The muscle and hustle is real for the Kahuku Power Co.
Even against the low-post bangers of Maryknoll, Kahuku won the battle under the glass and went on to eliminate the ailing, cold bug-ravaged Spartans from state-title contention with a 43-27 win on Thursday night in the Division I quarterfinals of the Snapple/HHSAA Girls Basketball State Championships at Earl C. Holmer Gymnasium.
Kahuku’s man-to-man defense was air-tight. Maryknoll coach Chico Furtado, who coached Kahuku coach Latoya Wily when she was a standout with the Lady Raiders — and one season at Kalaheo — gave high praise to their tight defense. Wily considered it her team’s best defensive effort to date.
“If we’re not advancing, this is the one I want to see move on,” Furtado said of Wily.
The Lady Raiders also got solid play from reserves.
“They all work hard at practice. Even the girls who sit on the bench, they know when our team scores, they score. Who do our starters practice against? They practice against each other and make each other better,” Wily said. “As a whole, they try to make sure: look up, lift up.”
Kahuku’s 34-27 rebounding edge was crucial, just as it has been all through the regular season and playoffs.
“We’ve got to tighten up on that. We gave (Maryknoll) some second chances,” Wily said.
Since losing to Konawaena during the ‘Iolani Classic, Kahuku has won 16 games in a row, and none of the previous 16 were as glossy as this one over the No. 3-ranked team in the Star-Advertiser Top 10.
“The best thing is we really came into this game knowing that the state didn’t really believe in us, that we would beat an ILH team and make the semis,” said Leiah Naeata, who led the Lady Raiders on the boards and often ran the point. “It started with our defense, our rebounding and our hustle.”
The 34 total rebounds is less than what Big Red averaged in the OIA playoffs, and the 14 offensive rebounds is a drop, too, but they still controlled the game with all those extra possessions.
The x-factor for Kahuku was senior guard Serina Aumua-Tuisavura, who had a team-high 14 points with three steals. Six of her points came during a key 11-2 run in the third quarter that gave the Lady Raiders control of their destiny.
“We call her our defensive specialist, but tonight she got some baskets, as well. She attacked the gaps like we asked her to,” Wily said. “But she’ll tell you those fouls, I was mad about her getting fouled out.”
As one of Kahuku’s defensive stoppers, she surprised Maryknoll with an early 3 and consistent, aggressive play on the offensive end.
“I think especially because in practice, Coach emphasizes the little things like boxing out. So when it comes to the game, it comes naturally. We grab the boards like nothing,” Aumua-Tuisavura said. “We wanted it way more. We came in here ready to defy all odds, and that’s what we did.”
Konawaena awaits Kahuku (18-7) in tonight’s semifinal round at Blaisdell Arena. When the teams met at the Hilo Winter Classic, the Wildcats won 56-32. When they met again three weeks later at the ‘Iolani Classic, Konawaena won 66-40, hitting 11 3-pointers.
“It’s just another game. We’re going to do what we’ve got to do and hopefully come out with the dub,” Aumua-Tuisavura said. “We’ve got to be focused on resting up.”
Naeata added 12 points and seven rebounds in another rock-solid performance. With the game still close in the fourth quarter, the Lady Raiders showed stellar shot selection and game management.
“Serina stepped up today. I’m very proud of her. She’s our defensive stopper. She gets the loose balls, the steals. Serina is a big part of our defense and on the offensive side, she’s a playmaker,” Naeata said.
Having the earlier game at Kalani meant getting on the bus and heading back to the North Shore at a reasonable hour on a school night. The Lady Raiders would have enough time to do their homework and get seven, maybe eight hours of sleep in the most important week of their season.
The Lady Raiders have gone through a metamorphosis since early season.
“Our team as a whole has learned that this is a team sport. It’s not just Leiah or Maya (Claytor) or Tati (Kamae), or anyone on their own. We want them to realize, they need each other in order to win,” Wily added. “The more threats we have, and if everyone is contributing 100 percent on the court and on the bench, then the better things will turn out for us.”
