HIGH SCHOOL REPORT
No. 1 ranking up for grabs as Iolani and Punahou girls square off
There is no avoidance, no denial, no shortcut in the Interscholastic League of Honolulu.
When the league opens girls basketball regular-season play tomorrow, it begins with an explosion. Punahou travels to Iolani in battle of Nos. 1 and 2 in the Star-Bulletin Girls Basketball Top 10.
Punahou has grown through the experience of the Nike Tournament of Champions recently. The trip to Arizona, however, yielded an unexpected casualty: All-State Fab 15 guard Janelle Nomura suffered a broken right ankle on the last day of the tourney. Nomura's uptempo game will be missed while she takes four to six weeks to heal up.
The Buffanblu have more than enough in their arsenal to fill the void for now. Rebecca Lau returned from an ankle sprain recently, and the twins, Shaena-Lyn and Shawna-Lei Kuehu, have no peer. Shaena-Lyn, who suffered an ACL injury in the fall of last year, has been resilient and strong since coming back. Her status as the state's top defender is preserved.
Shawna-Lei, however, is only 13 months removed from her ACL injury. Though she has given the Buffanblu some highly productive games, athletes normally don't get the explosiveness back for two years.
Does that mean Iolani post Jamie Smith has an edge this week? Smith, a 5-foot-11 senior, is crafty, quick and elite at the free-throw line. Her range has expanded to the 3-point line. Unlike Shawna-Lei Kuehu, Smith doesn't have a partner in the paint. Combined, the Kuehu twins are a formidable rebounding factory and have even taken up backcourt duties to ease the burden.
Tomorrow's winner gets an inside track to the regular-season title and an automatic state berth -- a prized jewel in perhaps the state's toughest Division I league. Tip-off is set for 6:30 p.m.
They were home grown, so to speak, but now attending schools on the mainland.
While he attended Academy of the Pacific, Keoni Daniel spent his summers on the mainland. This time, he stuck around and is now playing for Victory Christian Center School in North Carolina. Daniel's summer mentor, Bershaun Thompson, is an assistant coach there.
Daniel, a 5-11 junior, is a sixth man for the Vikings. His scoring hasn't diminished, however. He had 14 points in a recent loss to Southern Durham. Daniel is a former Ke Ali'i Pauahi Foundation scholarship recipient.
Former Iolani hoopster Liloa Nobriga is at Palo Verde High School in Las Vegas. The 6-3, 220-pound junior played football in the fall, a first in his prep career. As a linebacker, Nobriga amassed 120 tackles and 10 sacks in 13 games. He also had two fumble recoveries, a blocked punt and one interception, and he averaged 34 yards per punt.
The Panthers' only loss was in a championship game against Bishop Gorman.
On the hardwood, Nobriga is averaging 11 points and a team-high 6.4 rebounds per game. Palo Verde is 5-7, including a loss to Cimarron Memorial (Nev.). Cimarron finished third in the recent Walter Wong Classic.
Kaimuki has the blessing and burden of being the defending state champion in boys hoops. The graduation of Keone Reyes
, Beau Albrechtson
and Daniel Colon
left an immense void, but the Bulldogs have remained competitive. The recent return of guard Daniel Taulang
and center Desmond Tautofi
has shifted the team's momentum. Taulang was a standout at Na Menehune/Reebok Holiday Classic. Tautofi, a 6-2 sophomore, was named to the all-tourney team.
Last season, Tautofi was a key factor in the state final against Punahou. In just 5 minutes, he had six points, three boards and a blocked shot when Reyes was in foul trouble.
The 'Dogs get another lift soon when 6-foot, 260-pound returnee Chauncey Nicola returns from an arm injury. Kaimuki opens league play tonight against Roosevelt.
Kamehameha-Hawaii's girls basketball team is back from Arizona, where the Warriors went 1-2 in the Nike Tournament of Champions.
"We achieved our two primary goals, which was to bond as a team and face the best possible competition," coach Kalani Silva said.
It wasn't all basketball business, though. The team saw Pac-10 action when UCLA played Arizona State.
"It was a good game and the girls enjoyed seeing it live, the next level. Other than that, it was all about basketball and team bonding," Silva said.