HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL
Big Island programs invade girls hoops poll
STORY SUMMARY »
Big Island basketball has centered on Konawaena and Honokaa in recent years, but another program with a rich hoops history is ascending.
Waiakea got 32 points from sophomore Kamie Imai in a recent win over Honokaa. Now 3-0 in league play, the run-and-gun Warriors landed in the Star-Bulletin Girls Basketball Top 10 at No. 9 today.
Like the Hilo teams he played on, Waiakea coach Grant Kauhi makes use of a fullcourt press.
"We don't use it 24-7 though," he said. "We press in spurts. We use it more when teams go big against us."
Big Island Ballers
Big Island schools make up four of the top 10 spots in the Star-Bulletin's high school girls basketball poll
FULL STORY »
Showing signs of a return to past glory, Waiakea enters the Star-Bulletin Girls Basketball Top 10 today at No. 9.
Coach Grant Kauhi's team features sharpshooters Kirsty and Kamie Imai in a run-and-gun style that Kauhi learned while playing under the late Larry Manliguis at Hilo High in the early 1990s.
"We're constantly pushing it. It's hard for a team to watch us because at times we look like we don't have an offense. We run and score in transition, so it's hard to scout us," he said.
While the bar continues to rise in the Big Island Interscholastic Federation, Waiakea keeps climbing higher. Three weeks ago, Hilo came to Oahu and swept three teams in two days, including two ranked teams.
Waiakea produced UH players Jen Kaeo and Kalei Namohala during the program's heyday. The Warriors won state titles in 1985 and '86. This winter, they've already beaten arch rival Hilo three times.
"We really stressed conditioning coming into this year. That's a big difference between us and Hilo. We're trying to catch up with what Konawaena does. Their starters could play a whole game," Kauhi said before mentioning the fleet feet of 5-foot-10 Kira Demorales.
"My center can run. Any time (Hilo) brought their big girl in, she trailed on the fast break and Kira had scoring opportunities," he added.
Demorales' return has been a boost. She left the team last year in midseason, and Waiakea had no other player taller than 5-7.
"From that time we were committed to run. In a slow game, we'd struggle. We couldn't defend," Kauhi said.
In what can be described as a minor miracle, returning sophomore Kamie Imai grew 2 inches in the offseason to 5-9. She scored 32 points in a win at Honokaa on Saturday.
"Now she can go outside or post inside on someone smaller. I think she's the most improved player on the island," Kauhi said.
Punahou collected all 19 first-place votes to remain No. 1 in the Star-Bulletin Top 10. Iolani also remained in place at No. 2. Both teams beat Kamehameha last week by nearly identical scores: Punahou won 44-26, while Iolani won 44-27.
Iolani and Punahou meet Thursday in a key showdown. The winner gets the inside track to the ILH's regular-season title and a highly coveted automatic state tournament berth.
Konawaena and Radford each rose two spots in today's poll despite an absence of notable wins. Radford, which won a matchup with the 'Cats at Konawaena three weeks ago without All-State center Ta Nitra Byrd, moved up to No. 4. Radford has not lost a game since visiting Hilo three weeks ago. Byrd has eased onto the court gradually as she gets back into shape.
"The other girls had to step up. We didn't have her pretty much the whole preseason," coach Tani Dutro said. "She's getting there. We've had only one game in the past two weeks, so that's helped."
Star-Bulletin Top 10
The top 10 high school girls basketball teams, according to a poll of coaches and media.
| 1. Punahou, 9-5 (19)
| 2. Iolani, 10-2
| 3. Konawaena, 6-1
| 4. Radford, 7-5
||at Pearl City
| 5. Kamehameha, 6-5
||lost to Punahou
| 6. Kalani, 11-3
| 7. Hilo, 8-4
||lost to Waiakea
| 8. Farrington, 10-1
| 9. Waiakea, 7-2
|10. KS-Hawaii, 7-4
||lost to Xavier (Ariz.)
||vs. Hawaii Prep
» 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: Mid-Pacific 21, Lahainaluna 13, Kahuku 4, Roosevelt 4, Sacred Hearts 1
» No longer in top 10 (previous rank): Mid-Pacific (No. 10)