Leiah Naeata’s 33 points powers Kahuku to OIA title

Kahuku celebrated after beating Kalani for the OIA D-I girls basketball title in 2019. Photo by Jamm Aquino/Star-Advertiser.

On paper, this was Kalani’s championship for the taking.

Three players back since the last time the Lady Falcons met Kahuku, including Kamalu Kamakawiwo‘ole and Alayna Akiona. When Kahuku won at Kalani 51-48 during the regular season, it wasn’t a true test of the OIA East’s top teams at full strength.

On Thursday night, there was no doubt. No. 9 Kahuku got a career-high 33 points from sophomore guard/post boss Leiah Naeata in a 63-59 win over No. 9 Kalani to capture the OIA Division I championship. Kahuku’s first league title since 2005 was a perfect performance from start to finish, a 13-0 mark in OIA play.

Naeata is one of the few point guards in Hawaii prep history to play point guard while dominating inside. She had 17 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists in a 55-37 semifinal win over Kaiser on Tuesday. This time, she had eight rebounds, seven assists and two steals to go with the 33 points. She was shocked at her point total.

“I did not know that,” Naeata said.

Perhaps the most intriguing stat: just 12 turnovers against Kalani’s relentless fullcourt and halfcourt pressure.

“Me and my teammates had to keep our composure, keep calm. We didn’t want their awesome press defense to get to our head,” Naeata said. “We worked on it at practice, staying calm, and we eventually did our job.”

An 11-point lead dwindled to one point, but most teams that face Kalani have more turnovers than field goals. Kahuku did just enough — 18 offensive rebounds, 17-for-48 from the field, 17-for-32 at the foul line.

Coach Latoya Wily was a senior, playing for then-coach Wendy Anae, when Kahuku won the OIA title in 2004. They repeated in ’05 after Wily went off to college, and the title drought began.

“It’s amazing,” Wily said. “As a coach, it’s so rewarding to see all their hard work, and seeing them get rewarded tonight with the title. They wanted it. They really wanted it. They worked for it.”

Just when most or all of the frenzied crowd at James Alegre Gymnasium was convinced Kahuku couldn’t win without her, Naeata fouled out with 1:10 left. The lead was 57-55. Instead of wilting against Kalani’s fullcourt press, the Lady Raiders sent Aja Tapusoa back in, and they scored again.

“We already know, our whole team, that’s not the first time we’ve needed the next man up,” Wily said.

Maya Claytor came through as the next-man-up point guard, hit three free throws, and after some heroic comeback shooting by Kalani — the Lady Falcons trailed 47-37 entering the fourth quarter — Meleane Tonga stepped to the foul line.

Tonga had missed two foul shots earlier in the fourth.

“We talked to her. We knew she was going to pull it out,” Naeata said.

This time, Tonga swished both free throws to give Kahuku a 63-59 lead, icing the win. It wasn’t pretty, but it was solid-steel strong. Defense. Rebounding. The will to do whatever it took, up and down the lineup. Tapusoa: eight points, 11 rebounds. Tati Kamae: six rebounds, four steals.

At one point in the second half, Naeata sank seven free throws in a row. Fatigue caught up with her, and she only made one of her next five tries. Before she was disqualified, Naeata hit her final two charity shots. In the final quarter, the Lady Raiders shot 10-for-17 at the line, accounting for all but six points there.

Naeata was 9-for-16 from the field, 13-for-18 from the free-throw line, and hit two treys along the way. When she wasn’t slashing to the rim, she posted up and drew more fouls.

Kahuku took 32 free throws and made 17. They got away with that poor trade off — one point on many possessions — by limiting Kalani to just three treys.

In eight consecutive wins since the previous loss to Kahuku, Kalani won by a margin of at least 20 points six times. The exceptions were a 51-44 win over a McKinley squad that was fighting for survival, and a 38-34 semifinal win over No. 10 Mililani on Tuesday.

Kalani (20-7 overall) had more than its share of empty possessions, quick-shot decisions while nobody was in position to crash the offensive boards. It’s an approach that wreaked havoc on many opponents, but Kahuku’s rebounding prowess is unmatched in the OIA.

