Chargers Heading Into States

If the mark of an “impact player” is one who saves her biggest efforts for the team’s biggest games, Pearl City’s Tiari Walker may earn that status by the time this weekend’s Division I state basketball tournament plays out.

In the last month, head coach Mike Morton has certainly taken note of her play. “She was quiet last year, and at the beginning of this season, we still didn’t know what we were getting with her,” said Morton, whose team was 12-1 at press time. “She’s been putting up doubledoubles (double digits in rebounds and scoring) every game. She’s had big games, and she gets a lot of boards. That helps big time.”

Pearl City’s identity this season has been largely provided by its stellar guard trio of Adrienne-Jean Sylva and Sabrina and Shawna Angle, three of the state’s most capable in the back court. The rise of Walker and fellow post players Krystynn Naputi and Dani Magana has elevated the Chargers’ play further, providing the balance that makes a team difficult to play against. In key games, she has come up big, tallying 14 versus Kahuku, 10 against Roosevelt, and 7 apiece against both Leilehua and Mililani.

Pearl City is coming off an impressive OIA tournament run, which included wins over East foes Kahuku (50-45), Kaimuki (32-29) and Roosevelt (41-36). The Chargers were to play last Thursday against either Roosevelt or Kahuku in an OIA championship round game. (With no losses yet in the double-elimination tourney, a win in that game would have put Pearl City in the driver’s seat in its quest to be the OIA champion.)

Walker is one of 10 seniors on the team. They will finish out their careers this week as one of the most successful classes to pass through the program, as they are taking part in their third straight state tournament. “It’s been a total team effort, right down to the kids who are sitting on the bench,” Morton said. “They’re a real close-knit group, and that helps.”

Morton also is closing out a highly successful run as the Chargers’ coach, having announced in recent weeks that he would step down at season’s end to spend more time with his young family. Morton played at Pearl City during his own prep career and has been a fixture on campus ever since. He spent the last 11 as girls head coach and took Pearl City to five state tournaments during his tenure. He led the Chargers to four OIA Red West titles. Pairings for this week’s Division I state tournament were to be announced late on Sunday.