Tested In DI Games, Knights Ready For DII Hoops Tournament

If playing against Division I teams is to pay off for a Division II team, this is the week for it, Castle girls basketball head coach Joe Lilio is hoping.

The Knights open OIA White tournament play Wednesday with a first-round game at Pearl City, after defeating three DI teams during the season and have high hopes for the post-season as schools in the East branch out into their separate divisions.

Lilio likes the OIA’s format that pits DI and DII teams against one another during the regular season.

“I think it’s better being able to play the DI teams – you play better competition,” said Lilio, whose team beat DI schools

Kahuku, Kaimuki and Mc-Kinley, “and you don’t see those same schools (in the playoffs).”

Castle’s greater goal now is to make the DII state tournament next month. It needs to finish third or better in this week’s OIA tourney to earn one of the league’s berths. If they can get past Pearl City, a road date with Farrington awaits Thursday in the semifinals. The Governors beat Castle 68-55, but that game was more than a month ago.

“It might actually be to our advantage that we lost,” said Lilio. “Maybe our girls will be hungrier this time if we play them again. We clean up and make adjustments. We feel we can play with any of the teams in the White.”

A state tournament appearance would be an ideal ending to Lilio’s first season in charge of the program. For a while, he had just five girls playable because of injuries and academic issues, but those days are behind them, as the roster is full this week.

Offensive balance has been the team’s forte to date. It enters the post-season with six players – Sierra Koki (fourth, 12.6 points per game), Sheastel Tiumalu (fifth, 11.3 ppg), Shaney Tiumalu (seventh, 10.4 ppg), Asia Almeida (17th, 5.2 ppg), Briana Hidalgo (21st, 4.6 ppg) and Darrien Dacosin (25th, 7.5 ppg) – rated among the top 25 in scoring in the OIA White.

Lilio is more focused, however, on defensive play now. “We need better communication and better shooting performances, but whether we’re on or off offensively, we need to step up our defense. We can have an off night offensively, but we can’t have an off night defensively.”

One week will have elapsed between its last regular-season game and Wednesday’s playoff contest with Pearl City, and he welcomes the break.

“We’ll get well-prepared for the playoffs. It’s been an up-and-down season. We could easily be 6-4, and we’ve had a lot of close games that could have turned out differently. The girls are looking forward to playing against Pearl City and trying to get into the state tournament.”