Kamakawiwo‘ole scored 16 of her team-high 21 points in the second half, and sophomore guard Kalena Halunajan had 15 of her 19 before intermission. Akiona chipped in 10 points. The Falcons rallied majestically in the final quarter — 50 percent from the field, 8-for-9 at the foul line — but never seemed to be in a consistent rhythm all night.

That was never more evident than from the arc, where they were 3-for-17 (18 percent). Inside the arc, Kalani shot 18-for-29 (62 percent). After taking just eight free throws in the first half, they were 10-for-13 in the second, 14-for-21 on the night.

Kahuku outrebounded Kalani 42-30, grabbing a whopping 18 offensive boards. Kalani had just seven caroms on the offensive glass.

And finally, some tidy and tasty OIA girls basketball championship game records courtesy of our resident mad librarian, Jerry Campany:

>> Naeata’s 33 points is the third-most by a player in the OIA girls championship game. Brandy Richardson of Kalaheo has the two highest totals. She scored 35 points in the ’00 final and 41 in the ’01 title game. She went on to play at UC Santa Barbara, and then coached at Radford. She is now a referee and actually worked in the D-II title game prior to the Kahuku-Kalani matchup. The fourth-highest was 30 points by Monica Faria of Kaiser in ’89.

>> The 122 combined points by Kahuku and Kalani is the most ever in one game. The previous high was 121 points in ’09 when Farrington defeated Roosevelt 71-50.

>> Kalani’s 59 points is the most by a losing team in the OIA final. The previous mark was 56 points by Kahuku in a loss to Kaiser for the ’89 title.

At Radford
Kalani (20-7) 13 11 13 22 — 59
Kahuku (15-4) 13 17 17 16 — 63
Kalani: Kamalu Kamakawiwo‘ole 21, Daesha Viela 0, Lilehina Oyama 0, Alayna Akiona 10, Kalena Halunajan 19, Heidi Kishaba 0, Shelby McDaniel 5, Kandyce Woods 4.
Kahuku: Meleane Tonga 5, Kalia Kaahu 0, Si‘itia Cravens 0, Lela Tonga 0, Tati Kamae 2, Aja Tapusoa 8, Liana Holani 0, Serina Aumua-Tuisavura 1, Leiah Naeata 33, Maya Claytor 14, Trisha Faumuina 0.
3-point goals: Kalani 3 (Akiona 2, Kamakawiwo‘ole), Kahuku 5 (Claytor 3, Naeata 2).

Kahuku won its first OIA girls basketball title since 2005. Photo by Jamm Aquino/Star-Advertiser.


  1. Burgla January 25, 2019 1:30 am

    Congratulations to kahuku! Latoya Wily is coach of the year! Kalani has a great team of hardworking girls but no coaching to speak of. It showed tonight once again that a solid coach will beat a talented team with no coaching. Kahuku earned their chip and deserves it.

  2. Good Story January 25, 2019 4:21 am

    Sooooo proud of these Lady Raiders….cheeeehooooo!!!! So happy for them, their family, the Coach and our community “where the salt winds blow day after day”.

  3. Four Quarters January 25, 2019 6:48 am

    Good game, congratulations Kahuku. Their cheering section is so loud.

  4. What The? January 25, 2019 8:15 am

    Congrats to Kahuku and Coach Wily, who was just a little better than the Kalani Coach. This is what I mean:

    Kalani, overall has more talent, deeper bench and conditioned players than Kahuku. Not sure why Kalani didn’t press from the beginning. Yes you’ll give up a few easy baskets at times, but Kahuku is not a good ball handling team and that fast pace play would possibly get them tired, which could affect their shot. In fact, if you re-watch the game, over 80 percent of the time, Kahuku drove to the right. (not sure why Kalani coach didn’t have his players for them to their left hand).

    Anyway good win Red Raiders. ######East Side

  5. 88 January 25, 2019 11:59 am

    Kahuku beat the twice already. So I would say the more talented team comes from the North Shore.

  6. lovethisgame_gowarriors January 25, 2019 12:53 pm

    @What The? Go apply for the Kalani Coaching job.

    You must still be focused on the Varsity pre season team. I Been following this team and boy have they progressed so much.