HHSAA D-I State Tournament
|1||Feb. 3||Moanalua vs. Kaiser||Moan, 34-28||Moanalua|
|2||Feb. 3||Waiakea vs. Mililani||Waik, 55-42||Waiakea|
|3||Feb. 3||Radford vs. King Kekaulike||KK, 61-35||King Kekaulike|
|4||Feb. 3||Maryknoll vs. Kalani||Mryk, 59-42||Maryknoll|
|5||Feb. 6||(1) 'Iolani vs. Moanalua||Iol, 65-31||Moanalua|
|6||Feb. 6||(4) Lahainaluna vs. Waiakea||Waik, 37-26||Moanalua|
|7||Feb. 6||(2) Konawaena vs. King Kekaulike||Kona, 40-37||Kalani|
|8||Feb. 6||(3) Kahuku vs. Maryknoll||Kah, 43-27||Kalani|
|9*||Feb. 7||King Kekaulike vs. Maryknoll||Mryk, 69-40||Blaisdell Arena|
|10*||Feb. 7||Moanalua vs. Lahainaluna||Lah, 52-39||Blaisdell Arena|
|11||Feb. 7||Konawaena vs. Kahuku||Kona, 56-39||Blaisdell Arena|
|12||Feb. 7||'Iolani vs. Waiakea||Iol, 57-44||Blaisdell Arena|
|13*||Feb. 8||Maryknoll vs. Lahainaluna||Mryk, 50-38||Blaisdell Arena|
|14*||Feb. 8||Kahuku vs. Waiakea||Waik, 56-44||Blaisdell Arena|
|15||Feb. 8||Konawaena vs. 'Iolani||Iol, 55-46||Blaisdell Arena|
|* — consolation|
HHSAA D-II State Tournament
|1||Feb. 5||McKinley vs. Damien||DMS, 37-25||Hilo Civic|
|2||Feb. 5||Hanalani vs. Campbell||Han, 64-29||Hilo Civic|
|3||Feb. 5||Farrington vs. Lanai||Far, 44-36||Hilo Civic|
|4||Feb. 5||Hawaii Prep vs. Hawaii Baptist||HBA, 54-16||Hilo Civic|
|5*||Feb. 6||McKinley vs. Lanai||Lan, 46-32||Hilo Civic|
|6||Feb. 6||(3) Waimea vs. Hanalani||Han, 63-60||Hilo Civic|
|7||Feb. 6||(1) Mid-Pacific vs. Damien||MPI, 59-41||Hilo Civic|
|8||Feb. 6||(2) Seabury Hall vs. Hawaii Baptist||HBA, 50-37||Hilo Civic|
|9||Feb. 6||(4) KS-Hawaii vs. Farrington||KSH, 51-37||Hilo Civic|
|10*||Feb. 7||Campbell vs. Hawaii Prep||Camp, 44-12||Hilo Civic|
|11*||Feb. 7||Waimea vs. Seabury Hall||SH, 62-42||Hilo Civic|
|12*||Feb. 7||Damien vs. Farrington||DMS, 51-47||Hilo Civic|
|13||Feb. 7||Hanalani vs. Hawaii Baptist||Han, 52-42||Hilo Civic|
|14||Feb. 7||Mid-Pacific vs. KS-Hawaii||MPI, 32-28||Hilo Civic|
|15*||Feb. 8||Lanai vs. Campbell||Lan, 49-40||Hilo Civic|
|16*||Feb. 8||Seabury Hall vs. Damien||SH, 53-30||Hilo Civic|
|17*||Feb. 8||Hawaii Baptist vs. KS-Hawaii||HBA, 37-29||Hilo Civic|
|18||Feb. 8||Hanalani vs. Mid-Pacific||Han, 40-37||Hilo Civic|
|* — consolation|