OIA RED BASKETBALL
First-round bye the only guarantee for Kalaheo, Mililani
All teams report for duty tomorrow night, and they all start from scratch.
Toss out the win-loss records, because the Oahu Interscholastic Association Red Conference playoffs tip off with all five state-tournament berths up for grabs.
OIA RED TOURNAMENT
Seeds: East--1. Kalaheo. 2. Kailua. West--1. Mililani. 2. Campbell.
Game 1: Kaimuki vs. Waianae, at Radford gym, 5 p.m.
2: Castle at Radford, 6:30 p.m.
3: Kahuku vs. Leilehua, at Moanalua gym, 5:30 p.m.
4: Pearl City at Moanalua, 7 p.m.
5: Winner of Game 2 vs. Kailua, at Mililani gym, 5 p.m.
6: Winner of Game 1 at Mililani, 6:30 p.m.
7: Winner of Game 4 vs. Campbell, at Kalaheo gym, 5 p.m.
8: Winner of Game 3 at Kalaheo, 6:30 p.m.Feb. 14
9: Loser of Game 6 vs. Loser of Game 5, time and site TBA
10: Loser of Game 8 vs. Loser of Game 7, time and site TBA
11: Winners of Games 5 & 6, at McKinley, time TBA
12: Winners of Games 7 & 8, at McKinley, time TBA
13: Fifth-place game--Winner of Game 10 at Winner of Game, time TBA
14: Third-place game--Loser of Game 12 at Loser of Game 11, time TBA
15: Championship game--Winners of Games 11 & 12, at McKinley, time TBA
Unlike other leagues across the islands, where regular-season leaders earn automatic state berths, the 12-game regular season in OIA play is simply fodder for the pecking order. East winner Kalaheo and West champ Mililani get first-round byes and will host the quarterfinals on Saturday, but the guarantees end there. Should either team lose, it falls into the fight for the league's fifth and last state-tournament berth.
"The East is tough again. Kaimuki is at No. 4," Radford coach Kai Enos said of the defending OIA champion.
One of the dark horses is Moanalua, which split its season series with Kalaheo. Na Menehune have confounded foes and even their own coach, Greg Tacon, at times. He gradually simplified the playbook and found more success.
"You can't pigeonhole us. Now, we try to do things that accentuate our strengths," first-year Na Menehune coach said. "We've become a good shooting team, so the matchups are extremely important."
Tomorrow, winning teams such as Moanalua (8-4), Kaimuki (7-5) and Radford (8-4) are in the minority. Five of the eight teams in OIA playoff games have losing records. It is a winner-take-all lottery that gives late bloomers like Kahuku (3-9) an equal shot at the OIA championship.
Even Pearl City (1-11), which won a coin flip over Kapolei to secure the sixth seed in the West, has a chance at the crown.
Here's a look at the top contenders, as well as tomorrow's matchups.
The Mustangs (20-8 overall) closed out regular-season play with a stunning one-point home loss to Kailua last week. Still, they are ranked No. 5 in the Star-Bulletin Top 10.
Since 1984, Kalaheo has won 14 league crowns, establishing a dynasty matched by none. Under Chico Furtado, the Mustangs have won a crown, in '04, and are poised as the favorite this postseason.
The skinny: They may be the best offensive rebounding team in the league, thanks to Tyler Caswell and Cliffton Pires. Caswell, at 6-foot-6, is a double-double threat. Kalaheo's perimeter game, however, has been erratic. When junior shooting guard Cheynne Lishman is hot, Kalaheo is capable of knocking off the best teams in the state.
X factor: Ball-handling. The Mustangs have been at their weakest against strong on-ball defensive pressure teams. Junior Cody vonAppen has shown signs of emerging as a reliable ballhandler.
Wins over Moanalua were huge, but the Surfriders haven't been able to get over Kalaheo or defending league champion Kaimuki. They did beat the rest of the East, though, to finish 8-4 (14-9 overall) and earn a first-round bye for longtime coach Tim Harrison.
The skinny: Their guard corps, led by lanky Tim Maghinay and Zachary Akamine, may be the quickest in the OIA. The Surfriders are especially good at applying fullcourt pressure. It would be intriguing to see Kailua employ its press for sustained periods in a league that basically sees very little of it. Kenny Ellis, a transfer from Kamehameha, gives Kailua a big man who can hit the 3.
X factor: Ryan Naluai looks the part of a surfer boy because he is, or was, a keiki champion. On the hardwood, however, he is a matchup problem with his agile 6-5 frame.
