The theme of girls basketball, at least at the McKinley Black and Gold Classic, seemed to be youth.
As in team rosters light on seniors and heavy with underclassmen. That hasn’t been a detriment, though, especially for the ‘Iolani Raiders.
With freshman Lily Lefotu Wahinekapu’s versatility at the forefront, the Raiders overpowered Farrington 62-35 on Saturday afternoon at McKinley Student Council Gym. ‘Iolani went 2-1 in the tourney, enjoying an early scoring explosion from senior Kellie Okamura, who scored all nine of her points in the opening quarter. That helped the Raiders open a 26-10 lead, and coach Dean Young put his reserves to work early.
Lefotu Wahinekapu finished with 10 points and Shyann Kahalehoe pumped four 3-pointers and led the Raiders with 17 points. Alexis Hunter was energetic on the boards and on the perimeter defensively. She also hit three treys and tallied nine points.
For the only two seniors, Okamura and Kayla Malta, it’s a unique new chemistry. Four of their teammates — Alexssandra Hunter, Kyra Tanabe, Lefotu Wahinekapu and Alexis Hunter — ninth graders.
“It feels weird ‘cause I’ve been in this program since I was, like, seventh grade, so, to be a senior is kind of overwhelming, but it’s fun,” Okamura said.
“I feel like we need to set better examples around the younger girls, so we can’t be playing around in front of them,” Malta said.
That focus and work ethic was on display throughout the tournament. The Raiders edged Lahainaluna 49-45 on Thursday and lost to defending state champion Konawaena 46-41 before beating Farrington.
“We’re just kind of seeing how all the new players, the freshmen, mix with the returning players. We weren’t expecting a lot, but we got good outcomes,” Okamura said.
“We actually got to see our full potential, what we can actually accomplish this season,” Malta added.
Next weekend, the Raiders travel to the Big Island and will play Konawaena and Lahainaluna at the Waiakea Invitational.
Beyond that, the rugged Interscholastic League of Honolulu schedule awaits.
“Honestly, our team, we have a lot of young people, but they’re good, so we’ll see what will happen,” Okamura said. “They proved it in this tournament that they can play with us. I’m excited to see what will happen in the regular season.”
Malta and Okamura both said that volleyball standout Saige Ka‘ahaaina-Torres will join the hoops team soon. The senior is 6-foot-1 with hops. If she arrives, that will help Malta, one of the few post players.
“I’m so short and I’m one of the tallest girls on this team. I try to push the other centers around, but it’s so hard,” she said.