Barry Kang and Iolani proved their dominance against Baldwin in the preseason.

Iolani’s league

There is reason to believe that the Iolani Raiders will go unbeaten through the state's toughest basketball league.

The Interscholastic League of Honolulu could have become a soup of parity following the graduation of three-time Player of the Year Derrick Low. The Iolani guard is now a freshman at Washington State, but his former teammates have picked up the slack, and then some.

Iolani is unbeaten against Hawaii competition so far, without a single serious competitor. The Raiders have already beaten Punahou, ranked No. 2 in the Star-Bulletin Top 10, by 19 and 10 points. Iolani led the latter game by 18 points until the Raiders played more reserves.

So where does the rest of the league go from here? Simple. Just keep working, keep improving and keep focused. The ILH gets three state berths, which means there's room for success even if Iolani remains unbeatable.

That third-place tournament will be as intense as ever thanks to two factors: One, Kamehameha's loss at center and, two, the emergence of University High.

Here's a team-by-team look at the ILH, which tips off tonight:

Damien Monarchs

Coach: Abe Kamana'o.

On paper: Kamana'o stepped in for Byron Mello, who left to help care for a family member. Kamana'o is one of the youngest coaches in the state at 27, but has command of his team. The Monarchs are disciplined to the point where they won't shoot until he implores them to.

The skinny: Damien showed potential during the Punahou Holiday Classic, with a win over then ninth-ranked Radford. The Monarchs have size, but in terms of pure basketball instincts, are catching up with the league's elite. Kealoha Pilares (5-foot-10), Brad Akiona (6-0) and Matthew Gochenouer (6-2) are juniors who can stroke the 3-ball. Devin Shiroma has been a consistent scorer in the post.

X factor: The Monarchs can go big with an all-6-foot lineup. Handling Iolani's defensive pressure, however, cuts into lineup possibilities.

No. 1 Iolani Raiders

Coach: Mark Mugiishi.

On paper: This is one team that hardly needs to be scouted. Just about everyone has seen Iolani's precise offensive sets, well-placed screens and deadly accuracy from the field and foul line. The three-time defending state champions thrive on attacking weak ballhandling teams. Still, there isn't a team in Hawaii that has been able to handle Iolani's pressure for 32 minutes.

The skinny: Take away sharpshooter Kyle Pape, and Kawika Shoji gets open for easy jump shots. Take away guard Vinny Nip, and point guard Barry Kang finds openings in the defense. With the Raiders, it's a matter of picking your poison and hoping for an ice-cold night.

X factor: What separates Iolani from the rest is the quality of its role players and bench. Wally Marciel and Jon Takamura are 200-plus-pound concrete blocks when they set screens for shooters. Yet, on many other teams, each could average 15 to 20 points per game. Every Raider knows his role, and that's why they are 14-0 against island teams.

No. 6 Kamehameha Warriors

Coach: Jesse Nakanishi.

On paper: Despite the unfortunate loss of senior center Waika Spencer to a football knee injury, the Warriors (6-4) have played with intensity and pride. Coach Nakanishi and his staff rose through the ranks with the current players, and that is a big advantage when it comes to extracting effort and talent.

The skinny: Mike Ni'i, a streaky perimeter shooter, was named to the all-tourney team at the Kalaheo Classic. He isn't alone, though. Speedy Ikaika Hardie and post scorer Jacob Ho are getting their basketball legs back after a state championship season on the gridiron. Michael Kauweloa has shown scoring ability as well. Point guard Rykin Enos has a sweet outside shot, but looks to pass first.

The Warriors are good enough to beat the elite, like third-ranked Campbell. They're also beatable, as Radford showed twice.

X factor: Without the 6-foot-4 Spencer, now the team's video cameraman, shot selection and post play are crucial. The team went 2-1 at a recent tournament in Florida and is tight-knit, assistant coach Julian Nakanishi said. That unity should take the Warriors far.

Maryknoll Spartans

Coach: Blaine Gier.

