Prep Beat

By Star-Bulletin Staff

Wednesday, November 28, 2001

Defending state champion
Kalaheo hosts tournament

By Jason Kaneshiro

The Kalaheo boys basketball team will begin preparations for defense of their state championship by hosting the 10th annual Kalaheo Invitational this weekend.

The eight-team tournament opens tomorrow and runs through Saturday at the Mustangs' gym. Joining Kalaheo in the tournament are Nanakuli, Roosevelt, Kailua and Mililani of the Oahu Interscholastic Association, and Punahou, Maryknoll and Mid-Pacific of the Interscholastic League of Honolulu.

Game times are 3:30, 5, 6:30, and 8 p.m. the first two nights. Saturday's games are set for 1:30, 3, 4:30 and 6 p.m.

Admission is $4 for adults and $2 for students.

The Mustangs, who went 16-0 last season to capture the OIA and state titles, feature two all-state returnees. Senior shooting guard D.C. Daniels was a co-Mr. Basketball selection last season along with teammate Skyler Wilson, while forward Ikaika Alama-Francis was a second-team pick. In all, Kalaheo returns nine players, including eight seniors.

"We've got some key returnees like Ikaika Alama-Francis and D.C. Daniels," Kalaheo coach Pete Smith said. "But we have a lot of returnees who played in spots last year, and this is an opportunity for them to show us what they can do."

A key for the Mustangs will be to replace Wilson's leadership at point guard. Seniors Shane Harada and James Robertson will get the first shot at the position. Daniels will also see some action at point guard, but Smith said the 6-foot-1 senior will fill several roles for the team.

"He plays a lot bigger than he is," Smith said. "D.C. is so versatile he can play anywhere from a 1 (point guard) to a 4 (power forward) in our setup."

Alama-Francis helped lead the Kalaheo boys volleyball team to the semifinals of the state tournament earlier this month and will anchor the post. Smith also expects big things from 6-5 sophomore Sam Wilhoite.

Kalaheo has won six of the last seven OIA championships. Roosevelt, which faces Maryknoll in the first round, won the title in 2000. Punahou won the state title in 1999, and Mililani is considered a favorite in the OIA West this season.

This week's event starts a four-week string of tournaments for Kalaheo. The Mustangs will play in a tournament at Radford next week, then travel to Hilo for the Big Island Candies Invitational. They will also participate in the Iolani Classic before opening the OIA East season Jan. 3 against Castle.

Ranking watch: Friday's finals of the Chevron State Football Championships will pit two teams ranked in the top 30 in at least one national poll.

St. Louis rocketed 15 places in the latest Student Sports Fab 50 National Rankings to enter its game with Kahuku at No. 27. The Crusaders were ranked No. 42 last week. Kahuku has steadily risen in the poll and checks in this week at No. 14, up two spots from last week.

The Hawaii teams were aided by the losses of eight ranked teams last week.

Softball opens Saturday: With the fall sports season coming to an end with Friday's state football championship game, the winter season is set to begin Saturday with regular season openers for OIA softball teams.

Three-time defending OIA champion Mililani opens the OIA West schedule by hosting Waialua, while defending OIA East champion Kailua takes on cross-town rival Kalaheo. All games start at 1 p.m.

The ILH season begins Dec. 5.

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