Who stops Saints from marching to title?

Castle forward Sheri May Alvarado scored on a drive to the hoop in a win over University in the first round of the Division II state tournament on Wednesday. Photo by Bruce Asato/Star-Advertiser.

Twelve days is a mighty long time to go without a game.

Somehow, the top-seeded St. Francis Saints will make do when they meet unseeded Castle tonight in the quarterfinals of the Snapple/HHSAA Girls Basketball Division II State Championships.

St. Francis is unbeaten and largely rested since winning the ILH D-II championship on Jan. 20. They rallied to edge Hawaii Baptist that night, and have been stellar against Top 10 competition. Kamehameha-Hawaii, Roosevelt and Kauai round out the seeded (league champion) teams as they step on the tourney court for the first time. Wednesday’s unseeded winners — Castle, Honokaa, Le Jardin and HBA — have the disadvantage of some fatigue.

There have been cases in years past, though, when players got their jitters out on day one, got used to different officiating styles, and did better than teams that got byes. This has happened in girls and boys state tourneys.

Below, a look at tonight’s D-II matchups, including team win-loss records overall and in regular-season.

St. Francis Saints (23-0, 15-0 ILH D-II) vs. Castle Knights (6-15, 1-9 OIA East), 7 p.m., Kaimuki gym
St. Francis
Seed: No. 1
Vs. Top 10: 4-0 (1.000).
Strength of schedule: 4 of 23 games (17 percent) were vs. Top 10 (or similar level) teams.
Top 10 wins: Sacred Hearts. Punahou, @ Hawaii Baptist, Hawaii Baptist.
Losses (Non-Top 10*): None.

Seed: Unseeded (OIA D-II runner-up). Def. University 63-52 on Wednesday.
Vs. Top 10: 0-7 (.000).
Strength of schedule: 7 of 21 games (33 percent) were against Top 10 teams.
Top 10 wins: None.
Losses: (Non-Top 10*): Hawaii Baptist, @ Campbell, Sacred Hearts, St. Francis, Nanakuli*, Mid-Pacific, @ McKinley*, Moanalua*, Kaimuki*, @ Farrington*, @ Roosevelt*, Kaiser*, Kahuku, Kalani, Roosevelt*.

Skinny: The Saints have been through enough high-intensity battles to overcome just about any team regardless of classification. Castle? The Knights’ preseason schedule was one of the toughest in the state. If Coach Joseph Lililo had avoided the likes of HBA, Campbell, Sacred Hearts and (2017 D-II state champion) Mid-Pacific in preseason, the win-loss mark would have looked much prettier, but the value of tough competition is showing here in the post-season.

X-factor: The Saints have excellent backcourt play with Kaimi Kalei leading the way, and they have protectors at the rim. The departure of the Neves sisters before the ILH regular season began didn’t have a major effect through the league season, but with three games in these next three days, the Saints will be tested in terms of fatigue and conditioning.

Kauai Red Raiders (11-1, 8-0 KIF) vs. Honokaa Dragons (8-9, 6-3 BIIF), 5 p.m., Kaimuki gym
Vs. Top 10: 3-5 (.375).
Strength of schedule: 7 of 19 games (37 percent) were vs. Top 10 teams.
Top 10 wins: Kalani, Campbell, @ Mililani.
Losses (Non-Top 10*): @ Sacred Hearts, @ Kamehameha, @ Maryknoll, @ Konawaena, Lahainaluna, Kaiser*, @ Moanalua*, Moanalua*.

Seed: Unseeded (BIIF runner-up). Def. Seabury Hall 32-13 on Wednesday.
Vs. Top 10: 0-4 (.000).
Strength of schedule: 4 of 15 games (27 percent) were vs. Top 10 teams.
Top 10 wins: None.
Losses (Non-Top 10*): Campbell, Waiakea, Waiakea, @ Hilo*, Konawaena, Kamehameha-Hawaii*.

Skinny: The Dragons were sharp in the win over MIL D-II champion Seabury Hall on Wednesday. Sophomore guard Shaleina Bird was a floor leader and Coach Aaron Tanimoto’s team got scoring from Kuilei Akau (10 points, 10 rebounds) and Bella Fernandez (eight points, six boards).

Kauai has been up to the challenge when the opportunity is there. State discus star Taegan Keep is a strong force in the middle (15 ppg) and the Red Raiders get additional scoring from Marissa Layosa and Amalya Sales.