    IF IT AINT BROKE DONT FIX IT! If the right side is a go why not keep going? Force the girls to go left, I’ve seen them do it too.

    TEAM BASKETBALL! From their bench to the 5 on the court I seen nothing but GREAT TEAM EFFORT! I wish I was part of their team. So much TEAM PRIDE!

    Next Man Up Motto is rocking it tho! Amazing at how much heart they play with and for their team! They didnt let anything stop them from playing til the buzzer went off.

    And their fans!! My goodness! The ENERGY IS AMAZING!

  7. TIA THOMPSON January 25, 2019 2:36 pm

    @What The?

    Gurrllll give it up already! The “talented” team won the title! And beat them TWICE!!! Good Job Lady Raiders! Go Big RED!!!

  8. #UNCLE January 25, 2019 4:50 pm

    What the?…give credit where credit is due!

    Ps they did press kahuku in the beginning and it never worked.

    Both teams have talent, determination, and a plan.

    Kalani, had height…….
    Great battle between these 2 teams.

    Shout out to my niece “Leiah Naeata #23”

  9. Burgla January 25, 2019 5:30 pm

    Kalani got out coached yet again! @what the? Can probably do a better job at Kalani!! Coach Wily is the driving force for kahuku; she’s really good! It’s plain to see those girls would crush a brick wall for her. Even if Kalani didn’t give away both games; Coach Wily would have out coached mok. Congrats to the red raiders!

  10. No worries January 25, 2019 5:34 pm

    Burgla you just mad slow 23 wasn’t playing.

  11. Burgla January 25, 2019 5:57 pm

    #uncle is right that press couldn’t save they butt this time. And the height? They never used it effectively. I liked Naeata from day 1. She’s a terror on the court! Be proud #uncle!

  12. Burgla January 25, 2019 8:33 pm

    No worries; if you know me say so; otherwise shut the hell up! And start worrying cause no one likes you. You have been exposed.

  13. Burgla January 25, 2019 8:39 pm

    You should have stayed off of this thread; no worries it’s obviously you! Who mad? This about kahuku giving you the business and celebrating their victory! Deuces Loser!

  14. M.T. January 25, 2019 9:07 pm

    @88, Kalani has 2 kids who already signed to play in college. Akiona has already been getting interest from D2’s. The only player getting interest to play in college from Kahuku is Leiah.

  15. M.T. January 25, 2019 9:15 pm

    Let not go overboard here. Kahuku did fine. Congrats to them. Wily make minimal adjustments. What signs of great coaching is she doing? The OIA is weak. They should win. The only team with similar talent is Kalani. When Kahuku played the following teams, where was this great coaching?

    vs. Iolani – lost by 26
    vs. Mid Pac – lost
    vs. SHA – lost

    Mid Pac and SHA were last place in the ILH and both beat Kahuku. And that was with Sisi before she left.

    vs. Maryknoll – lost by 30

    Good coaches do not lose by 26 and 30. In those games, their press breaker never worked. And at no point was the breaker modified. Good coaches make adjustments.

    So, great job winning OIA, great accomplishment. But let’s not get carried away. Wily is an average coach at best. I am sure in time she will continue to improve. But in year 2 she’s average. And nothing wrong with that.

  16. Mario Claytor January 26, 2019 2:08 am

    M. T. —Make sure you know what you are talking about when you say who is getting looks. Leah and the other sophomore are both getting looks. And they are not from NAIA schools. Lol! Kalani is a good team just got beat twice by the same team. I don’t even think Kahuku even trail except for at the beginning of the game at all. So who needed to make adjustments. Lol!

    You pointed out all the teams they loss but what about the wins. Anyone can get beat on any given day. They won 15 straight games and beat the defending champs with the so called best players. It was a great game so stop hating.

  17. HILifer January 26, 2019 7:18 am

    88 sounds like a whiner and physically inferior to other posters. He can’t even guarantee that an OIA team, with the league’s SIX tourney slots, will even make the finals. Thanks.

