Iolani leaves doubters behind
By Wes Nakama
Advertiser Staff Writer
|Trisha Nishimoto, left, and Monica Tokoro, the ILH's leading scorer, will lead Iolani into the state tournament.
Gregory Yamamoto The Honolulu Advertiser
"We have to play better, especially if we go the state tournament and have to face the Punahous, the Kamehamehas ..."
Either they forgot, or somehow failed to mention, "the Iolanis."
The state tournament gets underway tonight with four quarterfinal games, and two-time defending champion Kamehameha (12-3) is out of the picture. That's because Iolani upset the Warriors, 56-42, on Monday to claim the Interscholastic League of Honolulu's second and final state berth.
The Raiders (10-4) will meet Big Island Interscholastic Federation champion Honoka'a (7-1) at 8:30 tonight at McKinley.
Iolani's win on Monday, and especially the margin of victory, stunned many in the local basketball community. And that includes some of the Raiders.
"It shocked us, too," said first-year Iolani coach Glenn Takara, referring to the 14-point advantage. "I thought if we won, (the score) would be close and in the 30s. But I think a lot of people were overlooking us, and that got our girls more eager to play."
The Raiders (10-4) started out hot and never cooled off. They jumped out to a 10-5 lead in the first quarter, led 24-18 at the half and 40-26 going into the final period.
"Everybody's shots were going in," said senior guard Monica Tokoro. "(Takara) said that the third quarter usually is the most important quarter, and that's when we played our best."
Iolani actually played well all season, but the Raiders often were overshadowed by ILH champion Punahou (12-1) and regular-season runner-up Kamehameha. All four of Iolani's losses came to those two teams.
The Raiders and Warriors both reached the final of the league's tournament to determine the second state berth, but few gave Iolani a chance to unseat Kamehameha at St. Louis' McCabe Gym on Monday. The Warriors, after all, had lost only four games since the 1999 season three of them to Punahou.
"People didn't think we could beat them, but we just played hard," said junior guard Trisha Nishimoto, who scored a game-high 23 points. "And it was just one of those days when everything went in. Everybody had something to contribute."
Tokoro, a two-time ILH scoring champion at 5-foot-3à, scored only six points that night but dished out a game-high six assists and directed traffic from the perimeter. Freshman Ginger Gravelle, at 5-9 the Raiders' tallest starter, scored 14 points.
As sweet as the victory was, Iolani is hoping for even greater ones this weekend. Takara said the team's practice intensity has been at an especially high level the past two weeks.
"Before the season, our goal was just to make it to states, but on Tuesday, we had a meeting to re-evaluate our goals," Takara said. "Now, we can't be happy just getting there."
The Raiders, led by Melanie Azama and B.J. Itoman, who went on to become University of Hawai'i standouts, were a state tournament fixture in the late 1980s and early 1990s. But for Tokoro, a four-year letterman, this is her first one.
It also may have been the toughest to earn, since the 20-day teachers' strike caused the tournament field to go from 12 teams to eight and the ILH's allotment of berths went from three to two.
"When that happened, everybody thought it was going to be Kamehameha (for the second berth)," Tokoro said. "People would tell us, 'Too bad you guys are not going to go anymore.' But I was happy to still have a chance.
"I thought we should have gone in other years. I'm so happy we made it this time."
HAWAIIAN AIR LINES GIRLS STATE BASKETBALL CHAMPIONSHIPS
Silver Anniversary (25th) Hawai'i High School Athletic Association Tournament
(Seeds in parentheses)
At Kekuhaupi'o Gym, the Kamehameha Schools
- Punahou (1) vs. Roosevelt, 7 p.m.
- Baldwin (4) vs. 'Aiea, 8:30 p.m.
At McKinley High School
- Kalaheo (2) vs. Waimea, 7 p.m.
- Honoka'a (3) vs. Iolani, 8:30 p.m.
At Stan Sheriff Center
- Winner of Kalaheo/Waimea vs. winner of Honoka'a/Iolani, 7 p.m.
- Winner of Punahou/Roosevelt vs. winner of Baldwin/'Aiea, 8:30 p.m.
Monday, May 21
At Stan Sheriff Center
- Saturday's winners, 7:05 p.m.
Admission: $7 adults, $5 students (kindergarten through 12). No school passes.
Parking: Free but limited at McKinley and Kamehameha. $3 at Stan Sheriff Center.
Television: Championship game live on KFVE (channel 5), 7:05 p.m. Monday.