OIA tourney will be matter of survival
By Wes Nakama
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Wes Nakama
The cliffhanger better known as the O'ahu Interscholastic Association boys basketball tournament begins today and, as usual, nobody feels totally safe.
That includes Kahuku, the Eastern Division's No. 1 seed and No. 5-ranked team in The Advertiser's statewide Top 10 poll of media and coaches. The Red Raiders (10-1) ended the regular season last Saturday with a 55-53 overtime loss at Roosevelt.
"It's not the way you want to go into the postseason," Kahuku coach Nathan James said. "Some people might say, 'Well, you already clinched (the East title) so it didn't matter,' or 'It's good to get the one loss out of the way now,' but I don't agree. As a coach and as a player, you don't want to lose any game, any time. You play to win, and if you win the last regular season game it can be a bridge to the playoffs.
"Now we've got to get over it quick and get focused again."
The Red Raiders have a first-round bye, as does East runner-up Kaimuki (9-2), West champ Mililani (10-0) and West runner-up Campbell (9-1).
Today's first-round games feature West No. 5 Kapolei (6-4) against East No. 4 Kalaheo (8-3), followed by East No. 6 McKinley (6-5) at West No. 3 Radford (7-3); and East No. 5 Roosevelt (7-4) vs. West No. 4 Leilehua (7-3), followed by West No. 6 Pearl City (5-5) at East No. 3 Moanalua (7-3).
The winners advance to tomorrow's quarterfinal doubleheaders at Kahuku and Mililani.
As each division champion can attest, seedings will mean little after the opening jump ball.
Mililani is undefeated only after squeaking past 'Aiea, 47-45, and Waipahu, 55-54, in the final week of the regular season. Ken Moses hit one of two free throws with four seconds remaining to lift the Trojans past 'Aiea, which finished 1-9. Waipahu ended up 2-8.
In fact, seven of Mililani's 10 victories have been by seven points or less. Against Campbell on Jan. 12, the Trojans trailed by 14 points with five minutes remaining before winning, 61-54.
"They play a frenetic pace that gets you moving, and if you're not prepared for that or if you don't make adjustments they can run right past you," said James, who has scouted Mililani several times. "They end games really well, and for the teams that learned to finish games, that bodes well for them in the playoffs because there's going to be a lot of close games. I don't foresee any blowouts."
One team to watch is Campbell, which had suited up only eight players in that loss to Mililani because of injuries, academics and discipline. The Sabers have since added to their roster and are at least 10 players strong. The result is seven straight victories.
"There's more parity in every league than I've seen in a long time," James said. "It should make for a very interesting postseason."
Game 1: West No. 5 Kapolei (6-4) vs. East No. 4 Kalaheo (8-3), 5 p.m.
Game No. 2: East No. 6 McKinley (6-5) vs. West No. 3 Radford (7-3), 6:30 p.m.
Game 3: East No. 5 Roosevelt (7-4) vs. West No. 4 Leilehua (7-3), 5 p.m.
Game No. 4: West No. 6 Pearl City (5-5) vs. East No. 3 Moanalua (7-3), 6:30 p.m.
Game 5: McKinley-Radford winner vs. East No. 2 Kaimuki (9-2), 6:30 p.m.
Game 6: Kapolei-Kalaheo winner vs. West No. 1 Mililani (10-0), 8:30 p.m.
Game 7: Pearl City-Moanalua winner vs. West No. 2 Campbell (9-1), 5 p.m.
Game 8: Roosevelt-Leilehua winner vs. East No. 1 Kahuku (10-1), 6:30 p.m.
Game 9: Winner Game 7 vs. winner Game 8, 6:30 p.m.
Game 10: Winner Game 9 vs. winner Game 10, 8 p.m.
Game 11: Loser Game 9 vs. Loser Game 10, 6:30 p.m.
Game 12: Winner Game 9 vs. Winner Game 10, 8 p.m.
Reach Wes Nakama at firstname.lastname@example.org.