Last year's squad showed signs of breaking out under coach Hiram Akina. This year, they burst out in a big way with a 12-0 roll through the West. Mililani (21-5 overall) is ranked fourth in the Top 10.
The skinny: Guards Nick Kanno and Curtis Murakami run the offense at different speeds, while high-leaping Kendrick Clarke and old-school scorer Brandon Dela Cruz give Mililani power in the low post. Guard Jordan Torres and swingman Scott Burns provide instant energy and offense, while Donovan Olmos is a streak shooter and valuable zone buster.
X factor: Thompson Academy transfer Jonathan Keen (6-3) has been a trusty defender, and along with Torres, is Mililani's best entry passer to Dela Cruz on the block.
The Sabers are the West's version of Moanalua, a team capable of knocking off the leader, then losing the next night to a contender. Mike Makinano is capable of scoring flurries of points.
The skinny: Campbell (16-10 overall) has persevered as coach Bobby Samson left to the mainland to be with an ill family member. Jayden Delizo is at his best in transition, but consistency for this team has been hard to come by. Last week, the Sabers lost by 16 to Mililani on a neutral floor, but bounced back big against Radford.
X factor: The Sabers, with Rashaad Battle in the paint, have enough size to make a run. Finding a third scorer to complement Makinano and Delizo would help a lot.
Kaimuki (7-5) vs. Waianae (5-7)
Both teams have struggled late in games due to inexperienced reserves and lack of depth. One loss and the season is over for either team.
The skinny: Beau Albrechtson and Keone Reyes give Kaimuki (19-8 overall) a tough 1-2 combo on the low post. Waianae has a solid core of perimeter shooters led by Ramsey Beers, but Jesse Lafua and Jarred Burns are strong defenders. This is probably the toughest and closest matchup of the night.
X factor: At 6-1, Beers presents a matchup problem for Kaimuki's small guards. If he gets enough looks, he'll shoot over Kaimuki's defense.
Castle (3-9) vs. Radford (8-4)
Castle's Scott Keiter-Charles is one of the top athletes in the state, and when he's shooting well, any defense is under pressure. Radford, though, has size and brawn in the paint, led by Antonio Daniels (6-5) and So'oso'o Taulelei (6-3).
The skinny: The Knights, who upset Moanalua during the regular season and Kamehameha-Hawaii in December, are capable of a surprise. Radford, however, always plays hard-nosed man-to-man defense, and with enough help from the weak side to slow the penetration of Keiter-Charles, Castle will need other answers.
X factor: Long-range gunner Nickolas Tuamoheloa could emerge as a big factor.
Kahuku (3-9) vs. Leilehua (6-6)
These are two perplexing teams. Leilehua, with its raw athleticism and height, has struggled much of the season. However, after losing at Mililani by 43 at midseason, the Mules nearly upset the Trojans last week.
Kahuku, with an influx of new players, took its lumps, but steadily turned into a giant-killer. With Jray Galeai leading a posse of 3-point gunners, Kahuku's improvement finally bore fruit with a one-point win at Kalaheo.
The skinny: Kahuku is one of the few teams that are bigger than Leilehua. Willie Ching (6-5) and Pat Au (6-7, 320 pounds) are effective inside, collecting the misses by their 3-point shooters. Art Laurel and Josh Brooks are cornerstones of the Mule lineup.
X factor: The Red Raiders fare much better at home, or on the Windward side. Another long voyage to McKinley Student Council Gym, especially on a school night, is a tough task.
Pearl City (1-11) vs. Moanalua (8-4)
The Chargers should be thankful just to be in the playoffs, right? The reality is, despite their record, they play deliberate, patient, station-to-station basketball. It's the kind of style that gives Lionel Villarmia's team a chance to stay in the game with any foe.
Eighth-ranked Moanalua, meanwhile, is capable of beating any opponent by 20, or losing to them by 20. Stevie Austin has been a constant for Na Menehune, arguably the quickest guard in the state.
The skinny: Moanalua has found scoring depth in recent games, with additional help from normally quiet Ryan Hua. Josh Kure, at 6-1, is tough when he takes the ball to the hoop, and that could be trouble for a smaller Pearl City squad.
X factor: Karlo Rarongol, at 6-1, is quick and tough to handle under the glass. He played strong for a half against Campbell in a six-point loss, but faded in the final two quarters. If he can maintain his energy for an entire game, Pearl City might have enough voltage to stun Moanalua.