On paper: The scouting report on Maryknoll is simple. Stop Tyler Tsukazaki, and you stop their offense. Tsukazaki has been impressive since his freshman year. Last month, he scored at least 20 points in most of his team's games.

The skinny: The scouting report is right. When University held the 5-9 junior to 13 points, Maryknoll lost in the title game at the Black and Gold Invitational.

X factor: Coach Gier has a team with potential, but finding consistent complementary scorers is a must in the state's toughest league.

Mid-Pacific Owls

Coach: Kevin O'Connell.

On paper: The Owls suffered key losses to graduation, but have an influx of new faces, including head coach O'Connell. Learning new terminology and schemes gave the Owls a true laboratory environment. Mid-Pac went 2-9 in nonconference play.

The skinny: Kellen Hastie, a 6-2 forward, has been MPI's leading scorer entering the ILH season. J.D. Lum, a 5-10 junior guard, has been another valuable component. Playing solid man-to-man defense has been a main priority. "Our defense has come a long way," O'Connell said.

X factor: The Owls battled through injuries in preseason. "That gave a lot of people playing time," O'Connell said. He's hoping they get good offensive execution, keep turnovers to a minimum and make free throws -- basic stuff for any program.

The difference for the Owls, he added, will be leadership from the team's six seniors.

No. 2 Punahou Buffanblu

Coach: Greg Tacon.

On paper: The Buffanblu have two of the state's top sophomores in Jeremiah Ostrowski and Spencer McLachlin. They are also 10-1 against Hawaii competition, well, if Iolani isn't in the equation -- the Raiders are 2-0 against the Buffanblu. Unfortunately, Iolani stands between Punahou and an ILH title.

The skinny: Ostrowski is, without doubt, one of the top individual scorers in the state. At 5-7, he's capable of running the point. However, his ability to create his own shot is impeccable. Along with his NBA shooting range and tremendous hops, he plays much bigger than his height. McLachlin was finally finding his outside stroke before taking a hiatus to participate in his brother Parker's wedding festivities.

Still, the book on Punahou is to harass Ostrowski and force the other Buffs to make shots. Kasey Ko, a 6-3 senior, has been a reliable post player, and one of the best free-throw shooters statewide.

X factor: If you are Tacon, you can stick with what's worked against everyone except Iolani (and Campbell, which dealt Punahou the other loss). Or, maybe some tweaking is in order. Either way, Punahou has a wealth of talent to work with.

Saint Louis Crusaders

Coach: Delbert Tengan.

On paper: The Crusaders are as young as they've been in recent memory. Jack Miller, a 6-3 senior, has been explosive at times, with scoring outputs in the 30-point range. Like MPI, having a roster of new players can be a plus. Tengan and his staff emphasize strong man defense, molding players into stoppers.

The skinny: Cameron Bayne and Conrad Shidaki give the Crusaders some solid contributors. Whether the team can mature quickly and make a run for a state berth remains to be seen.

X factor: They still haven't shown signs of having a consistent perimeter shooting game. Tonight, their ballhandling skills will be put to the test at Iolani.

No. 8 University Junior 'bows

Coach: Walter Quitan

On paper: Throughout nonconference play, the Junior Rainbows have floundered offensively in the first half and usually played big in the second. Going 7-5 against a fairly tough slate of opponents has given Jr. 'Bows fans reason for optimism.

The skinny: David Johnson has delivered some sterling scoring performances, but tended to tire out at the end of three- and four-day tournaments.

The Jr. 'Bows can still use a little more offensive firepower. Defensively, they are excellent with on-ball pressure. Mike Tenorio is a strong lock-down defender on point guards, as is junior A.J. Clark. Senior center John Duro has been consistent down low.

X factor: Clark is extremely valuable on both ends of the court. Offensively, he is steady and doesn't hesitate to make the open 3. Defensively, he is solid and can step in when Tenorio gets into occasional foul trouble.

Quitan worries about slow starts against the league's elite teams, but this is University's payoff year. A large number of the Jr. 'Bows have played together since their freshman season.

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