After a season of Division II competition in the Maui Interscholastic League, it was imperative for the Molokai Farmers to find ways to retain their sharpness.
How does a team stay on edge without a nemesis for the entire regular season? Molokai, a team with Division I talent — junior center Kalei Adolpho has already committed to play for the University of Hawaii — needed to develop, even after winning the D-II state title last year. Guard Danna-Lynn Hooper is a steady combo of ballhandling and scoring skills, but who else would step up when the going got tough?
Molokai had every reason in the world then, to lose against a rugged, run-and-gun Kahuku squad. Kahuku led the Oahu Interscholastic Association White Conference most of the season, then lost twice to Kaimuki in the playoffs. The Lady Raiders and their fans, donning T-shirts that read “Unfinished Business” in reference to last year’s shocking quarterfinal loss to Kapaa, were certainly all business this week.
But Molokai answered in the semifinals with a rollicking 79-69 win — and Adolpho scored only six points. The Farmers got 33 points from Hooper and 16 from Jamie Duvauchelle on 7-for-8 shooting to offset the Lady Raiders. Adolpho, with 14 rebounds, six assists and five rebounds, continued to be a force on the glass and a smart distributor.
Hooper struggled with her outside shot in the quarterfinal round, but was solid yesterday (7-for-12) and for a second game in a row, she got to the foul line en masse. Hooper hit 18-for-20 there and dished out five dimes. She also had 10 of her team’s 27 turnovers, and with a third game in as many nights coming up in a couple of hours, she’ll need some help.
Jolenta Duvauchelle (four assists, one turnover) could prove to be a key tonight when the Farmers face Kaimuki.
The Bulldogs are the demo model* for the Oahu Interscholastic Association’s firm insistence that the hottest teams at the end of the playoffs should be in the state tourney — never mind regular-season results. Kaimuki was superb on both fronts, but nonetheless got hot in the playoffs with the addition of former JV star Alison Pologa, who had 27 points in her debut and hasn’t let up much since.
Pologa’s emergence and energy offset her inexperience and mistakes. The ‘Dogs have plenty of veteran leadership from sisters Letisha Fa‘asoa and Dejah Fa‘asoa, and center Leti Mikaele.
Tired as they may be, the Farmers could push the ball and get the speedy Adolpho some early layups. There isn’t a center in the state, including Mikaele, who can stay with former track and cross country runner Adolpho if it turns into a track meet.
An intriguing matchup for the Division II final. It’s not always that way, so enjoy.
* Three years ago, Kaimuki’s boys basketball team benefited from the OIA playoff format. After going just 7-5 during the regular season, the Bulldogs caught their stride and reached the state tourney, beating Punahou in the final. There were teams with better records in league play, but no team was as good in those last few weeks.
By Paul Honda