Holiday hoops abound
Three tournaments, 40 teams ... and that's not even counting Iolani's voyage to the Bluegrass State.
The Raiders travel to Tennessee for the Arby's Classic, now in its 24th year.
"We leave (today) and return on New Year's," coach Mark Mugiishi said. "They've been trying to invite us for years."
Perks are nice, of course, with a 5,000-mile trip. Housing and meals are provided, and Iolani will play in a 6,000-seat arena that sells out every night.
It's not as if the Raiders haven't had any excitement lately. They're coming off a busy week with the Iolani Classic. Iolani will return from Bristol, Tenn., three days before the regular-season opener against Punahou.
Oh yes, the Punahou Buffanblu have been busy, as well. The Buffanblu are No. 1 in today's Star-Bulletin Boys Basketball Top 10, with all 17 first-place votes from the panel of coaches and media. Punahou will face Hanford (Calif.) in tomorrow's opening round of the Merv Lopes Classic at King Armory in Kaneohe.
That tourney includes four mainland teams, including vaunted Bishop Gorman of Las Vegas. Third-ranked Kamehameha-Hawaii, No. 6 Kalaheo and No. 10 Mililani are also part of the 16-team field.
Moanalua's tourney, Na Menehune Reebok Holiday Classic, also tips off tomorrow with 16 teams. Roundball fans can catch eight games, starting at 9 a.m. Visiting teams include two from California: Laguna Beach and Carlmont.
The tournament's local entries include teams that haven't been strongly tested yet and squads that are on the cusp. Maryknoll knocked off Mililani three weeks ago, but hasn't been ranked in the top 10 yet. Campbell is an offensive juggernaut, but hasn't been able to knock off a ranked team.
Fourth-ranked Kamehameha and defending state champion Kaimuki will draw plenty of attention, but a team with plenty of momentum is Mid-Pacific.
The Owls (10-4) entered the top 10 today at No. 8 following last week's upsets of Kalaheo and Moanalua. MPI was one of the younger teams in the Interscholastic League of Honolulu last season. This year, coach Kevin O'Connell's team is maturing.
Marcus Holyfield is possibly the best defender in the state. Point guard Devon Takenaka has been steady, physically bigger than most floor generals and tough enough to absorb punishment. Guard Sampson Won has provided clutch points against quality teams.
O'Connell's penchant for man-to-man defense has waned in favor of efficiency.
"There's a couple of things that helped us overall," he said. "We tried to stay out of foul trouble, especially early on (in December) when our experienced guys were on the bench.
"We've played more zone, especially since last year, to protect our guys and force teams to shoot from the perimeter, and keep our rebounders closer to the basket."
Mid-Pac's impressive week included a win over the tall, speedy Dragons of Ji Lin (China) to close out the Iolani Classic. The running Owls showed the patience and basketball IQ to beat Ji Lin in a halfcourt tempo. It was a pivotal week in other ways, as well.
"We had injury problems and kids with other commitments -- football and family," O'Connell said. "We haven't been at full strength until this past week. That makes a difference."
Mid-Pac will have four more games this week, which means a total of 18 before ILH play begins.
"I knew we'd have five starters back and they can handle it. I wanted to get those other kids' feet wet at the varsity level. Early on, I tried to play as many players as I could," said O'Connell.
Hardcore fans may be surprised with the Owls' emergence, but any label as a "sleeper" is old. If anything, Maryknoll is the new sleeper, while Mid-Pac is merely fulfilling expectations, at least in the early going.
"I'm always amazed with the ILH when I see Saint Louis and Iolani and Punahou and Kamehameha," O'Connell said. "It doesn't matter who they graduate. They always have more kids right there to replace them.
"The schools that have tradition, when you believe, that makes a difference. Our two wins over Kalaheo and Moanalua were the biggest wins in school history for us. We beat two ranked teams and that's never happened before and that's huge for confidence and maturity."
The ILH has two automatic state-tourney berths. The third-place team will meet a Big Island team in a play-in game for a spot in the states.
Star-Bulletin Top 10
The top 10 high school boys basketball teams, according to a poll of coaches and media.
| 1. Punahou, 7-0 (17)
||beat Benson (Ore.)
||vs. Hanford (Calif.)
| 2. Iolani, 4-4
||Lost to Mason (Ky.)
||vs. Henry Carr (Canada)
| 3. KS-Hawaii, 7-0
||none last week
| 4. Kamehameha, 7-2
| 5. Saint Louis, 2-2
||vs. Sedro Woolley (Wash.)
| 6. Kalaheo, 7-3
||lost to Saint Louis
| 7. Konawaena, 8-1
||none last week
||vs. Salpointe Catholic (Ariz.)
| 8. Mid-Pacific, 10-4
||beat Ji Lin (China)
| 9. Moanalua, 8-6
||vs. Iolani II
|10. Mililani, 3-4
||lost to Kamehameha
||vs. Kamehameha II
» Voted on by coaches and media from around the state
» First-place votes in parentheses
» 10 points for first-place vote, 9 for second, 8 for third; etc.
» Also received votes: Baldwin 7, Maryknoll 6, Waiakea 4, Damien 3, Campbell 2, Kahuku 2, Lahainaluna 2.
» No longer in top 10 (previous rank): Baldwin (No. 10)