The Lady Lunas really, really wanted to get a win.
Especially facing the prospect of a winless trip to Honolulu. They got their wish on Saturday afternoon with a 50-42 victory over Kamehameha on the final day of the McKinley Black and Gold Classic. The senior backcourt of Braeanna Estabillo and Rachael Balagso led the day for the Maui Interscholastic League champions. Estabillo scored 20 points and Balagso added 10 for the Lady Lunas (1-2).
“We’re still trying to figure out everything. We have to find a way to mesh,” Balagso said, noting the absence two starters, including Susie Namoa.
Junior Erin Ho‘okano provided a boost with eight points, attacking from the high post and giving her team some physicality under the rim.
“We want her to gain more confidence in herself. She’s doing OK,” Estabillo said.
Lahainaluna played three games in four days with eight players suited up.
“They keep coming back. They keep fighting,” Lady Lunas coach Todd Rickard said. “Things we didn’t see in the first night, what I see every day at practice, each and every day, they improve. They’re more aggressive now going to the basket. And position-wise, we’re more active and aggressive defensively. I think we definitely made progress.”
It’s kind of our game and we’ve got to stick to it. Sometimes we get away from it because we’re missing girls, but they wanted to fullcourt press today and I gave them the green light.
Lahainaluna’s injury situation was similar to Kamehameha’s. Key players like Kalina Obrey and Jewel Paaluhi-Caulk didn’t suit up due to injuries for Coach Joseph Cho.
The Lunas’ fullcourt press was a major weapon early on, but Kamehameha cut into the lead, getting a steal and layup by Malie Marfil just before the halftime buzzer. That cut the score to 24-23. The sustained trapping and pressure, however, created problems for the Warriors, particularly without Paaluhi-Caulk.
Balagso and Estabillo combined for 10 points in the third quarter, but Kamehameha got scoring from Marfil, Noelle Sua-Godinet, Haley Masaki and Kiana Vierra to open a 36-34 lead. Lahainaluna rallied in the fourth quarter, stifling the Warriors with constant pressure.
Vierra, the wing sharpshooter, had double duty helping with ballhandling. She finished with eight points. Kearny Santiago tallied seven points and Marfil added six points.
Lahainaluna is gritting and grinding through this stretch without their full starting lineup. The long minutes, younger players learning on the job — they’re OK with that.
“That’s why we train so hard. Coach is never satisfied and very straight-forward in a good way,” Balagso said.