Hoopbook: ‘Iolani clutches up, Lunas upset #5 St. Francis

Leilehua's Genesis Ofoia (1) tried to thread a pass past Lahainaluna's Reece Pascua (10) during the 2018 state tournament. Photo by Cindy Ellen Russell/Star-Advertiser.

The landscape for girls hoops in the islands has been altered for the 2018-19 season, and it hasn’t been ‘Iolani doing the most disruption.

The Raiders have been No. 1 each week in the Star-Advertiser Girls Basketball Top 10, but the noise in the poll also comes from several teams that are ranked above three-time defending state champion Konawaena.

Mainland mania
If you have not seen it yet, the game-winning shot, a 3-point buzzer-beater by guard Noah Bumanglag to cap a major comeback win by ‘Iolani over Diamond Bar (Calif.) on Thursday is must-see.

The Raiders are ranked No. 2 in the Star-Advertiser Boys Basketball Top 10, but traveling, dealing with jet lag, facing stellar teams from the CIF — never easy. Yet, ‘Iolani is in the semifinals of the Tustin Classic after beating Diamond Bar and, in the opening round, Servite (Calif.).

Next up: Highland (Calif.) in an 8 p.m. game (Pacific time) that will be streamed online.

The ‘Iolani girls team, ranked No. 1 in the Star-Advertiser Top 10, lost to National Christian Academy (Md.) 63-55 on Thursday in the Title IX DC Classic. NCA is ranked No. 9 in the nation. The Raiders meet Pickerington Central (Ohio) today at DC Armory in another Pat Summit bracket game.

At the Tustin Classic, Mid-Pacific plays Western (Anaheim, Calif..) this morning.

Hawaii Baptist is at the Garden Grove Classic. The Eagle boys defeated Apple Valley (Calif.) 45-38 on Thursday and will play Saddleback VC (Calif.) today. The HBA girls trounced Costa Mesa (Calif.) 47-28 on Thursday and will take on Torrance (Calif.) today.

Lady Lunas milestone
No. 2-ranked Lahainaluna made it 150 consecutive wins in the Maui Interscholastic League with 51-21 road win over Kamehameha-Maui. Abigail Akamine scored 22 points in the victory.

“It’s no different than any of the other wins for myself, but more so for all the girls who came through the program that made this a possibility,” Lunas coach Todd Rickard said. “For them, it is special. They don’t say it, but I know they don’t want to be the class to give it up because that one loss will be remembered more than the 150 or so victories.”

Lahainaluna boys stun St. Francis
The Luna girls weren’t the only victorious team recently. The Luna boys stunned No. 5 St. Francis 50-49 on Wednesday at the Lahaina Civic Center. The Lunas then routed Baldwin 50-29 on Thursday and will meet Mission Viejo (Calif.) tonight.

Coach Jason Justus had seen the Saints when the Lunas played in the St. Francis Holiday Hoops Classic nearly three weeks ago. He and his team were well aware of the scoring capabilities of the Saints, especially brothers Kameron Ng and Kordel Ng.

“The plan for them, I was afraid he was going to come out and drop 40 on us,” Justus said of Kameron Ng, who entered the game averaging 24 points per game. “The talent he has is unbelievable. I didn’t know the talent Kordel has until I saw him in person. He might be the best athlete in the state. Kordel is just as good in other aspects of the game.”

Justus’ team banks on man-to-man defense, and he put the task on his two best perimeter defenders.

“We had Reece (Pascua) on Kameron and Trey (Rickard) on Kordel. Control penetration, that was the biggest thing,” he said. “The thing was we gave up 17 offensive rebounds and we ended up turning the ball over 19 times. We didn’t play very well. We defended OK and they missed some shots down the line that easily could’ve swayed the game in either direction.”

If there was any doubt that Justus and his staff prioritize defense, there should be none. His statisticians track rebounds, deflections and other defensive numbers.

