M S. _ B A S K E T B A L L _ H A W A I I

At the
Head of Her Class

Senior Guard Erin Stovall
of Iolani School is
Hawaii's Top High School
Basketball Player

Story by Pat Bigold
Photos by Ken Sakamoto and George F. Lee

TALK about an athlete who played sparingly and still led the state's toughest girls' basketball league in scoring with a 17.0 average.

Talk about an athlete who did this while juggling a full-plate track season that resulted in four state championships and two state records.

Talk about an athlete who brought a rise from the crowd every time she touched the basketball. An athlete whose passes were often spectacular; whose drives to the hoop were like the New York-to-Boston express; whose reach and leap made it difficult to inbound against her, and whose shots off the drive left people wondering, "How did she make that angle?"

Talk about an athlete who, pound-for-pound, was the most physical player in the state and could take as good she gave.

Most important, talk about an athlete who arrived in Hawaii with nationally recognized credentials but who had only one response to comments about that: "I'm not the star of this team."

This was Erin Stovall, the Star-Bulletin's first Ms. Basketball.

She did not lead Iolani to the state title, nor was she able to give the Raiders a berth in the state tournament, but the 5-foot-7 California native still accomplished extraordinary things while adhering to head coach Bernie Ching's strict team standards.

Ching, true to the disciplinary style that brought the Raiders state championships in 1995 and 1996, made no exception for Stovall when she reported late for basketball practice after track practice. Hers was a rare dual undertaking and Ching admired it, but he challenged Stovall to operate within the rules of both teams.

She did.

"Can you imagine what she would have done if she'd had the time out there," Ching said.

A highly recruited prep star who led her Woodbridge High (Calif.) team to the No. 6 ranking in USA Today in 1996, Stovall has earned a scholarship to the University of Virginia.

But, showing herself to be a young woman of special character, Stovall accepted her coach's challenge and his rules without a word of dissent.

She was allowed to start only once in eight league games but her efficiency was remarkable.

Stovall pumped in 15 points against Sacred Hearts in a single quarter (the third) in her Interscholastic League of Honolulu debut, and 15 points against Kamehameha in another single-quarter (the fourth) performance.

Her only start was against eventual state champion Punahou, four games into the season. It was a game in which she scored 21 points, rallying the Raiders nearly to victory before a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Candice Usita sealed it for the Buffanblu.

She didn't enter until the second quarter of the next two games and then scored 29 points against Kamehameha after entering halfway through the first quarter. The highlight of that game was Stovall's 14-point fourth quarter, in which she burglarized everything the Warriors attempted to bring up court.

By representing her school on a track trip to California and in the Nike All-American game in Virginia (12 points), Stovall missed the first four games of the ILH season. But upon her return to the islands in early April, she hit the hardwood running.

Outstanding production, respect for her coach and his rules, and devotion to her teammates and school make Stovall the right choice for Ms. Basketball.

The rest of the Star-Bulletin's All-State girls basketball team:

Onaona Miller

5-11, Jr., Punahou

There is little question as to who could become the dominant player in Hawaii next season.

There was no one who could handle Miller in the low post.

The guard-forward, who transferred from Hilo, was the ILH's second-leading scorer (15.5 points average), scoring in double figures each game while playing in 59 of 60 quarters.

Miller might have been the difference this season for Punahou, giving the Buffanblu the formidable game under the basket they had previously lacked.

She averaged 7.6 rebounds and 2.5 blocked shots a game.

Miller was unstoppable during the state tournament, averaging 20 points a game, 3.3 steals, 2 assists. She did not commit a single turnover in the tournament.

Ki‘i Spencer-Vasconcellos

5-5, Sr., Punahou

Prep fans just can't get enough of this guard headed for UH.

Eyes fixed, face furrowed in a frown of stark determination, Spencer-Vasconcellos attacked the basket time and again throughout the season with power and agility.

Starting 10 of 12 regular-season games at guard, she averaged 12 points, 3.8 rebounds, 5 assists and 2.8 steals. From 3-point range, Spencer-Vasconcellos nailed 11 of 35 for a .371 percentage.

In the state tournament, there was no better show than to watch her pick the pocket of an opponent in the backcourt, pull up at the top of the circle and then explode down the side of the lane to deposit a gorgeous finger roll.

Spencer-Vasconcellos was the consummate team leader.

Dayna “Sissy” Gambill

5-5, Sr., Honokaa

Gambill emerged on the Big Island as one of Hawaii's most dynamic performers.

Possessing superb body control and powerful moves to the hoop, Gambill was almost intimidating in the way she could take command of a game.

Gambill had excellent 3-point range. Her early dominance in Big Island Interscholastic Federation play launched the Dragons to runaway wins.

In 13 regular season and postseason games, she averaged 16.6 points, 3.4 steals, 4.8 rebounds, and 4.1 assists.

She led the Dragons to 24 straight victories before they lost to Punahou in the state final.

UH has its eye on Gambill, but she will play for Lassen Junior College in California next season.

Marjorie Nepo

5-10, Sr., McKinley

Defense was her game, and she played it until McKinley had a third straight OIA title.

Nepo averaged 12 points, 11 rebounds, 4 steals and 2 assists a game during the regular season.

But it was the hand quickness that won Nepo a volleyball scholarship to San Jose State, which brought smiles to head coach Jesse Victorino's face.

""Defense was her main asset," Victorino said. "It was part of her volleyball skills. Her reaction to the ball was such that she could look out of position and still get to it."

In McKinley's zone and man-to-man press, Nepo was nearly impossible to pass.

Shelley Fey

Coach, Punahou

Fey made Punahou press, press, and press some more in leading the Buffanblu to their second state title since 1994.

Her philosophy was to never get fat on a big lead because it can disappear as it quickly as it developed.

"These girls did everything I asked," she said after the state tournament.

Second team

Lisa Kowal, 5-7, Sr., Punahou
Kim Taylor, 5-9, Sr., Kalaheo
Stephanie Redman, 5-5, Jr., Kalaheo
Cherilani Melson, 6-0, Sr., University High
Candice Usita, 5-3, Jr., Punahou

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