The Kahuku Red Raiders are dominating the OIA girls basketball season, but they’re still hungry.
After a 57-26 rout of OIA West runner-up Mililani in the semifinal round on Saturday night, Kahuku is in prime position to repeat as league champion.
They did it with physicality and grit. Diving for every loose ball. Going after every missed shot. Kahuku outrebounded Mililani 45-20, and 20 of the Lady Raiders’ boards were on the offensive glass. More intriguing, Kahuku’s ball movement against a quick, fearless Mililani defense.
It is a major improvement since the first two weeks of preseason, when Kahuku lost five of its first seven games, all against Top 10 competition.
“Early preseason, we knew we had to stay humble. We had to build off of it. We had to be less selfish, learn how to play together and eventually we turned into the team we are today,” said Leiah Naeata, who had 14 points and 10 rebounds against Mililani.
Tati Kamae also beasted with 11 points, 10 boards and four steals. Maya Claytor had eight points, five boards and eight assists. Across the lineup, key contributions are making Kahuku a growing possibility as a state-title contender. Serina Aumua-Tuisavura had eight points, nine rebounds and three assists. Trisha Faumuina came off the bench for six in the opening quarter to help Kahuku open a 13-7 lead.
“I think in the beginning of preseason, they didn’t have as much confidence, so it was important during practice for the starters to uplift the people that are just in bigger roles,” Naeata said. “We had to keep working hard at practice. That’s how we get better.”
Kahuku also shot just 4-for-15 from the arc and was foul prone, allowing Mililani to get into the bonus early.
“Our defense on the bottom, we’re pretty big so we have to learn to control our fouls. Also, our shooting percentage, we work on that,” Naeata said.
“Our goal, as a staff, is to talk to the girls and ask, ‘Do we want to fight tooth-and-nail to the end, or can we have a cushion?’ They know we want that cushion,” Kahuku coach Latoya Wily said.
At James Alegre Gymnasium
Mililani (13-7) 7 4 12 3 — 26
Kahuku (16-7) 13 16 13 15 — 57
MIL: Jovi Funakoshi 4, Kayla Tansiongco 3, Qiera Tyrell 5, Heidi Lagafuaina 0, Kylie Bagay 6, Kianna Ponce 8, Jenna Sagon-Galisa 0, Tylor Goldsmith 0, Chasity Jackson 0, Christyanna Ibarra 0, Avianna Furuta 0.
KAH: Kaila Kaahu 2, Tatianna Kamae 11, Kalamela Liua 0, Leina Carvalho 0, Mary Fonoimoana 2, Teija Crawford 4, Serina Aumua-Tuisavura 8, Leiah Naeata 14, Maya Claytor 8, Trisha Faumuina 8.
3-point goals: MIL 1 (Bagay), KAH 4 (Claytor 2, Kamae, Naeata).