Owls off to good start
The Owls may stir up trouble in the Interscholastic League of Honolulu this season, but so far, they're doing it quietly.
Mid-Pacific, with the youngest starting lineup in the ILH, survived the heartbreak of many close losses last season. Now, coaches and media in the Star-Bulletin Girls Basketball Top 10 poll are expecting the maturing Owls to soar to a new plateau. Voters rung the bell for Mid-Pac at No. 10 in the season-opening poll today.
With the early recognition, coach Byron Cheng is extremely wary, even after a 3-0 start in nonconference play. The Owls' average margin of victory is 35.7 points per game, but Cheng and his veteran staff are not exactly bubbling with high praise.
2006-07 record: 4-14 (3-9 ILH).
On paper: Johnnelle Kapua is now a junior, and the "diaper dandies" of a year ago, Jordan Kealoha, Keaton McFadden (5-foot-11) and Jenna Savusa (5-10), are now sophomores. If they still seem like a young foursome, remember that they traveled to the mainland the summer before last season for tournaments. They did it again over the past summer and continued to progress.
They had their share of heated duels with some of the state's powerhouses in league play, and with point guard Paige Young also back, they have all five starters returning.
The skinny: Kapua, of the youngsters, has the most potential to lead by aggression -- in a good way. But Cheng has been fairly disappointed with his team in terms of intensity, or a lack thereof.
"Johnelle is a competitor, goes 100 percent all the time, not just in games. Even if it's a shooting game before practice, so competitive. But it's almost like we don't have a killer instinct to put teams away when we have that chance," he said.
Really, a team that is already on the verge of tying its win total for all of last season isn't doing so bad. Cheng knows this.
"The understanding of our offense, it's starting to click. Everyone's much more confident with the ball, with each other. Last year, we were tentative. Now we're aggressive and can attack the basket when we want to," the third-year coach said.
With former Rainbow Wahine Da Houl and Hedy Liu on staff, attention to detail is a must for the Owls.
"The things that we're concerned about are definitely correctable. We can't use youth as an excuse anymore. These girls have a whole year of varsity experience, played a ton of minutes, so it's not like they're just coming into the varsity level," Cheng said.
X factor: While the team as a whole looks to improve intensity, Cheng has been impressed by McFadden.
"We're starting to look in to the post. Our guards are more aware of what their options are. Keaton has improved by leaps and bounds," he said. "Her strength has increased in the weight room and this kid can really run. Her coordination has caught up with her."
Getting through the ILH Division I gauntlet refines, but the league had an early starting date (Oct. 29) for girls basketball, which means the Owls are ahead of some of the competition.
Top 10 countdown
The Star-Bulletin is counting down its preseason Top 10 girls basketball teams as determined in a poll of coaches and media members:
3. Next Tuesday
2. Dec. 12
1. Dec. 13