DIVISION II BASKETBALL
Big opportunity for 'small schools'
The Hawaiian Airlines/HHSAA Girls Basketball Division II Championship tournament is in its third year, but this may be remembered as the one that many of the so-called "small schools" consider the ground-breaker.
La Pietra, Hawai'i Prep, Hawai'i Baptist, Moloka'i and Word of Life are making their state tournament debuts, along with Castle and Kapa'a.
All but La Pietra — the Interscholastic League of Honolulu champion — qualified thanks to the field's expansion from four teams to 12. ILH runner-up St. Francis, which took second in last year's DII state tournament, also qualified this year as a result of the expanded field.
Hawai'i Baptist was the ILH's top DII qualifier in 2002 and 2003, but needed to go through the league's DI postseason tournament to earn a state berth since there was no DII state tournament back then. The Eagles could not make it past the ILH tourney semifinals.
"Our girls feel like they're playing for all the girls who played before them," said HBA athletic director Deren Oshiro, who was the Eagles' head coach from 1994 to 2001. "Whether we get in as the (ILH's) fourth team or the first doesn't matter too much at this point. It's a great opportunity for us, and it's one we didn't have in the past."