The ‘Iolani Raiders got their fill of elite competition, and the competition got their fill of Jovi Lefotu.
‘Iolani battled and lost to nationally-ranked Archbishop Mitty (Calif.) and Nevada powerhouse Centennial over the weekend. A young, relatively inexperienced Raiders squad has coach Dean Young optimistic and ‘Iolani’s Division I state-title defense.
“Jovi was the only player on the team with any real ‘Iolani Classic experience and for most of the girls it was their first time playing in it. Although the team started out a little overwhelmed by the size and speed of the mainland teams, I was very pleased how quickly the girls were able to regain their composure and start competing,” Young said. “With a brand new team you don’t really know how they will react to adversity but this team surprised me with their determination and heart. They reminded me a lot of our past state champion teams in that aspect.”
Archbishop Mitty, featuring sophomore Morgan Cheli, fended off ‘Iolani 62-52 in the semifinal round. The Monarchs then edged Salesian College Prep (Calif.) in the title game, 63-60.
“This year’s ‘Iolani Girls Classic was outstanding. The talent level of the three mainland powerhouses was high and the intensity of the games was off the charts. All three teams pushed the pace, pressed all game and were extremely physical. Most of the time, you wouldn’t even know there was a shot clock,” Young said. “When you watch Morgan Cheli, it’s unbelievable that she’s only a sophomore. She’s obviously got great size for a guard and a high skill level but her basketball IQ and her leadership at her age was really impressive. I see her ending up as a future Stanford or UConn type recruit. It’ll be scary if she continues to improve.”
Lefotu, a versatile senior who signed recently with Hawaii, was targeted by opposing teams.
“Jovi is definitely a special player. Coach Sue Phillips from Archbishop Mitty gave us a huge compliment when she told me how difficult our team was to guard and in particular she told me that they tried multiple defenders and different defenses to try to stop Jovi,” Young said. “But she still ended with 22 points.”
In the championship game, Cheli hit seven of her nine free-throw attempts and sank one 3-pointer for the Monarchs. Noemie Bariteau tallied 12 points, and Siena Guttadauro and Makayla Moore chipped in 10 each.
Makiah Asidanya paced Salesian with 16 points. Silivia Fonongaloa and Sofia Fidelus each had 11 points, and each had the same scoring stat line of four field goals and 3-for-4 at the foul line. Eryn Gardner added 10 points.
In the fifth-place game, Lilly Koki scored 11 points to lead Maryknoll over Lahainaluna, 42-37. Taylor Eldredge had 16 points and Ledjan Pahukoa 10 for the Lunas. Two years ago, Eldredge was No. 14 in the Star-Advertiser all-state Fab 15 as a sophomore, and Pahukoa was No. 15 as a freshman at King Kekaulike.
Saturday, Dec. 11
Archbishop Mitty (Calif.) 63, Salesian College Prep (Calif.) 60, championship
Centennial (Nev.) 50, ‘Iolani 38, third place
Maryknoll 42, Lahainaluna 37, fifth place
Kamehameha 55, Hawaii Baptist 45, seventh place
Friday, Dec. 10
Salesian 58, Centennial 39
Archbishop Mitty 62, ‘Iolani 52
Maryknoll 48, Hawaii Baptist 18
Lahainaluna 34, Kamehameha 26
Thursday, Dec. 9
Archbishop Mitty 68, Maryknoll 31
‘Iolani 78, Hawaii Baptist 34
Centennial 69, Lahainaluna 36
Salesian 80, Kamehameha 39