State girls D-II basketball: HPA ready to run and defend against defending state champ

  • RICK OGATA/Tribune-Herald Hijiri Kanasugi and Hawaii Prep begin their state Division II basketball journey Wednesday against Hawaii Baptist at Afook Chinen Civic Auditorium.

The Hawaii Preparatory Academy girls basketball team is well prepared to face the track speed of defending state champion Hawaii Baptist Academy.

The BIIF runner-up Ka Makani (5-7) play the Eagles (7-2), the ILH’s No. 3 team, in the first round of the HHSAA Division II tournament at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Afook Chinen Civic Auditorium.

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No. 4 seed and BIIF champion Kamehameha (8-4) plays the Farrington (7-6)-Lanai (7-6) winner at 7 p.m. Thursday in the quarterfinals at 7 p.m. at Hilo Civic.

HPA coach Lacey Hester is glad the state tournament is back on the Big Island for the first time since 1997.

“It’s nice to be at home,” she said. “We’ll get a bigger crowd and a hometown advantage.”

Ka Makani may need all the advantages they can get. The Eagles are an annual state contender. They’ve won the championship twice and finished runner-up once.

HPA played the Eagles in the preseason and lost 57-26. They’ve lost twice to the Warriors 52-21 and 33-26 in the BIIF championship.

Like the Eagles, the Warriors love to push the pace. But HPA has improved its transition defense, stopping the ball and getting back on defense.

In the BIIF championship, Kamehameha didn’t score any buckets in transition.

“Earlier in the season, we learned really quickly about transition defense,” Hester said. “That we had to be better. That was Kamehameha’s advantage. That’s something we really cracked down on. We’ve been working our transition defense. I think we have one of the best transition defenses in the state. It’s something we focus on.”

Ka Makani have also been hard at work on their post defense, guarding the paint, transitioning to offense and making sure to take a good shoot.

Kamehameha freshman Sara Schubert, a 5-foot-10 forward, scored 13 points on 6 of 11 shooting and dominated the boards with 15 rebounds in the BIIF championship.

HBA returns two starters off last year’s state title team in seniors Alexis Dang and Sasha Phillipa, a 5-8 forward, who scored 12 points in the 43-39 championship against Seabury Hall.

“My thing is defense. We’ve been working a lot on our defense,” Hester said. “We have to guard the post, move the ball and have scoring options.

“We’ve got Maja (Burdova) and Mariah (Borce). They love to shoot it, and they’re good at it. We have to encourage everybody else and convince them as well.”

There’s no doubt that Ka Makani are huge underdogs. The Eagles have a load of state experience, the motivation of senior leadership, and the type of talent that gets sharpened regularly in the ILH.

The ILH has four teams in the field: No. 1 seed and league champion Mid-Pacific (9-0), runner-up Hanalani (8-1), HBA, and Damien (6-5).

The Eagles defeated Damien 60-46 but lost to Mid-Pac 29-28 and to Hanalani 57-45. That’s really good preparation for state competition as well.

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HPA’s Hester and her team know what’s coming.

“We’re really excited. We saw them earlier and it didn’t go well,” she said. “But we’ve done a lot as a team. We know it’s a big challenge. They’re fast and can find a way to score. It’ll be really fun for us to play them.”

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