loss to Punahou, followed by narrow wins over Kaiser and Farrington. They’re winning the close ones against middling teams, which is a big plus for a program on the upswing. But the loss to Sacred Hearts was the deal breaker for me.

Sacred Hearts (4-3, 0-2 ILH). Pupule ballot: No. 10.
In my pupule math, it doesn’t matter how many games a team loses to Top 10 teams. Losing, but playing close, yes, that helps. But I don’t hold it against any team that loses to a string of ranked competition. No way. That would make no sense, especially if that team knocks down unranked teams with regularity.

Sacred Hearts beat Aiea, Kalani and McKinley to start preseason, with the latter two games by a total margin of four points. Then came a loss to Kaimuki and a win over Farrington. That’s 4-1 against OIA teams. The Lancers lost 54-40 at Kamehameha, then nearly upset ‘Iolani at home, losing 56-53. It’s no fluke. Coach Ryan Hogue has diligently trained his players through the offseason, and the Lancers are competing. Should they be in Division II? That’s another topic for debate. Right now, they have the potential to compete for a state-tourney berth, and that’s something I haven’t seen a lot of for SHA since Brittney Aiwohi was a high-scoring wing some years back.

Am I missing some teams that are on the fringe of the Top 10? Yes. But I’m out of words and time for now.

I’ll have my boys Top 10 ballot and comparison online late tonight.


  1. Pun Alum 95 December 6, 2016 9:28 pm

    HI Mr. Honda. Why do you have Kamehameha over Punahou? They both are 1-1 in league. But when Punahou beat Kamehameha in their ILH regular season game they went up 20 and won quite convincingly. When Kamehameha beat Punahou, it was in a Kaiser Preseason tourney. And Punahou was missing 2 starters, Tanisha and Hina. A 3rd started played while very ill (Abby). And Kamehameha barely won by 2.

    I think this should factor in quite a lot.

  2. Buzz December 6, 2016 9:55 pm

    “Either way, sure, they lost some great talent to graduation (two Division I college freshmen”

    They actually lost three to division 1 colleges
    Cameron Fernandez- Washington state
    Mea Hafoka- San Jose state
    Keleah koloi- Hawaii

  3. bball fan December 7, 2016 5:08 am

    Just an FYI, Coach Pana coached the Hilo boys team last year, and is no longer coaching the girls team at Hilo. Which is unfortunate because he would always get the girls teams ready to play anybody in the state.

  4. red x December 7, 2016 4:51 pm

    Typical ILH snobbery. Always leaving out Kahuku. RR4L.

  5. Education First December 8, 2016 9:22 am

    I have seen the Maryknoll vs. Punahou game. The Punahou coach Elizabeth Kam is not equipped to run a program, yet a team in my opinion. Yes I may be biased since I have a niece on the team. But she plays a ton, so the complaint has nothing to do with playing time.

    It’s just things that any coach who even coaches KAC or KBA would recognize. And I am talking about volunteer parents who have minimal coaching experience.

    Punahou is playing Maryknoll. They are noticeably smaller. So they decide to slow the game down in the second half and go to a man. Their advantage is team speed. They could use their (2) stretch 4’s Aplaca and Uyeda to pull Maryknoll’s bigs out of the key. That would give Kandiah more room to penetrate and kick or finish. Also, bigs don’t like guarding in space. But Punahou never makes the adjustment to go small and push tempo. Also by pushing tempo it makes bigs have to run. Typically bigs don’t like to run and they tire.

    Punahou sticks with their normal rotation of playing 1 big. That matches up perfectly with Maryknoll who has a better 1-5 player.

    And down 20, Punahou is still content to sit in their tired, non aggressive zone. Maryknoll’s two big wings can just look over the top of the zone and make any pass they want. And with no ball pressure they can get any shot they want and run as much clock as they want. Down 20 with 4 mins to go in the game, Punahou refused to come out of their zone. They basically gave up.

    If Punahou wants a chance I will lay out their blueprint for success:
    1) GO SMALL
    2) Rotate Aplaca and Uyeda at the 5 for this game.
    3) Push the ball every chance, make Maryknoll tired
    4) Go deeper into your bench, playing 6-7 girls is not working
    5) Run a combination of full court, 3/4 court, and half court traps to not allow Maryknoll to get into a rhythm.
    6) Go to a zone only if your players are in foul trouble
    7) Continue to push
    8) Have the PG coach the team. She is obviously smarter than the head coach.
    9) Certain girls on this team are shooting less than 30% on Maryknoll. Sag off them and force those kids to make shots. Double the scorers and force non-scorers to make plays.

  6. The Rim December 9, 2016 6:08 am

    Pana not coaching boys or girls basketball. He took over the boys last year and was replaced this year by another former Hilo High standout athlete Bruce Ferreira. I’m not sure what the deal is but Ferreira might be a interim coach.

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