The problem with any streak is that it comes to an end eventually.
That isn’t necessarily bad, of course, even if it was a win streak that has been snapped. Lahainaluna’s 164-game win streak in Maui Interscholastic League play was and probably will be a mark that won’t be matched or surpassed.
The Lady Lunas 52-44 homecourt loss to King Kekaulike — at Lahaina Civic Center — is a stunner, but isn’t shocking. Upcountry Maui has produced talented players before. It was just a few years ago when Cameron Fernandez transferred to play for Lahainaluna.
“I’m not going to say it’s good or bad, but it was going to end. I don’t think it affects us. It’s more like a big deal for other people,” said Lady Lunas coach Todd Rickard, who guided the team to a state title in 2010. “We’ve got to move forward with our young team. Every loss is important to us. We just got outplayed and we lost. The longer it went, the more pressure it would be on the kids.”
Before knocking off Lahainaluna, King Kekaulike hadn’t played a Top 10 team while going 10-0. However, Na Alii had a notable win, a 63-42 rout of Maui. That same Maui team has split with Seabury Hall, the No. 10 team in the Star-Advertiser rankings. The question for panelists is, will Lahainaluna drop from No. 8, or will other MIL contenders rise in the poll on Monday?
All Rickard knows is that the MIL D-I race just got a lot more interesting for fans.
“I would throw Maui in there, too, they can beat us, King K, we’re capable to beating King K and Maui. You can’t count out Kamehameha-Maui. For the first time in years, the MIL is wide open,” he said.
This year’s Lunas are still fairly young — no seniors — and got swept in four games at the Matsumoto Law Group Black & Gold Classic. Losing to powerhouses ‘Iolani (defending champion), Punahou, Kamehameha and Maryknoll is no demerit. The Lunas weren’t very close, however, in three of those games.
If anything, a loss often sharpens focus at practice. Losses are lessons for smart teams. Lahainaluna has been wise for years now. The 2-5 win-loss tally next to its name is as odd as snowfall in West Maui. It is the new reality, though. After decades of dominating the MIL, the rest of the island — whether it is King Kekaulike, Maui, Baldwin or Division II Seabury Hall — is closing the gap.
Lahainaluna hosts Kamehameha-Maui tonight.
Musical Chairs Gauntlet
There is ILH basketball, and there is everyone else. With D-II programs thoroughly satisfied to stay where they are, the ILH’s premier hoops teams are locked together in tight quarters with nowhere to escape.
‘Iolani’s girls were dominant in preseason. In ILH play, there have been two close games: a come-from-behind home win over Punahou and a 53-47 road win at Maryknoll.
Kamehameha appeared to be resurgent, beating Punahou on the road, then lost at home to Maryknoll, 50-40.
The Akaka sisters were in top form with 18 points from Mahalo and 17 from Aloha.
With these four teams comprising ILH D-I, it is more than a gauntlet. It is a haunted house of mirrors.
The Konawaena aura?
Waiakea broke through last season, dethroning Konawaena to win the BIIF title. Hilo? The Lady Vikings have fielded, maybe, the best team that hasn’t qualified for the D-I state tourney in recent seasons.
The trend holds. Konawaena edged Hilo during the Vikings’ preseason tournament, 42-39. On Wednesday, the Wildcats returned to the Vikings’ nest and frustrated the home team again, 54-42.
Last season, Konawaena defeated Hilo 46-44 (at Konawaena), and in the playoffs, 37-33 (at Konawaena). Like Lahainaluna, Konawaena has been more vulnerable since great players like the Molina sisters graduated. But the Wildcats seem immune to steep declines. They are 8-3 against Top 10 teams so far. Waiakea is 4-2 against ranked foes.
Hilo is 0-3 against Top 10 opponents. The Viks lost to Konawaena earlier, then to Kahuku in overtime, though they were missing a key starter.
The process of fundraising and traveling for elite competition is no guarantee of postseason success, but Coach Rickard at Lahainaluna modeled the program there, with the Menehunes, after what Bobbie and Donald Awa did with the Stingrays youth club. There have been trips where Lahainaluna played in two high school tournaments simultaneously.
There’s no right or wrong way to approach preseason. But so far, it seems the traveling habits of Konawaena and Lahainaluna have been rewarding.