While roundball fans on Oahu lament the Division II status of Farrington, ranked No. 4 in the Star-Advertiser Boys Basketball Top 10, trap doors are being built.
The Governors (13-1 in Oahu Interscholastic Association play) toppled three D-I teams in December, including Punahou, Radford and AOP. All three are in the current Top 10.
But what makes Farrington’s status in the Hawaiian Airlines/HHSAA State Championships precarious is the loss of Ryan Reyes. The 6-foot-2 guard was a spectacular defender, picking point guards at midcourt and swatting shots in the low post. He’s out with an ankle injury, coach Allan Silva said.
The Governors are still loaded, but losing a player who is arguably the top defender in the state comes at the worst time, regardless of the No. 1 seed in the tourney.
Those facts haven’t swayed one veteran of the postseason.
"Farrington is the overwhelming favorite," said McKinley coach Bob Morikuni, who considers St. Joseph and University the sleepers. "They are well coached."
Here’s a look at pairings for the D-II tourney, which tips off today.
Farrington vs. St. Joseph
Physically, the top-seeded Govs are explosive, big and fast. Viane Vaina, a 6-6 center, and Lancelot Williams (6-2) are formidable in the paint. Williams, an all-state linebacker, is quick in transition. Guard J.P. Saycon is versatile and difficult to stop in the open floor, willing to dunk every time.
Their only losses: Kamehameha (56-45), ‘Iolani (46-42), Punahou (53-52, OT) and McKinley (55-46).
In D-II, the Govs have struggled only against foes who have excellent transition defense. St. Joseph fits the mold of teams such as McKinley, which nearly beat the Govs again in the OIA playoffs.
The Cardinals (7-7 BIIF) have an astute, wily point guard in Will Scanlan-Leite. With Sebastian Ohara-Saft on the wing and 6-5 Thomas Fairman in the post, they have a balanced attack. Ohara-Saft, a 6-1 senior, is capable of going off for 40 points, but he’s not as consistently assertive as last year’s go-to scorer, Jacob Andrade (graduated).
A big question is whether Ohara-Saft and Fairman are willing to engage in contact when Oahu officials allow some banging, the kind that is rarely seen on the Big Island. If they can rise to the challenge, Farrington will be under severe pressure without the long, rangy Reyes.
Another key is the Cardinals’ matchup zone and whether it can contain Farrington sharpshooter Jeffery Madarang, who hit four first-half treys in an OIA White title win over McKinley.
They won’t intimidate the Cardinals, who play in a league that combines D-I and D-II teams for regular-season play. A win by tiny St. Joseph, technically the eighth and last seed, would be a surprise. Not a shock; a surprise. It would also be a lift for a program that has seen longtime coach Harry Scanlan-Leite battle against cancer. The gentleman coach, who has been sidelined this year, announced his retirement earlier this season.
Kapaa vs. University
The fourth-seeded Warriors (9-3 KIF) and fifth-seeded Junior Rainbows (11-4 ILH D-II) are evenly matched, if the pairings are to be believed. Kapaa needed a late-season surge to pass Kauai and win the KIF championship.
University fell short of an ILH D-II crown during a season hampered by injury. Coach Walt Quitan’s Junior ‘Bows are a balanced squad, with scorers in Ryan Alvarado, Nalu O’Connor and Gui Aires. Defense, though, is where they leave their mark. St. Francis scored just 22 points in a pivotal game against UHS for the final state berth in ILH D-II.
Balance is a strength for coach Philip Baclayan’s Warriors. Guard Willis Batol (15 points), Keane Agoot, Daniel Reis and post Kainoa Colipano were key in the KIF title win. Spam Lindsey was clutch, scoring the game-winning layup as time expired in a 57-55 overtime victory.
Pahoa vs. McKinley
The second-seeded Daggers (9-6 BIIF) are back to defend their state title, one year after surprising the state. There will be no surprise element this time, though. Nick Fisher has moved into a prominent role as a scorer, and Kaohi Schwitzer and Sonny Miguel give coach Eric Yoshimura’s unit a perimeter shooting presence. Schwitzer had four first-half treys in the BIIF D-II final against St. Joseph.
"I’m worried about Pahoa. They beat Roosevelt and Kailua last year. They aren’t afraid of the big schools," Morikuni said. "We need to shoot the ball better to make a run. We need teams to play our game."
The Tigers (11-5 OIA White) have relied on a sticky 2-3 matchup zone all season, managing to stay on the boards against bigger teams. Alex Ironside, a left-handed guard, continues to initiate the offense with his drives. Rio Kwon is a streaky scorer, one of the Tigers’ key scorers inside and on the 3-point arc.
Island Pacific vs. Seabury Hall
After contending in recent seasons, the third-seeded Navigators (11-3) won their first ILH D-II championship, a highlight for a program that has no on-campus gym. Theo Duplechain had 25 points in the title-clinching win over St. Francis, while Malik Veazie and Jason Brenner are among key contributors for coach Joe Payongayong.
Seabury Hall, guided by Scott Prather, was one of just a few D-II teams to land in the Top 10 during the regular season. Dylan King, a 6-6 senior, is a force on both ends of the floor, but the loss of Phelan Pagano (knee) is an immeasurable factor. If not for the injury, Seabury Hall (8-0 MIL) may have been seeded higher than sixth.