OIA’s Division II teams
finally in a league of
their own


Michele Sales hears it all the time.

Well, at least when there's a public address announcer in the gym. The Bulldogs coach is usually incorrectly introduced as Sales, as in Say-els.

It's actually pronounced Sales -- as in Sah-les. Going into her sixth season as girls basketball coach at Waialua, there's more hope now for Sales and her team when it comes to recognition. The formation of a clear-cut Division II format in the Oahu Interscholastic Association is a boost for the eight teams that struggled last season.

The eight, split between the West and East Divisions, were a combined 18-66 in league play. This year, they have a league of their own ... sort of.

Like OIA Division I, the D-II teams will have round-robin play both home and away. That means 12 potentially close games between programs with similar numbers and talent.

Saint Joseph will not play this year

There will be no ironman six at Saint Joseph this spring.

Athletic director Rachelle Hanohano informed the Big Island Interscholastic Federation yesterday that the Saint Joseph girls basketball team will not play when the regular season tips off Tuesday.

The team was down to just six players, she said. Efforts on campus to add more players were unsuccessful.

"It was a very difficult decision to make, and an emotional one for our team," Hanohano said. "Our coach (Harry Scanlan-Leite) has been wonderful and very understanding."

With the pullout of Saint Joseph, the BIIF now has 12 teams in girls basketball. The league still qualifies for two state tournament berths.

"I feel really bad for Felicia Alves, who has great potential and is probably a college-bound athlete," Hanohano said of the senior standout.

Saint Joseph went 10-3 in league play last year. The Cardinals represented the BIIF in the Division II state championships, losing to St. Andrew's Priory in a semifinal. However, key players like Jazmin Pa'akaula and Lindsey Lee graduated, leaving this season's roster sparse.

The top four finishers will enter a single-elimination playoff tournament for the OIA's lone berth in the state championships. Last year's OIA D-II representative, Roosevelt, won the state title and is now among the giants in Division I.

For Waialua, a scrappy team that traditionally has a shortage of height, D-II is the perfect scenario. Waialua has an enrollment of 469 and no longer competes with a lineup of much larger schools like Mililani and Kapolei. Instead, Division II is comprised of Aiea, Castle, Kailua, Kaimuki, Kalani, Waipahu and Waianae, plus Waialua.

Most of those schools are small or mid-sized, which helps balance the level of competition.

Sales has learned that patience is as important a virtue as any other.

"I have a young team. The majority of them are first-time players, so getting them to understand the whole picture has been a challenge," she said. "But they play with their hearts and they are dedicated to the team. I know that they'll work hard to reach their goals."

For a school like Kailua, athletic success is the norm in football and softball. Girls basketball, however, has struggled in one of the state's toughest divisions.

"In the past, we've done well against the West and some of the ILH in preseason, but then we struggle against the East," said Kailua coach Ramona Takahashi, who has coached in the program for 18 years, 10 as the varsity coach.

Here's a look at the division, team by team:


Coach: Mike Yen

On paper: Na Alii were 2-8 last year, but two potential scoring leaders return in Kalei Castillo and Zori Drew.

The skinny: Aiea opened the season on the road at Waianae, and tomorrow Na Alii travel to Kailua. Getting two away games out of the way early will help down the stretch, but winning one of them would be a big help.

X factor: It's been four years since Aiea was dominant in the OIA West. A winning tradition is lacking, and this group will have to carve its own niche.


Coach: Jeff McKeown

On paper: McKeown enters his sixth year with a good problem. The Knights were 3-8 last year and lost several seniors to graduation, but four key returnees are back.

Kellsie Sasaki, a junior point guard, brings a lot of defense. "She's our best on-ball defender, and it's her third year on varsity. Her experience will be important for us."

Titi Kawainui, a 5-5 junior, gives Castle key perimeter shooting. "She's our best shooter and she's our vocal leader. Shanyn Fafard-Kaaihue, a 5-7 swingman, is a slasher.

"She's been our leading scorer in preseason," McKeown said of the junior.

Uilani Kekaoha, a 5-8 junior, is Castle's low-post force. The Knights are counting on her for rebounding, defense and some offense.

The skinny: The Knights have been solid defensively through nonconference play.

"We play a lot of people and we pressure. In Division I, you can't do that as much. But we got a good group when you look at Division II," McKeown said.

X factor: The Knights are getting through injuries, but freshman point guard Candyce Ames is a gem.

"Ballhandling, she can pretty much penetrate on anybody," McKeown said. "If she can continue to improve, we can move Kellsie to the 2 since she's one of our better shooters."


Coach: Ramona Takahashi

On paper: The Surfriders were 2-9 last year, and went through injuries in preseason. "When everybody's healthy, and everyone's come together this past week, we might do well," Takahashi said.