“Deflections have always been important. Rebounds I see. I don’t even look at points. Someone else has the scorebook,” he said.

The tournament, with pre-set pairings, has drawn teams from the mainland: Wilsonville (Ore.), Rex Putnam (Ore.) and Mission Viejo (Calif.). The Lunas match up with Mission Viejo tonight.

“We use the Civic Center to attract them. They get to play on the same floor that Duke and Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett played on just a month ago, the basketball royalty that has gone into that gym,” Justus said.

For several years, it has been simple enough to pencil in Lahainaluna as the team to beat in the MIL. With a mix of new players and returnees like Pascua and Rickard, Justus didn’t let up schedule-wise. The Lunas played off-island twice in the James Alegre Invitational and the St. Francis tourney, going 2-4.

Justus expects tough battles in the MIL. In the Lunas’ 21-point win over Baldwin, they trailed at halftime.

“We played well in the second half. We were down eight to Baldwin and held them to seven points in the second half,” he said. “And Maui beat King Kekaulike, a team that I think has the most talent in the MIL.”

Lahainaluna is 4-4 overall, including a win over Kalaheo and losses to Kalaheo — they have already played twice — Leilehua, Punahou and Damien. The Lunas met King Kekaulike on the road nearly two weeks ago and edged Na Alii 49-46.

In other words, Lahainaluna, Maui and King Kekaulike are in the running for the MIL D-I crown. Baldwin is in the picture, too.

Green light
The Konawaena Wildcats are seeing the future in the present. The three-time defending state champions handled Kamehameha-Hawaii 57-21 on Wednesday, getting 26 points from freshman Kaliana Salazar-Harrell. Caiyle Kaupu scored 12 points in limited action.

Seeing red
For one half, the Lady Cougars of Kaiser showed any doubters that they belong.

Balanced scoring, tough interior defense and a fastbreak led by Trinidee Kahunahana that was, at times, breathless. Kaiser outrunning Kalani? Preposterous?

Not on Thursday night. Kaiser ran the floor, much to the delight of coach Brianna Lagat-Ramos, and led most of the way before falling behind 29-28 by halftime.

Kalani’s 82-57 win showed the difference — and the trend — in having nine or 10 players against seven or fewer. Kaiser suited up seven players and began to run out of gas in the third quarter as Kalani’s fullcourt pressure and quick transition took a toll.

The night before, Kaimuki suited up seven players, stayed in it for three quarters, and then the tank went empty.

At the midway point of the OIA regular season, teams often hit a runner’s wall, and depth becomes an even bigger factor.

For one half, Kaiser was able to negate the absence of starting forward Stephanie Canon (mainland trip). Then Kalani dissected the Cougars’ matchup zone with Kandyce Woods cashing in at the bucket. With the return of sharpshooter Alayna Akiona and multi-dimensional Kamalu Kamakawiwo‘ole (30 points, the Falcons had their full roster for the first time in a month.

The glue girls include guard Heidi Kishaba and forward Shelby McDaniel, providing sticky defense and high-IQ ball movement and spacing on offense. McDaniel is similar to Mililani’s Kalena Gibson, two players with wing span, defensive tenacity and transition speed, able to hit the mid-range shot and bang on the boards. Kishaba might be one of the deadliest 3-point shooters in the OIA, but with all the talent Kalani has, ball movement and sharing make them more dangerous than ever now.

At 6-1 in OIA East play (14-6 overall), confidence is brimming. Chemistry is at a season high.


  1. JetWavy December 28, 2018 11:31 pm

    The following day after dropping the game to Lahainaluna, Saint Francis got blown by Mission Viejo 48-72. SF scored 2 points in the first quarter.

  2. BangkokJoe December 29, 2018 8:41 am

    Wow ! Back in the dark ages when moi was in high school, going to the outer islands was a big time trip. It’s a new age of internet and travel, I understand, but these mainland trips are great experiences fo all the kids, particularly a preview of the next level….education and competition.

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