Hanalani Boys Basketball Primed For State Tourney Run

Hanalani’s boys basketball team didn’t have to wait for this week’s ILH Division II playoffs to play with a sense of urgency. The Royals have been in the playoff mode for weeks already, locked in a battle with Saint Francis and Damien for the league’s two berths in the state tournament.

“This is definitely a special group, and this is a big week for us,” head coach Keoni Haole said. “I don’t think Hanalani has been this close to winning a (ILH) division title.”

Hanalani had positioned itself in the mix for the title by going 8-3 through its first 11 games. The Royals were to play Hawaii Baptist Academy (HBA) last Thursday in their season finale. Pending that outcome, they would learn their schedule for this week. Beginning with the HBA game, it was possible Hanalani could play as many as six games this weekend.

Regardless of how it plays out, the Royals already have been one of prep basketball’s best stories in 2014-15, having gone 17-5 overall, including pre-season games.

“We just outwork people,” said Haole, who is also athletic director. “We have short guys — all but one of them is under 6 feet — but they work hard on defense, and we try to pressure the ball. Our speed is our strength on offense and defense — we try to get up and down — and we have really good guard play.”

With eight seniors on the roster, veteran leadership also has played a part in the Mililani private school’s success. Among them are Conner Kaneshiro, Chas Kubo and Jeff Schaake. Kaneshiro is a four-year player, while Kubo and Schaake are third-year players.

“They’re all providing leadership in their own way,” Haole said. “Conner is more our vocal leader. He was chosen by his team-mates to be a captain.

“Jeff is probably our best offensive player. He has an ankle injury and skipped surgery to play the season. He’s shown toughness.

“Chas has been consistent the whole year. He’s led us in scoring, and he brings intensity on defense. He’s an all-around good player.”

The roster also features Jesse Leaman, Zane Pantil, Aaron Leong, Gabe Cabo, Kenan Cooper, Vasant Patwardhan, Randy Villeza, Josh Rotz and Ryan Kaneshiro.

“This is probably the closest group I’ve had,” Haole said. “They all get along and work hard. It’s just a good group of kids. They are all 4.0 (grade-point average) students, and we have no character issues.”

The DII state tournament will run Feb. 26-28 at Kalani and Farrington high schools and at University of Hawaii.