HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL
Iolani Classic as loaded as ever
Holiday season means traffic jams, crowded parking lots and even claustrophobic reactions to shopping malls.
For basketball fans who are done with the shopping hassle -- or just procrastinating -- there is reason for joy. After all, the Iolani Prep Classic and Punahou Tournament tip off this week.
The Iolani Classic, long regarded as one of the premier prep tournaments in the nation, starts off with a bang today.
Fairfax (Calif.) and Roman Catholic (Pa.) are among the tourney's talented mainland entrants. The highest-ranked squad is first-time participant Le Flore of Mobile, Ala. The Rattlers are No. 11 in USA Today's Super 25.
Le Flore, which opens against Saint Louis tomorrow, is averaging 86 points per game and features point guard Chris Blake (27 points per game).
Seven of the teams in today's Star-Bulletin Boys Basketball Top 10 will play in the Iolani Classic.
Today, fourth-ranked Kaimuki faces perennial national power Roman Catholic in a 5 p.m. game. Ninth-ranked Mililani, unbeaten in six nonconference games against local competition, will take on defending Iolani Classic champion Fairfax at 6:30 p.m.
"Oh, we're excited to play them," Mililani coach Hiram Akina said. "It's a good experience for our kids. We get to play them."
Kamehameha, No. 8 in the poll, will meet Vincent (Wis.) in today's nightcap at 8 p.m.
Tomorrow, No. 3 Iolani, five-time Hawaii state champion, will tip off against McKinley. Sixth-ranked Saint Louis, with 6-foot-6 Scott Smith and 6-8 Siunepa Fiefia Jr., will battle Le Flore at 8 p.m.
Seventh-ranked Radford will take on St. Dominic (N.Y.), also tomorrow.
Punahou's tournament, originally scheduled for the last week of December, was moved up and will tip off Thursday. Three of the eight entries are from the mainland. Top-ranked Punahou will face Thompson in the first round.
Viva Las Vegas:
The Kalaheo Mustangs won't have much tournament fun, at least not in Hawaii. The Mustangs, ranked No. 2, will be in Nevada to play in the Vegas Valley Invitational, a 16-team event. The tournament begins Thursday.
Kalaheo junior Cheynne Lishman scored 57 points in his last two games -- against Kamehameha and Punahou -- including 11 3-pointers.
"We had a group of seniors who worked really hard. We just wanted to make it a nice trip to the mainland instead of just going to the neighbor islands," coach Chico Furtado said. "We hope to stay focused enough to be competitive. If we can come back a better team, that'll help us with the season."
Iolani got to experience some international rule adjustments in its matchups with teams from Canada and Australia.
"They enter the free-throw lane on release. They have no 5-second, closely guarded rule since they usually use a shot clock," Raiders coach Mark Mugiishi recalled. "So the referees would cut them slack with warnings instead of violations."
Still, it was a worthwhile experience for the teams involved.
"It was more a goodwill kind of situation, but the Australian team actually had some good players," Mugiishi said of Box Hill Secondary School. "(They had) a really quick point guard, a 6-7 shooter and a 7-foot center. It was actually a very high-level game. Funny thing, the small little guard, he was probably 5-6, gave us more problems than the 7-footer.
"We were winning pretty much the whole game, though it was close, and he made some big plays at the end which allowed (Box Hill) to pull it off."
Kalani coach Richard Miyasaka won't see much of the Kaimuki Bulldogs this season since the two programs are in different classifications. The former Kaimuki assistant does forecast an uptick in the Bulldogs' stock in the near future.
"Once they get off and running and (coach) Kelly Grant gets them fine-tuned, they will be hard to stop," Miyasaka said.
Game for threes:
Due to a tie in the state-tournament ratio formula, there will be a tiebreaker, or play-in game, when the regular season concludes. The third-place team from the Interscholastic League of Honolulu will travel and play the third-place finisher from the Big Island Interscholastic Federation.
The winner will secure a state-tournament berth.
Home and home:
The emergence of the Division II state tournament in boys basketball means the Oahu Interscholastic Association has tweaked its schedule. D-I teams will play each other twice, as they did back when there was district play within the league's West and East divisions.
"It's home and home again," Furtado said. "I liked it when it went that way for the girls (recently). There are more games that are competitive. As much as you like that so-called 'easy one' from time to time, you'd rather be crisp."