Kahuku getting closer and closer to the promised land

Kahuku coach Latoya Wily said the Red Raiders have raised the bar over the last four years. Photo by Cindy Ellen Russell/Star-Advertiser.

More than maybe any year in the past two decades, the 2020 Snapple/HHSAA Girls Basketball State Championships is about the youth brigades.

From Konawaena to Kahuku, underclassmen have filled the void. Kahuku learned on Friday night that they’re close to the promised land. A 56-39 loss to perennial powerhouse Konawaena put an end to a remarkable run that began on the last day of preseason — a win over OIA West powerhouse Radford — and into the state tourney with a stunning win over No. 3-ranked Maryknoll.

With a semifinal win, Kahuku would have been the first OIA team to reach the final since 2006, when Roosevelt lost to Punahou.

The strong, quick Lady Raiders dominated the paint for two months, often doubling the rebound totals of their opponents. That happened in the OIA semifinals and finals. Konawaena, with crafty senior Caiyle Kaupu in the paint, put on a clinic with an array of turnaround jump hooks, shimmy moves, drop steps and up-and-unders. Coach Latoya Wily and her team shed tears after the game, but remain optimistic.

“I’m just proud of the girls, to bring the program this far. In four seasons, we were able to raise the bar for the next group,” Wily said. “I told those who are returning, if you really want to win that state championship, it starts in the offseason. You’ve got to touch a basketball as much as you can, even if you’re playing other sports.”

Kaupu’s treachery in the trenches was not the game plan, of course, for Kahuku. They wanted to front her, but the defensive machinery was not in sync.

“I felt like everything just consumed them and for the first time, they couldn’t hear us,” Wily said. “It hurts for all of us. It hurts for our seniors, but also (juniors) Leiah (Naeata) and Maya (Claytor), the ones who play basketball (year round). I was glad to see some fire in the eyes of Mary (Fonoimoana) and Kalamela (Liua). They’re volleyball players. They’re motivated to be true dual sport players. That’s what we had back in the days.”

With that, the former Kahuku standout exited the back door and joined the large gathering of loyal fans near the parking lot. Win or lose, this remains Red Raider nation.


  1. Real Talk on HawaiiPrepWorld February 8, 2020 12:59 pm

    It looked Kahuku went into the game with their game plan in mind and not really giving a rip about what Konawaena was going to do. That unfortunately led to Kaupu having herself a heck of a game. Catching the ball when she was already deep in the post was a mismatch all night long. Respect to the lady red raiders. Coach Wily is the most underrated coach in the state!

  2. KAHAU ENOS February 8, 2020 1:29 pm

    An OIA POY in Leiah that was willing to do all the little things instead of racking up her scoring stats. Tati and Serina playing amazing defense. Claytor shooting lights out and confident. Bigs in Mela and Mary that aren’t looking for the shine and doing their job. A bench that supports their teammates and doesn’t complain. Great season, great young ladies, great coaching. WE OVER ME!! I’m a fan of the way they do things unselfishly. It’s only the beginning!!!

  3. really February 8, 2020 5:24 pm

    Leiah is amazing. She doesn’t need to score. He is there for pace and to make the others player. When she was away and they played Maryknoll, they lost by like 26. Then she played and they won by 16. That is a 42 point swing. Any basketball person with a brain knows what she does for that team.

  4. 88 February 8, 2020 9:25 pm

    Any basketball person with a brain knows that something was wrong with her these last 2 games. She wasn’t driving and attacking like she always does and was always being subbed out. Hope she gets better and heals up because BigRed needs her.

  5. 1SLAND3RZ February 8, 2020 9:36 pm

    @Really I dont think you have a brain or eyes. She does alot and again, she is one of the two who play basketball alot. The others on her team keeping up and contributing on defense and offense when it isnt even their main sport, that says alot. They work hard. Leiah Naeata does do some good things, but she also doesnt do ALOT of things that YEAR AROUND BASKETBALL PLAYERS DO. Stop ruining these young athletes a d telling them they are all these good things and not making them see things they need to work on. Go watch that Maryknoll game again, Leiah Naeata is lucky Moananu didnt shoot 3s. She has some spurts but she also takes the most breaks on Defense. The difference between the preseason game and now, is not ONE player. The difference was obviously the conditioning and the confidence these other players gained throughout the season from experience. You REALLY FUNNY

  6. KAHAU ENOS February 9, 2020 7:56 am

    Stop trying to criticize anything that she does because it is a team sport. Nobody enjoys losing or wants to lose. She does so much for the team as a leader and it doesn’t matter what other people say. I’ve seen their growth as a team and love their dedication to each other. Any other small minded assessment of her or their team is meaningless. WE OVER ME!!! That’s what they live by, and I’m a fan

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