  18. 88 January 26, 2019 8:30 am

    And with those 3 future college players they still lost. That’s called GREAT COACHING. Going 14-0 in the regular season and beating the #4 team in the State TWICE is called GREAT COACHING. You highlight Kahukus PRESEASON record of 1-4 but fail to realize the purpose of PRESEASON games. Yes they loss to Mid Pacific, who are currently at the bottom of the ILH but in that same PRESEASON they beat Kamehameha, who is currently playing for 1st place in the ILH. You switch the Kalani and Kahuku coaching staff and Kalani wins the OIA cause like the announcer stated during the game “ her kids would run through a brick wall for her”. That’s called GREAT COACHING.

  19. Jamoajam January 26, 2019 12:57 pm

    @M.T you sound really envious of Coach Wily.

    How can you say she’s not a great coach??? You talk about OIA is weak but yet kalani is ranked top 5. Kahuku beat them twice! Beat em once at home, then again with all there starters, Kamalu dropped 21, and kahuku still found a way to win.

    Kalani and all these ILH teams are full of club/year round ballers. Kahuku has maybe 2 at the most that play year round. The rest of the girls play basketball only during basketball season.

    Tell me what non great coach as u say can take a group of girls like this, that she has limited time to work with, get them into shape, mold them, get them to buy into her system and into their roles, beat two top 5 ranked teams, undefeated in league play and win a OIA championship???…I’ll wait
    (Mind you this is all after losing there best player, all state fab 15 forward/center)

    Watch the game again, watch their fans, their bench, heir coaching staff, watch the pride, passion, heart and discipline! Maybe you can learn something!

  20. Burgla January 27, 2019 12:54 am

    Where ya at # no worries? You wanna come on this thread and point fingers? Who sed anything about #23? I know you the sorry coach of Kalani. Cause your favorite response is no worries. And you #23 ONLY hater! I’m sure paths will be crossed at the state’s wanna see what ya say then. Kahuku got yo number sucka!

  21. Jamoajam January 27, 2019 9:32 am

    @Burgla aren’t you a kalani guy? Seemed like the kalani girls have no respect for the coach. Every time out there not even paying attention to him and having a good yell. That’s sad cuz he’s wasting his talent.

  22. Bball January 27, 2019 1:32 pm

    People talk about coaches on here. How is a player supposed to play without a coach. Coaching is a hard job. Kalani girls was walking all over the court while Kahuku’s girls were diving for each ball. They wanted it more for themselves,their coach and community. You can be a great coach but if you’re players are acting like babies, they’re not really coachable. Is that still on the coach? #CongratsKahuku

  23. Burgla January 27, 2019 5:23 pm

    Coaches as well as officials are fair game because they have a direct affect on the game and their players. They practice and play all season long so at some point coaching has to be the reason for winning and losing. Unless an official screws one team and rewards another;thus fair to be criticized. Coach Wily did more with less while Kalani did less with more.

  24. 1SLAND3RS January 27, 2019 6:26 pm

    @ M.T u sound like u got something against Coach Wily. Im not from Kalani or Kahuku but I follow scoringlive and hawaiiprep. How do you know how many players getting looked at? Bringing up those 3 girls who go offers already like it changed the outcome of the game or something. That’s too funny. What kind of coach loses by that many points you asked? Did you consider the team was young and still trying to figure themselves out? That is the point of preseason, expose teams to the competition so they can work. Look at the progress and how far they’ve come. It’s a shame how much credit you dont want to give. It’s not about you, it’s about the teams and their progress. I dont see no shade coming from Coach Wily. Watching this game was awesome. The two teams definitely made it seem like a championship game. Let these girls enjoy their moment. They did it with their so-called “Star Player” who left out the blues. That girl was LAST SEASON , she didnt contribute to this years season so let’s focus on the ones on the roster now. Kalani and Kahuku were the best teams for this game. Let’s remind ourselves that there can only be one winner. Best of luck to both teams in the State Tournament. And to the girls who already got their offers to the next level, KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK! YOU DESERVE IT!

  25. Burgla January 28, 2019 12:04 am

    Support to all parents and people that care about the girls!

  26. Burgla January 28, 2019 12:37 am

    No worries? It has come to my attention that you may be the lackey for kalani. Is this true? No one should denigrate these young ladies who are better than those supposedly coaches and are constantly blamed for the failure that is Kalani coaches. I know who you are as well as you know me. I am Burgla ask about me!

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