No Lily, no worries.
The top-ranked ‘Iolani Raiders faced another bout of adversity, and again, they remain undefeated. With starting guard Lily Lefotu Wahinekapu sidelined by an ankle injury suffered at practice, younger sister Jovi stepped up with 12 points to spark the Raiders in a 62-39 road win over No. 2 Maryknoll on Wednesday night.
Senior Taylor Wu finished with 14 points and sophomore Kyra Tanabe tallied 13 as the speedy Raiders are the first team to get to 2-0 in Interscholastic League of Honolulu play. The visitors shot 8-for-17 from the arc, and limited Maryknoll to 3-for-14 from deep.
Though Maryknoll has virtually an all-new lineup this season, the fact that the Spartans had lost only a few games in the past three years wasn’t lost on the Raiders.
“I think we did good. I’m proud of my girls. I think there are some things we can work on for the next game. This gives us a lot of confidence and shows us we can do it since we haven’t beaten Maryknoll in long time,” Wu said. “With us pressing, we’re really fast and we can steal the ball. A lot of teams know we’re coming with the press, but we’re pretty confident and we can read the ball really well.”
‘Iolani lost point guard Tori Maeda to a knee injury late in the summer. Wu was gone for a weekend during preseason visiting Cal Baptist. Now Wahinekapu is injured. The Raiders have yet to miss a beat. The aggressiveness of Lefotu was crucial.
“I see that a lot in Jovi. She works hard at practice and so does the whole team. Everyone’s good and they can play to their capability when they want to, and Jovi just went off tonight,” Wu said. “She played really good.”
“She’s getting to the rim,” Young added. “She’s looks like a lefty. She finishes mostly at the rim with her left. I think her sister had a talk with her, to have a bigger role today and step up.”
Lefotu is thriving as an active wing who can attack the paint.
“Knowing that my sister is out and she’s one of our top scorers. I had to step up,” she said. “It’s different without her, but as a team we all contributed and adjusted. When I come in, when I’m not starting, I know that I can bring in energy and run on the fast breaks. That really helps us.”
Jalen Tanuvasa paced Maryknoll with 16 points, but the young Lady Spartans lost for the first time after 10 nonconference victories. The running, pressing Spartans met their match in ‘Iolani, and for the first time, Maryknoll looked like the younger team for more than a few occasional moments.
“That’s a very good ‘Iolani team. They do very well with what they do. They share the ball. They’re very unselfish. They look for each other,” Maryknoll coach Chico Furtado said. “You think they’re only a 3-point shooting team, but when you take that away, they’ll cut to the basket. We gave up 16 points on eight layups in the first half. Are they 23 points better than us? I hope not. Some of that might be our youth, first-game jitters. They’re young, too, but their youth has one year of varsity experience under their belt. The thing that was most disappointing tonight, man, they just outworked us. They get to loose balls, they get offensive rebounds. They were just quicker and we always talk about we’ve got to match our opponent’s intensity and hustle, and surpass that. Part of that might’ve been shell-shock.”
‘Iolani, as always, was extremely fluid with the ball continuously moving in their motion offense. Defensively, they refrained from pressing fullcourt until around the 5-minute mark of the first quarter. That sparked a 12-0 run.
>> Tanabe to Alexandria Huntimer, who scored all six of her points in the first quarter, on a cut to the bucket for two points.
>> Huntimer then hit 1 of 2 free throws, then added a drive for a basket and free throw.
>> Kylie Yung’s 3-pointer from the left corner on a feed from Tanabe opened the lead to 14-3.
The home team never recovered. ‘Iolani had a seven-point lead to begin the second quarter when Jovi Wahinekapu Lefotu went to work. The freshman scored eight points a row — a drive for a bucket, a layup on cut to the paint, a follow shot and another layup on a pass from Alexis Huntimer — as the visitors opened the lead to 29-12.
After Wu splashed a corner 3 — Tanabe finished with five assists — the lead was 32-14.
The Spartans, who have no seniors on the roster, chipped into the margin. Back-to-back buckets by Tanuvasa trimmed the lead to 35-23, but the 8-0 run stopped there after a time out by Raiders coach Dean Young.
“We had already talked at halftime,” Young said. “We said, look, Maryknoll is a tough team. They’re a talented team. We told the girls, I guarantee you they’re going to make a run in the second half. They made a run and we pushed it back up to 17. That was huge for us.”
“Iolani got a drive to the bucket for a three-point play by Wu, a layup by Jovi Lefotu and a steal and layup by Alexis Huntimer. After Kanoe Kahalehoe fed Jovi Lefotu for a layup, the Raiders’ lead was up to 44-26 with 2:56 left in the third quarter.
Each team finished with 13 turnovers, but Maryknoll’s giveaways led to several transition baskets for ‘Iolani. Just a bit less patient than ‘Iolani when passing lanes were covered, when shots in the paint were contested. But the Spartans have a high ceiling, being a team without a senior, and they’ve got time to build on the experience of the loss.
“It’s a process,” Furtado said. “Now everyone’s kind of licking their chops because we lost our entire team, but I told our kids, look, we’re not making excuses, we’re not waiting until next year or two years. No, we’re playing now. Everybody else, ‘Iolani’s young. Punahou’s got a very young team with a boatload of sophomores that are doing well. We’re going to have to grow up in a hurry.”
Maryknoll has a mini-break of sorts before a three-game week: at Mid-Pacific on Monday, at Kamehameha on Wednesday and back at home against MPI on Friday (Dec. 14).
The Raiders seem to thrive whether they have plenty of game action or not.
“We’ll be pretty rested getting ready for Friday’s game against Kamehameha. We’re going to come in confident and have support from the team and everyone, and hope for the best,” Wu said.
‘Iolani’s defense, always in good position, rarely giving up a wide-open look, was in complete synchronicity. Alexis Huntimer was quick, almost effortless, making big plays on the defensive glass, making key passes in transition, and defending low posts and wings alike. She finished with seven points, a team-high nine rebounds, four assists and three steals.
“The key was for us to pull together, especially on defense. We had to play team defense. Tanuvasa is so hard to guard. You can’t guard her one-on-one. You can’t stop her. You just want to contain her,” Young said.
At Clarence T.C. Ching Gymnasium
‘Iolani (10-0, 2-0 ILH) 17 15 17 13 — 62
Maryknoll (10-1, 0-1 ILH) 10 5 17 7 — 39
Iolani: Alexis Huntimer 7, Taylor Wu 14, Kyra Tanabe 13, Peytyn Yee 0, Cameryn Ann Nagaji 0, Jovi Wahinekapu Lefotu 12, Kylie Yung 8, Kanoe Kahalehoe 2, Alexandria Huntimer 6.
Maryknoll: Kira Kaopua 2, Mahea Choy Foo 3, Serenity Moananu 9, Aloha Akaka 2, Jalen Tanuvasa 16, Reyana Balotcopo 3, Mahalo Akaka 2, Brandie Tobin 0, Kyla Neumann 0,
3-point goals—‘Iolani 8 (Wu 3, Tanabe 2, Yung 2, Alexis Huntimer), Maryknoll 3 (Choy Foo, Moananu, Balotcopo).