X-factor: It has been two months since Kauai experienced game action with non-KIF referees. The same could be said of Honokaa, but the Lady Dragons already got one game in on Wednesday. Adjustments on the fly are always crucial at this stage of the tournament.

Kamehameha-Hawaii Warriors (13-4, 6-4 BIIF) vs. Le Jardin Bulldogs, 5 p.m., Kalani gym
Seed: No. 2
Vs. Top 10: 2-3 (.400).
Strength of schedule: 5 of 15 games (33 percent) were vs. Top 10 (or similar level) teams.
Top 10 wins: Hawaii Baptist, Mid-Pacific.
Losses (Non-Top 10*): @ Honokaa*, Waiakea, Hilo, Konawaena.

Le Jardin
Seed: Unseeded (ILH third place). Def. Waipahu 43-38 on Wednesday.
Vs. Top 10: 0-3 (.000).
Strength of schedule: 3 of 17 games (18 percent) were vs. Top 10 teams.
Top 10 wins: None.
Losses (Non-Top 10*): Pearl City*, Kamehameha II*, @ Kalaheo*, @ St. Francis, Kamehameha II*, @ Hawaii Baptist, University*, St. Francis.

Skinny: The BIIF D-II champion Warriors might be far off the radar for most Oahu roundball fans, but their long, lasting legacy in girls hoops is undeniable. Wins over HBA and Mid-Pacific in preseason set the tone. They split games with Honokaa, winning the league title last week in another nail-biter.

KS-Hawaii post Saydee Aganus continues to draw raves as a consistent performer near the bucket. Jordyn Mantz and PG Dominique Pacheco also provide key senior leadership.

The Bulldogs have gotten through with big contributions in the post from 6-foot-1 senior Julia Fisher, their all-state volleyball player.

X-factor: LJA has good overall height, but if KS-Hawaii packs the paint as expected, the Bulldogs will be tested from the perimeter. That is not their forte.

Roosevelt Rough Riders (10-9, 6-4 OIA East) vs. Hawaii Baptist Eagles (25-6, 13-2 ILH D-II), 7 p.m., Kalani gym
Seed: No. 3 (OIA champion)
Vs. Top 10: 0-5 (.000).
Strength of schedule: 5 of 18 games (28 percent) were vs. Top 10 teams.
Top 10 wins: None.
Losses (Non-Top 10*): Hawaii Baptist, @ Campbell, @ Radford*, Waiakea, Kamehameha-Maui*, Kaiser*, Kahuku, @ Kalani, Kaimuki*.

Hawaii Baptist
Seed: Unseeded (ILH runner-up). Def. Pearl City 40-0 on Wednesday.
Vs. Top 10: 2-5 (.286).
Strength of schedule: 7 of 30 games (23 percent) were vs. Top 10 teams.
Top 10 wins: @ Campbell, @ Sacred Hearts.
Losses (Non-Top 10*): Kamehameha-Hawaii*, @ ‘Iolani, Sacred Hearts, Kamehameha, St. Francis, @ St. Francis.

Skinny: These teams met on Nov. 11, a 43-33 win by the Eagles at Roosevelt’s court. Since then, the young Rough Riders matured and got superb performances from a senior core that includes Sunshine Vicente, Haven Gabriel, Kaonohi Quinlan and Mari Foster.

Quinlan’s hoops IQ and court vision are key factors, and Foster’s rangy rebounding and defense, plus a great motor and transition speed, separate Roosevelt from most D-II teams.

HBA, of course, has been a D-II powerhouse for ages. The question is whether leading scorer and rebounder Ally Wada will be able to play at her usual elite level. She injured her neck area against St. Francis on Jan. 20 and has rested since. She is cleared medically to play, but in the Eagles’ 40-9 in over Pearl City on Wednesday, she was held out.

The Eagles have depth and skill. Sophomore Sasha Phillip showed her wares in the close loss at St. Francis, stepping in big time when Wada left with injury. Veterans Kyley Nakagawa and Alexis Dang provide leadership in the backcourt, which will be tested by Roosevelt’s scrappy and quick ball pressure.

X-factor: Wada’s overall strength and flexibility won’t really be known until she runs the floor at game speed. The Eagles can compete at a high level without her, and though her future is in college volleyball (USF), she will undoubtedly yearn to do what she can to help HBA get back on the throne. The Eagles won the state title in 2016, but lost in the quarterfinals last year against Moanalua.


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