HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL
Punahou, Iolani finish at top of poll
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Punahou kept its spot at the top of the latest Star-Bulletin girls basketball poll, and figures to stay there until the state tournament beginning Feb. 19.
That's because Punahou doesn't play until then. And neither does the team that is chasing it, No. 2 Iolani.
The rest of the ILH and the OIA will begin playoffs this week.
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After a flurry of games, the state's top team will go into hibernation.
Punahou and Iolani will be idle until the girls basketball state tournament begins Feb. 19:
Punahou, which collected all 19 first-place ballots in today's Star-Bulletin Girls Basketball Top 10, doesn't play until the state tournament tips off on Feb. 19.
Two-time Star-Bulletin player of the year, Shawna-Lei Kuehu, can use the time to strengthen her knee. The 5-foot-10 senior has shown exceptional skill on the perimeter since suffering an ACL injury 14 months ago.
The same can't be said for Iolani, which is No. 2 in the Top 10 but will have to battle for a state berth in this week's Interscholastic League of Honolulu playoff tournament.
Iolani center Jamie Smith is recovering from a broken nose and concussion suffered in the Raiders' loss to Punahou two weeks ago. The 6-foot senior sat out of Iolani's regular-season finale, a come-from-behind win over Mid-Pacific.
Radford remained right behind Punahou and Iolani in the Top 10, but doesn't have the luxury of two weeks off. In fact, with the Oahu Interscholastic Association playoffs on the slate this week, the Rams won't have defensive stopper Brittni Fuller at full strength. The guard suffered an ankle injury in a win over Aiea over the weekend.
It was a game Radford didn't need to win, at least on paper, but Lady Rams coach Tani Dutro used a regular rotation as her team completed regular-season play at 12-0. It is Radford's eighth West Division title, though it amounts to a first-round playoff bye and nothing more in the OIA's antiquated format.
The Lady Rams, a powerhouse in the Red West under former coach David Lane, have shown few weaknesses this season.
Ta Nitra Byrd started off slowly because of an injury, but has returned to form as an anchor in the paint. The 6-foot All-State Fab 15 center even switched to the 3 in the late going against Aiea in place of Fuller and helped her team handle full-court pressure.
The energy of Radford's squad comes in large part from guards Bui Baravilala and Marlena Malepeai, forward Chelsea-Ann Villanueva and Fuller -- all exceptional athletes with speed and strength.
Dutro stepped in this season and kept the ball rolling.
"We've really worked hard on conditioning, especially early in the season," she said.
The perfect regular season was one of Radford's goals.
"We knew we'd have a new coach, but we didn't want to lose a game like we did in past years," Baravilala said. "We're still working hard. That's our goal, to play our hardest and play together."
Aiea coach Mike Yen thinks Radford is the best team in the OIA, but is still beatable.
"Roosevelt and Farrington, on a given night, can beat them," he said. "It's gonna come down to matchups. Kalani is the most talented team."
Star-Bulletin Top 10 Poll
The Top 10 high school girls basketball teams as voted on by coaches and media from around the state. First-place votes in parentheses. Ten points for first-place votes, nine for second, eight for third, etc.
| 1. Punahou (19), 18-6
||none last week
| 2. Iolani, 19-4
| 3. Radford, 17-6
| 4. Waiakea, 14-2
| 5. Hilo, 16-4
| 6. Konawaena, 15-2
| 7. Kalani, 18-4
||lost to Farrington
| 8. Roosevelt, 15-6
| 9. Farrington, 15-4
|10. Kamehameha, 12-9
||beat Sacred Hearts
» Also receiving votes:
Lahainaluna 6, Mid-Pacific 3, Aiea 1, Kamehameha-Hawaii 1, McKinley 1