Balance, experience, depth make Radford tough to beat in West

Coach Charles Chong is cautiously optimistic about his Radford Rams, one of the most experienced and cohesive squads in the OIA. Photo by Paul Honda/Star-Advertiser.

There’s much work to do in the eyes of Coach Charles Chong, but the Lady Rams of Radford showed plenty of reasons why the OIA West is theirs for the taking.

Kailani Tenorio scored nine points as Radford used an unselfish passing game and tenacious defense to stifle Kapolei 45-25 in the regular-season opener for both teams on Wednesday night at James Alegre Gymnasium. Angel Asaah scored six points and hustled for eight rebounds, and Angela Howell and Ashlynn McGarrah added six points each for the Lady Rams, now 4-2 overall.

Favorites in the West? Chong isn’t ready to hear that.

“At this point, I would say that’s not fair. We’re not that good (yet),” Chong said. “Kahuku might be the team to chase in the OIA. I don’t know too much about the East. Right now, we’re worried about this side.”

Quality depth is a rarity across the league, but Radford has plenty.

“We do have some depth. What’s unusual for Radford is we have four seniors who have been here for all four years. They know the system and they all get along really well. They work together really well, and that’s a big plus,” Chong said.

Coming into the regular season, Radford had only lost to Mid-Pacific (42-36) and No. 10-ranked Seabury Hall (43-42). Its other wins have come against Kalani, Sacred Hearts and Moanalua.

On Wednesday, there was plenty of balance offensively, and a sticky 2-3 matchup zone sparked to an 11-2 lead after one quarter. The fast-breaking Rams have good decision-makers in Tenorio, Howell, Manu Seei and Devine Raymondo.

“We’re trying to get the girls to play aggressive and in balance. Turnovers are always an issue. It’s going to happen sometimes, absolutely, but we’re trying to emphasize jump stops, pivoting to prevent those unnecessary turnovers, what we call those two-second turnovers,” Chong said. “But they played with a lot of aggression, which is what we want. They did a pretty good job tonight.”

Kapolei made a game of it, pulling within 19-12 on a putback by center Daija Mitchell just before the half.

Radford then went on 15-0 run to open the third quarter for a 34-12 lead. Four Kapolei turnovers sparked the run by the home team. Radford was turnover-free during the blitz, but still finished with 21 turnovers against Kapolei’s man-to-man and zone defenses. That’s why Chong doesn’t view his team as a favorite to win the West.

There is plenty of potential, though, as the Rams prepare for perennial West powerhouse Mililani on Friday.

“I haven’t seen everybody, but from what I can gather the West is wide open for anybody’s taking. We play Mililani next and coach (Michael Oyama) is doing a really nice job over there. He always has them playing disciplined basketball,” Chong said. “I know anything can happen on any night. They’re always dangerous because they always play together.”

The Hurricanes are finding their identity after losing top returnee Lasi Tuiolemotu to an ACL injury suffered in the first week of preseason. As a sophomore last season, Tuiolemotu had 26 points, 15 rebounds, four steals and three blocks in a playoff win over Kaimuki.

Kapolei finished with 20 turnovers against Radford’s zone. Despite the season-opening loss, the ‘Canes have talent at guard and in the post.

“It’s going to take patience, and we have to play was a team,” Kapolei coach Jim Aronica said. “We have to be scrappy and play with heart, play with fundamentals.”

The good news is that there is time..

“We could go far if we come together,” Aronica added. “It’s all fixable. I believe in these girls and I’m proud of them.”


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