It will be a truly rugged 2020-21 girls basketball season statewide. Just about every title contender this season, including two-time champ ‘Iolani, returns most of its starters and key reserves.
>> ‘Iolani has Division I all-tournament MVP Lily Wahinekapu, Alexis Huntimer, Jovi Lefotu, Alexsandra Huntimer and Kyra Tanabe back next season for the three-peat dream.
>> Between Julianna Losalio-Watson, Braelyn Kauhi and Jayla Medeiros, next year’s Konawaena Wildcats should have enough rebounding and interior defense to keep the tradition strong. Kayla Pak’s emergence gives coach Bobbie Awa some flexibility with the backcourt. High-scoring Kaliana Salazar-Harrell can run the point sometimes and set Pak up on the arc, or Pak could run the offense and free up her classmate for more open looks.
>> Waiakea will lose all-tournament selection Keeli-Jade Smith, Tayvia Cabatbat, Bethany Honma and Hawaii signee Kelsie Imai to graduation. Returning: Destynee Williams, Jazelle Dorser and several more underclassmen.
>> Kahuku will miss Tati Kamae, post defender Mary Fonoimoana, lockdown defender Serina Aumua-Tuisavura and reserve Trisha Faumuina. They will have the 1-2 combo of Leiah Naeata and Maya Claytor back. The Lady Raiders always have enough teamwork and athleticism to dominate in the OIA, but the development of Naeata and Claytor is key. So is the improvement of next year’s returnees. Will they play more basketball in the offseason? The age-old question remains.
>> Maryknoll will lose sharpshooter Kyla Neumann to graduation, but the rest of the starting unit and key reserves will return. The Spartans will be hungry after being hit by the flu bug during state-tourney week. Aloha Akaka, Mahalo Akaka, Serenity Moananu, Lily Koki — there are very few groups of four stronger and more experienced. Sophomore Kira Kaopua saw valuable minutes and will figure into a key role. Taimane Faleafine-Auwae, their 6-foot freshman, showed flashes of offensive potential. Defensively, she is possibly the best shot blocker in the state already.
>> Lahainaluna will bring back its entire roster after a rough season that provided growth, along with another MIL title. The recovery of Abigail Akamine (knee) is a big factor, but the Lady Lunas still competed well at the state tourney with sophomores Taylor Eldredge and Kiera Kaniho and junior Ashley Akamine.
Those are the teams that finished among the top six in the D-I state tourney, and each one will be loaded.
>> King Kekaulike will lose Cailyn Ukida to graduation, but key players Ledjan Pahukoa, a freshman, and junior Namahana Kaeo-Young will be back. With two freshmen and four sophomores this season, coach Cy Peters has a tremendous nucleus to build on.
>> Hanalani is in no rush to move into Division I, but this team would fare well. Premier defender Lishae Scanlan is just a sophomore and was named MVP of the D-II state tourney as the Royals edged ILH regular-season champion Mid-Pacific in the final. They will miss rebounder Tatem Foster, but Maria Ralar (freshman), Faith Mersburg (freshman) and Charli-Ann Hiers (sophomore) will return. Hanalani has a real shot to be a Top 10 team next season regardless of classification.
>> Mid-Pacific went 20-4 and will have leading scorer Madi Sagawa back as a senior in ’20-21. Senior Paige Fahrni will be missed in the trenches. Also departing soon: senior Caylina Linda, senior Hannah Suehiro. Starter Lauren Hayashi and sixth man Mckenzie Lee will return.
>> Kamehameha loses Malie Marfil, Haley Masaki, Esther Naum and Lagi Sua-Godinet to graduation, but Camille Feary, Alize Pratt and Maddison Mangalao will return with all the opportunity to step up and go beyond what the Warriors did.
>> Punahou has a void to fill at point guard with Caitlyn Andrade-Tomimoto graduating. Also leaving a void: Tara Kaneshiro. The returnee situation is strong, however. Sia Liilii and Tati Burciaga-Reyes give the Buffanblu a solid combo in the paint and, with Burciaga-Reyes, a dangerous shooter from deep. Melody Lum will be a senior next season. There is major depth here ready to step in and make a bigger difference next season.
>> The Seabury Hall Spartans may never be the same after Anau Tuiva‘i and Amerra Waterford graduate, but the rest of the team will be back, including Pio Triva‘i, who is a sophomore, and her classmate, Leela Waterford. PG Brittlay Carillo also is a sophomore.
>> Waimea fell short at states, losing to Seabury Hall in the D-II quarterfinals. Keirstin Gummerus and Kaye Serapio are just juniors, and Hazel Serapio is a sophomore. They reached the semifinals last season.
>> Kalani’s development over the course of the season was significant. The Lady Falcons lose Lile Oyama to graduation, but promising guard Hallie Birdsong is just a junior. Guards Cassidy Kelso and Mandi Haraga are sophomores, and 5-11 sophomore Jennesice Sueing showed plenty of potential in the post.
>> Radford will lose versatile senior Angela Howell and a solid contributor in Ashlyn McGarrah to graduation, but junior post scorer and rebounder Angel Asaah will be back. So will the backcourt of Manutagi Seei and Kailani Tenorio.
More underclassmen on the radar.
>> Dominique Pacheco will graduate soon at Kamehameha-Hawaii, but second-leading scorer Sara Schubert, a freshman, will be back to take on a bigger role.
>> Damien had one of its most successful seasons, and it promises to get even better as freshman Teresa Anakalea continues to evolve.
>> Lanai has a promising ninth grader in 5-8 forward Keala Montgomery, who doubled-doubled (15/17) against Campbell in the D-II fifth-place game. Another scorer, Haley Ostrander, is also a freshman.
>> Hilo. Sophomore Keirstyn Agonias will have a larger role next season as six Vikings graduate, including Keani Midel, Jamila Collins-Ebanez and Mindi Kawaha.
>> One of the teams I never got to see this season was Kauai, which has junior Amalya Sales and sophomore Marissa Layosa. The Red Raiders made a strong push this season and knocked off defending champion Waimea twice. Coach Clarence Sales has his youth teams training year round. Maybe it’s a matter of time as the gap closes.
>> Keaau has Anela Gonzales-Tremaine, a junior who had huge scoring outputs against smaller schools, including a high of 38 against Honokaa. Hilo limited her to seven points, but she also scored 21 points against No. 10 Mid-Pacific.
>> Kaena Tagabi of Honokaa had a stellar season. When I came across former Dragons coach Daphne Honma at the state tournament, she said she would revive the travel team that originated from Honokaa this summer. Talent aplenty since the beginning of time there.
>> Chloe Clemons of Kalaheo is also on the radar. The 5-7 junior averaged 15 ppg.
>> Farrington has two key contributors who will be back next season: freshman Teizya Telefoni and junior Shaylen Tatupu-Timu.
There is more talent scattered across the state, as well as a lot of incoming freshmen who will do their work. The programs that have dropped a level or two over the past decade are plentiful, but the ability to make a team competitive again is just two or three players away. Sometimes, those players are already on the roster, and just 10,000 shooting reps away from making an impact.