Neighbor Isles lead pack in DI girls hoops
By Wes Nakama
Advertiser Staff Writer
Neighbor Islands may represent only 30 percent of Hawai'i's overall population, but they snatched the top two seeds in this week's Hawaiian Airlines Girls Basketball Division I State Championships.
So although only four of the 12 teams in the field are traveling by airplane to Honolulu, by no means should the tournament be considered O'ahu-centric.
Not with defending champ Konawaena as the No. 1 seed and 2009 semifinalist Lahainaluna at No. 2.
"I've been coaching here 15 years, and we haven't had a (Maui Interscholastic League) team seeded higher than No. 4 even once," said Lahainaluna coach Todd Rickard. "It gives recognition to the MIL. But the final numbers after these next four days — those are the ones that really count."
The DI and DII tournaments begin first-round action today at school sites (see complete schedule below).
Konawaena won last year's title with three freshmen and a sophomore in the starting lineup, including 2009 Advertiser State Player of the Year Lia Galdeira.
Galdeira missed part of this season with a shoulder injury, but returned to action in time to help Konawaena complete its second straight unbeaten Big Island Interscholastic Federation campaign.
The Wildcats defeated Lahainaluna twice in nonleague play and also beat Interscholastic League of Honolulu runner-up 'Iolani in December.
"They should be (No. 1 seed)," Rickard said of Konawaena. "But everybody (seeded) one through four will be pulling a tough game anyway, whichever bracket they're in."
ILH champion Punahou is the No. 3 seed, and O'ahu Interscholastic Association champ Farrington is No. 4.
All four seeded teams received first-round byes and will begin play in tomorrow's quarterfinals, which also will be held at school sites. Thursday's semifinals and Friday's championship will be held at Blaisdell Arena.
OC16 will televise two games from McKinley live statewide tonight and tomorrow, as well as the semifinals and both championship games from Blaisdell. ESPN 1420 AM will have live radio broadcasts all four nights.
Here is a closer look at all 12 Division I teams in the field (records are for regular season only):
Coach: Angel Kalehuawehe
Record: 9-5 (MIL runner-up)
Notable: The Bears needed a 38-37 overtime victory over Maui to earn its state tourney berth. Malia Chang helped them defeat Moanalua in last year's first round.
Coach: Caroline Tatupu
Record: 15-1 (OIA champion)
Notable: The Governors' only league loss was a self-imposed forfeit at Roosevelt, so they essentially went through the league schedule unbeaten on the court. Junior guard Brydgette Tatupu-Leopoldo, a 2009 Advertiser All-State first-team selection, is a 3-point marksman and can also drive to the basket. Kirsten Liana is a steady factor in the post.
Coach: Eddie Maruyama
Record: 11-3 (ILH runner-up)
Notable: All three of the Raiders' league losses came to Punahou. 'Iolani has had to overcome injuries throughout the season, yet has somehow improved in the process. Senior guard Lori Yamashita is a poised floor leader and consistent scorer, and freshman post Alex Masaquel has made huge strides as a rebounder, shot blocker and scorer. Junior guard Lahela Usui's athleticism makes her a threat on offense and defense, especially in transition.
Coach: Jesse Baugh
Record: 11-6 (OIA fifth place)
Notable: The Hurricanes are making their state tournament debut. They finished third in the OIA West, then went 2-3 in the league's postseason tournament, edging Mililani, 38-35, for fifth place. Leilani Tauani-Fifita is a strong post presence.
Coach: Bobbie Awa
Record: 10-0 (BIIF champion)
Notable: The Wildcats have won three of the last six state titles. They got off to a strong start this season, defeating defending DII state champ Moloka'i and ILH runner-up 'Iolani in nonleague play even with Galdeira on the bench. Sophomore point guard Dawnyelle Awa is a steady floor general who can put up a lot of points. Junior Anuhea Wall is effective in the post.
Coach: Todd Rickard
Record: 14-0 (MIL champion)
Notable: The Lunas are coming off their best season in history, and lost only one starting senior to graduation. Like last year, they went through an unbeaten regular season without any tight finishes, but Rickard said their state tournament experience last year should help Lahainaluna this time around. "They know what to expect now, they know what it takes to get the job done," he said. "I think they're more ready this time." Senior post Milika Taufa was named to The Advertiser's 2009 All-State first team and is one of Hawai'i's top rebounders and shot blockers. Junior point guard Maiki Viela is one of the state's top backcourt players.
Coach: Pat Basilio
Record: 11-5 (OIA sixth place)
Notable: The Trojans finished second in the OIA West, handing division champ Pearl City its only regular-season loss, but then went 1-3 in the league playoffs. They were upset by Moanalua, 44-42, in the second round and needed a 3-pointer at the buzzer by Kellie Sakai to edge McKinley, 52-51, in an elimination game. Post player Darcey Goulsby is a strong presence in the post.
Coach: Kristie Morikawa
Record: 11-7 (OIA third place)
Notable: Nä Menehune might be a dangerous team, considering their improved play during the league playoffs. They finished third in the OIA East at 7-5, knocked off West runner-up Mililani in the playoffs, 44-42, rallied past West champ Pearl City, 41-40, and then took East co-champ Roosevelt to double-overtime before losing, 49-43. Joanna Nicholas is a senior leader, but Moanalua has other versatile athletes in A.J. Verdida and Jasmine Funtanilla, plus an outside shooter with Kiley Lau.
Coach: Mike Morton
Record: 13-3 (OIA fourth place)
Notable: The Chargers are making their first state tournament appearance since 2002. They won the OIA West with an 11-1 record, opened the league playoffs with an impressive 52-21 victory over Castle, but then lost to Roosevelt in a semifinal and eventually dropped to fourth after a 41-40 loss to Moanalua. Guard Jordan Ahakuelo is part of a veteran group that has worked its way up the standings the past three years.
Coach: Mike Taylor
Record: 11-1 (ILH champion)
Notable: The Buffanblu have won four of the last seven state titles, so tradition and history are on their side. But this year's group has done it mostly by committee, with no one dominant player. Sophomore wing Mysha Sataraka comes the closest, at least as far as consistent scoring and controlling tempo. Junior post Hailey Maeda is a blue-collar worker in the post — rebounding, blocking shots, scoring on putbacks or short hook shots. Freshman guard Khaliyah Thompson can run the floor and finish breaks, often drawing fouls and hitting free throws. Punahou's trademark defense can keep them in games even on nights when the offense is trying to find its flow. The Buffanblu's only league loss came to Mid-Pacific in the regular-season opener.
Coach: Hinano Higa
Record: 14-3 (OIA runner-up)
Notable: All three of the Rough Riders' league losses came to Farrington, once in the regular season and twice in the playoffs. Like Moanalua, Roosevelt may benefit from playing extra games in the OIA's modified double-elimination tournament. They lost two close games to Farrington and rallied past Moanalua in double-overtime. Guard Kelcie Namba has emerged as a top scorer in transition and from the perimeter, and Nicole Ramirez is a top 3-point shooter. Post Mikela Thoemmes is agile and can take over a game, showing the ability to peak during last year's state tournament.
Coach: Grant Kauhi
Record: 13-1 (BIIF runner-up)
Notable: In a league format change, the BIIF was split into East and West divisions and regular season schedules, so the East champion Warriors went unbeaten until falling to West champ Konawaena, 50-37, in last Saturday's title game. Waiäkea is strong at the guard position, as senior Kamie Imai was an Advertiser All-State first-team selection in 2007 and is one of Hawai'i's top all-around prep female athletes. Fellow guard Jamielynn Moe has state tournament experience and is a scoring threat as well.