Honoka’a Girls Make Jump to Division I
There will be a new state champion in Division II girls high school basketball in 2016.
After winning two consecutive championships in Division II, Honoka’a High School will compete in Division I, starting this upcoming season.
“I think our program has been relatively successful the past couple of years, and I just think that it’s proven that we can compete and we’d like to have that opportunity to compete at the Division I level,” said Honoka’a head coach Daphne Honma.
For those that want to immediately compare Honoka’a’s move up to Division I to ‘Iolani’s similar move this past football season, there are plenty of differences. For starters, the Raiders were forced to move up to Division I after winning eight Division II championships in 10 years. Also, ‘Iolani’s head coach, Wendell Look, believes that his football team is built to compete at the Division II level, not at Division I, where the Raiders were winless in Interscholastic League of Honolulu play against Punahou, Saint Louis, and Kamehameha-Kapalama, a far cry from facing Damien, Saint Francis, and Pac-Five.
In Honoka’a’s case, the Dragons already play Division I competition in the BIIF, as schedules aren’t split by divisions. Honoka’a has held tough with Konawaena and Hilo in the past few seasons. Plus, Honma has wanted this to happen ever since she returned to the job. After hearing “no” for the past few years from athletic director Keith Tolentino, her patience was rewarded.
“It’s not a knock on Division II, but the level of competition is definitely different and the pace is definitely different,” Honma explained, highlighting that the move isn’t about winning championships, but putting them in a position to play against the best competition possible. “For some of our kids, they just need to believe that they can compete. Some of them have plans and they want to play college ball and in order for that to happen and for them to be successful, we have to help them understand the level of competition.”
Honoka’a got a chance to face some tough competition last weekend at the Ted Fukushima Tournament on Oahu, hosted by Kaiser High School. The Dragons went 1-2, beating Kahuku, a Division I participant in the Oahu Interscholastic Association, by the score of 40-37. Two other OIA Division I schools, Leilehua and Kaiser, beat the Dragons by final scores of 39-33 and 45-36, respectively.
Three seniors graduated from last year’s championship team, but Honoka’a brings back state tournament experience in seniors Kizzah Maltezo, Uluwehi Cordero, and Markell Marquez, as well as juniors Taylor Souza and Jaycie Carvalho and sophomore point guard Kawena Kaohimaunu. Honma is still looking for someone to step into a leadership role, however, after losing a solid scoring punch in Shayla Ignacio and Eliyah Fernandez.
“We haven’t had anyone step up and say ‘jump on my back and let’s go,’ I see some of them making that attempt and it hasn’t really been consistent, so we’re still kinda looking for leadership on our team,” said Honma.
Honoka’a’s exit from the Division II race opens the door for Kamehameha-Hawai’i, runner-up to the Dragons in the last two Big Island Interscholastic Federation championship games and the state runner-up two seasons ago. The Warriors had appeared in three straight state championship games prior to Honoka’a’s dominance, winning two of them.
The Dragons continue a busy non-league schedule by participating in the Lahainaluna Tournament this weekend. Honoka’a will also participate the following weekend in the Konawaena girls basketball tournament, which has taken a hit because of the dengue fever outbreak. Honma said that all of the ILH schools scheduled to fly over pulled out of the tournament.
Honoka’a will also participate in the Waiakea Girls Winter Goodwill Tournament and the Hilo High School Holiday Prep Basketball Classic.