DIVISION II GIRLS BASKETBALL PREVIEW
Coaches see Kalani and Castle as serious title contenders
THIRD OF THREE PARTS
The sightseeing tour that is Division II basketball in the Oahu Interscholastic Association has been pared back a bit.
Instead of a double-round robin, 16-game slate that involved long bus rides, teams will play one round-robin and double up with teams from their side of the island. In a way, it resembles the old division-and-district format of two decades ago.
For a team like Waipahu, 11 games is plenty.
"Last year it was crazy. The games are always fun, but there's not enough practice time," Marauders coach Nadine Villarmia said yesterday.
"Sixteen games was too much," Kalani coach Darold Imanaka said. "The wear and tear over the season, and then the kids need to do schoolwork. Eleven games is fine."
In addition, Anuenue did not return, and Thompson dropped out yesterday.
As for favorites, the coaches point to defending champion Kalani. The Lady Falcons were 14-2 in regular-season play last year, survived an injury to Richline Batoon and earned a state-tourney berth by winning the playoffs. With 12 returnees and all five starters back, the ball is in their court.
"I think Kalani is the favorite because of their shooting and team speed," Villarmia said.
Imanaka is optimistic, but not quite convinced.
"You know, I'm surprised because Castle is the top dog. They have the height, the speed, and they have 14 returnees," he said.
Castle coach Jeff McKeown considers Kalani and Kaimuki the powers to beat.
"Kalani's pretty much got their whole squad back, and Kaimuki is strong, as well," he said.
"They've been playing all
year round. Every league out there, I see they have a team there," Kaimuki coach Mona Fa'asoa said of Castle.
The regular season tips off today. Here's a look at the OIA D-II squads:
Aiea Na Alii
On paper: They're young, but have enough returning experience to be a sleeper candidate for a playoff berth.
Capri Holiona, a 5-6 sophomore, gives Aiea an inside presence with experience. "She has quick feet. She's got a feel for the game," Yen said.
Michelle Shiroma started part-time last year as a junior. "She brings us leadership," Yen said of the point guard.
Freshman Natasha Helsham has stepped into the backcourt. "She's very athletic and has good ball-handling skills," said Yen, who enters his second year at the helm.
The skinny: "We're going to have to stay out of foul trouble. We're not deep and we have only one senior. This is not really our year, but we'll try to do what we can," Yen said.
On paper: The youth movement is finally paying off. Fourth-year players Kellsie Sasaki and Titi Kawainui join third-year returnees Ui Kekauoha and Shanyn Fafard-Kaaihue.
"We have a good blend of everything. Decent size and good team speed. The tools are there to be successful in Division II. We can go with a lot of different lineups," said McKeown, whose team was 8-0 before losing its last two nonconference games.
The skinny: McKeown hopes the rest of the league overlooks Castle, but it's too late for that. The Knights won the Pearl City Invitational.
On paper: Kristen Corrales, who was a second-team all-league pick as a freshman, is one of Kailua's anchors. Zsalei Kamaka, a freshman, will step in at point guard for departed second-team selection Kalina Kama. "She works hard day in and day out," Takahashi said.
Ashley Jacobs, yet another freshman, is a year-round hoopster. "We haven't had those kinds of players," Takahashi said.
The skinny: "The Surfriders are very young with eight sophomores and freshmen, plus just four returnees. We're working on getting them to know a few things well for now," Takahashi said.
The Surfriders battled through injuries to go 2-6 in nonconference play.
On paper: Twins Ashley and Paige Moi, at 5-9, continue to power the Bulldogs. "They know how each other plays, and being twins, their intuition is the same," Fa'asoa said.
Olivia Phommachanh, a freshman, is tasked with stepping into the shoes of Flora Mesa. Keri Nakahashi enters her third year as Kaimuki's sharpshooter.
The skinny: "Olivia has more basketball talent than Flora, but court smarts, Flora learned to play basketball," Fa'asoa said. "Olivia has been playing at the parks for a long time. She has some habits I want to break, but she's very coachable."
The Bulldogs went 4-7 in nonconference play, including losses to Division I schools Konawaena, Honokaa, Maui, Farrington and Roosevelt. "Everything that happened before today is practice. Now is when the season started."
On paper: Junior guard Megan Kamehiro returns for her third season on the varsity. "She's one of the best all-around, best skilled and great shooters. This kid can play and she's extremely dedicated. I think Division I (colleges) should start thinking of her," Imanaka said.
Mana Camara, a 5-8 center, returns for her senior year. "She could play the 3, but we have no height," Imanaka said.
Kim Cabuyadao, at 5-6, is a forward with tremendous hops and speed. Kacie Gushiken has overcome asthma problems and will run the point. Nicole Isemoto brings a pure shooting stroke to the floor.
The skinny: The Lady Falcons are in mid-stride thanks to 12 returnees. "We have to run. We don't have a choice. We can't play a slowdown game," Imanaka said.
On paper: Chelsey Ramirez, a 5-6 forward, is a key returnee. Kimberly Meyerowitz is up from the JV to help on the boards, and guard Misty Maxwell transferred back from Mililani. She played for the Bulldogs two seasons ago as a freshman.
The skinny: The Bulldogs are on the chase, at least on defense. "We have to play good defense. We're trying to pressure the ball more and get steals because we're so small," Sales said.
On paper: Three returnees will carry much of the load for the Seariders.
Juniors Danielle Lovell (5-6) and Kahea Kelii (5-6) and sophomore Kuuipo Badayos (5-7) are three of the six returnees.
The skinny: "We haven't been meshing too well so far," said Nakamoto, whose team went 1-8 in nonconference play. "It depends on what team shows up."
On paper: Villarmia is excited about this group. "We're a lot more talented than we used to be," she said.
Joyce Baptista brings a year's worth of experience to the point. "She's our best shooter," Villarmia said.
Cassaundra Noga, the softball standout, is up from the junior varsity. At 5-7, Noga is a powerful force under the glass. So is senior Amanda Misa, a volleyball star who is in her first year of organized basketball.
"She can run the floor. You just wish she'd played before. She's athletic enough to cover for her inexperience," Villarmia said of the 5-9 center.
The skinny: "If we can keep up our grades, we'll be OK. It's weird. We have the most talented team since I've been here, but we're lazy in the classroom," said Villarmia, now in her seventh year.