Keala Iaea, a senior forward, has led the team with her defensive prowess. "She's like the spirit of our team," Takahashi said.

Ashley Shigaki has worked hard on defense, which is a nice plus. "Her offense is her strength, but she's really improved her defense," Takahashi said.

The skinny: The Surfriders need to stay healthy. Center Pomai Fernandez has been out with a stress fracture in her foot. "She ran cross country and played basketball in the offseason. Hopefully, she gets the OK to play this week," Takahashi said of the 5-9 senior.

X factor: Point guard Kalina Kama, a fourth-year varsity player, came off a good softball season. She's making the transition to basketball. "She brings the experience we need," Takahashi said. Until Kama is up to previous levels, the bench has to step up if Kailua is going to make a serious run at for a playoff berth.


Coach: Mona Fa'asoa

On paper: The Bulldogs were 2-9 last year, but had a wealth of experience. In all, they have nine returnees. Kaimuki went 5-4 in preseason.

Chasity Laulusa (5-foot-8) and 5-10 twins Paige and Ashley Moi give the Bulldogs a front line that is the biggest in OIA Division II.

Point guard Flora Mesa, a fourth-year varsity player, brings plenty of experience. "She's a good leader. She works hard and leads by example," Fa'asoa said.

The skinny: Turnovers and teamwork. We need to control the ball. If it's a fast team, we'll slow it down. If it's a slower team, we'll run," Fa'asoa said. "We just need to control the tempo."

X factor: As long as the Bulldogs stick to their roles, they may end up challenging for the D-II title. "We don't have a dominating player. Everyone has their different role," Fa'asoa said.


Coach: Darold Imanaka

On paper: Imanaka, a former assistant, takes over the reins this season. Last year's team went 3-8, and Imanaka has a team loaded with underclassmen. The Lady Falcons also lack height.

The skinny: Imanaka recognized his team's limitations and strengths early on. Kalani uses all 12 players and presses from end to end. At 5-8, junior center Raynani "Mana" Camara is the tallest player.

Richland Batoon, a third-year varsity player, is the cornerstone of the team. "To me, she's one of the top guards in the state," Imanaka said.

Nicole Isemoto, another junior, will help relieve the pressure on Batoon.

X factor: In OIA D-II, lack of height isn't a huge liability. Roosevelt won the state D-II crown last year without a player over 5-8. Still, the Lady Falcons need rebounds to trigger their fastbreak, which means Camara is carrying plenty of responsibility.


Coach: Michele Sales

On paper: The Bulldogs were 2-8 last year and, as Sales said, are very young this season. Sales is relying heavily on Chelsey Ramirez, Christina Dunn and Noe DelaPena-Ho'opi'i.

"I can put Chelsey anywhere on the court. She's my go-to girl," Sales said. "Noe isn't tall, but she just works hard to establish good position." Ramirez and DelaPena-Ho'op'i are sophomores.

Dunn, a junior, is Waialua's defensive stopper.

The skinny: Waialua's inexperience showed in a matchup with Moanalua last week. It was relatively close, a 10-point spread at halftime, but Moanalua dominated the second half as the Bulldogs seemed to freeze up. If they can play more consistently, the Bulldogs will surprise foes.

X factor: Even in D-II, earning a playoff berth will be difficult for Waialua because of inexperience. If the Bulldogs can take better care of the ball, DelaPena-Ho'opi'i will get more opportunities under the basket, where she's quite effective.


Coach: Kevin Nakamoto

On paper: Waianae will count on point guard Danielle Lovell, a 5-4 sophomore. "She has good court sense and sees the floor pretty well," Nakamoto said.

Melody Moe, a 5-7 sophomore, is doing the work on the low post. "She's really good compared to what we have normally. She's got good fundamentals and a good knowledge of the game," Nakamoto noted.

The skinny: Because they are on the smaller side, Waianae will use a lot of zone defense. That will also save their legs since Nakamoto uses a seven-player rotation.

X factor: A good point guard is extremely valuable, especially for a team that isn't deep or rich with ballhandlers. Lovell's leadership is important on a team that has just two returnees.


Coach: Nadine Villarmia

On paper: Waipahu was 3-7 in the OIA West last year. This year, the Marauders went 3-5 in preseason. "Some games, we looked promising. If we come ready to play, we're all right. If we don't come ready, we can get run off the court," Villarmia said.

Nicole Enos, a junior forward, has been an anchor for the Marauders with her scoring ability. Tiare Kaulupali, a senior forward with good passing skills, is part of the reason Enos has been Waipahu's leading scorer.

The skinny: The Marauders aren't loaded with shooters, so defense is their calling card.

X factor: Kaulupali will miss the first five games of the season due to a family vacation.

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