IPA Girls Basketball Team Taking A Shot At ILH Playoffs

The win-loss ledger hasn’t been foremost in Wes Pacheco’s mind, as he is in the midst of his first season building the girls basketball program at Island Pacific Academy.

“We’re about progress,” said Pacheco. “We worry about being better than the day before.”

Even so, as he looked at the ILH Division III standings late last week, he liked his team’s position. Although IPA is only in its third year at girls varsity level, the Navigators’ 3-2 start to league play has them pondering post-season possibilities. IPA has two key games remaining with Christian Academy at 5 p.m. Wednesday at Palama Settlement and Lanakila Baptist at 7 p.m. Monday at Hawaiian Mission Academy).

The ILH DIII playoffs follow next week, and since all but the last-place team make the cut, IPA already is assured a spot. Should it win the four-team DIII playoff, it would then advance to the DII playoffs at the end of the month. The top four teams from the DII playoff receive the league’s berths for the Division II state basketball tournament in February. While there’s no direct line to states for any DIII team, Pacheco likes that IPA has much to play for despite being a new program.

“We have a shot – we just have to take it one game at a time,” he said. “I feel like we can make a run. With the right mentality, anything is possible.”

IPA posted wins over Hawaiian Mission Academy, Lanakila Baptist and Christian Academy to begin its ILH slate 3-0. Losses to Lutheran and Hawaiian Mission (in the series finale between the two) followed. The top finisher gets a first-round bye in the ILH playoffs, so the Navigators’ Wednesday game with Christian Academy could figure big in where they’re seeded.

IPA is among the younger teams in the ILH with only two seniors – forwards Kiana Flemming and Chelsea Robello – in the fold. Both have been Navigator leaders to date.

“Kiana is really steady – she doesn’t get up or down,” Pacheco said. “She never leaves the floor. Chelsea is a leader by example. She plays with a lot of grit and motivates her teammates. We’re happy with the energy she brings. We’ve been blessed.”

IPA’s backcourt features a pair of talented underclassmen in sophomore Erica Brenner and junior Tia Odoardi. “They complement each other. Erica was a First Team All-Conference player in Division III as a freshman last year, and she’s playing lights out right now. Tia is a gamer. She’s always attacking. She has an offensive mind-set.”

Pacheco spent many years coaching Campbell sports before taking over the IPA program. Now he finds himself in the unique position of attempting to build up a new program.

“We have some really good girls,” he said. “These are really smart girls who are picking up the game very quickly. I like their mentality and their fight. They cry when they lose a game, which shows how much they care. They’re learning how to approach every situation. We’ve shown up every game and have been ready to play.”

As part of building tradition at IPA, Pacheco loaded up the 2013-14 schedule with games. “We wanted to play a lot of games. We took that approach. We played 14 preseason games. By the end, we will have played about 22. It’s been a great season so far.”

Pairings for the ILH DIII post-season tournament will be revealed Tuesday. jackster.1969@ yahoo.com