Prep Hoopbook: Maryknoll rolls, Kahuku girls struggling, Maui wins MIL opener

First-year Maryknoll head coach Tony Ho‘olulu has the Spartans busy in preseason. Maryknoll is 2-2 after a 67-18 win over Moanalua on Tuesday. Paul Honda/

It sounded fantastic on paper: Kahuku at Maryknoll.

The reality is anything but fabulous. The girls season, as always, got a two-week head start on the boys. That hasn’t helped Kahuku, which had seven players try out for varsity. The Lady Raiders’ proud history and tradition hasn’t had the same clout in recent seasons, but the same is true for many public schools across the islands.

Kahuku’s girls volleyball team rode a hot streak to win the OIA Division I championship less than two weeks ago. Yet, none of those players play basketball. This was not the case just a decade or two ago. Volleyball, with its popularity and steep cost of investment, seems to have taken away some of the best basketball athletes.

Over the past decade, several coaches have pushed for offseason club play on the North Shore, but eventually, those promising young players gravitated to volleyball instead. When there have been standout players, some of them have departed for the mainland before senior year. One of them was all-state guard Leiah Naeata, who played her senior season in Las Vegas rather than risk losing it to a Hawaii cancellation due to the pandemic. Naeata was prophetic about that when winter sports were axed last season.

It’s still hard to believe Kahuku barely has a team.

“We are rebuilding,” coach Latoya Wily said. “Like many other teams, we almost didn’t have enough girls to make a team.”

Kahuku opted out of the game at Maryknoll. Moanalua filled in, and Na Menehune did their best with three starters sidelined by injuries. Maryknoll’s defense was on center stage in a 67-18 runaway win at Maryknoll Community Center.

Maryknoll coach Tony Ho‘ohulu chats with his team during a first-half time out. The Spartans overpowered a depleted Moanalua squad in preseason action. Paul Honda/

Lilly Koki, with 11 first-half points against Moanalua, is basically a grown woman in attack mode at all times. Taimane Faleafine-Auwae was scoreless in the first quarter, when Moanalua hung close.

It was 6-all in the first few minutes and 12-6 after one quarter. Faleafine-Auwae, a 6-foot-1 center, then got aggressive with the ball and on the glass to score eight points in the second quarter. By the end of the half, Maryknoll was up big, 37-12, wearing down a Moanalua team that suited up just five players due to injuries.

This season, the separator factor for the Spartans is likely to be Faleafine-Auwae, who finished with a game-high 18 points. Sophomore Ciera Tugade-Agasiva hustled for 18 and Koki had 15. The two played roughly two-thirds of the game as the Spartans ran a mix of high post and wing pick-and-roll packages. The consistent looks for cutters at the rim was pure and old school, but Moanalua’s toughness was also undeniable.

Despite the height disadvantage and zero substitutes available, Na Menehune played man defense for all 32 minutes. They attacked Maryknoll’s man defense and got to the line — when they weren’t fatigued and turning the ball over.

Maryknoll’s first-year head coach, Tony Ho‘olulu, saw his team go 2-1 at the ‘Iolani Classic over the weekend, losing the opener to nationally-ranked Archbishop Mitty (Calif.), then had one practice on Monday.

“We’ve just got to see where we’re at. We’re very young. Got a couple of good older ones. Lilly is our leader. Taimane’s great in the post. Good defensive presence. Ciera’s pretty tough, too,” Ho‘olulu said.

Tugade-Agasiva was a defensive force and used her high motor in transition often. Moanalua ran the floor when it could.

“I think attrition didn’t help. They’re really short-handed tonight. I think they might be something to look at in the (OIA) East a little later on,” Ho‘olulu said. “You could see they have about five girls in street clothes. They have some size in street clothes.”

Rheanna Nobleza, a speedy freshman, led Moanalua with 10 points.

At 3-1, Maryknoll has balance, speed, strength, cohesion and defense. Facing Archbishop Mitty in game one set the bar nicely.

“They’re a really good team, and then we get to play some local teams. It’s fortunate and unfortunate that we get to play each other four times in the ILH. It’s very good competition,” Ho‘ohulu said. “We want to play the best. It’ll tell you where you’re at real fast and what you need to work on.”

Maryknoll will play Mid-Pacific and Maui later this week.

League opener in Pukalani

Across the channel, the Maui Interscholastic League opened regular-season play on Tuesday night. That’s right, the MIL has counting games roughly one to two weeks before the rest of the state.

Maui, under coach Vic Aguirre, went to King Kekaulike and won handily, 50-24. In the 2019-20 season, it was Maui and King Kekaulike that made plenty of noise, shaking up the MIL and dynastic frontrunner Lahainaluna.

Then came the pandemic. A lost 2020-21 season. And now, the Pahukoa sisters, including Lejdan Pahukoa, are now on Lahainaluna’s roster. Pahukoa was a Star-Advertiser all-state Fab 15 selection as a freshman two seasons ago.

Of the three powerhouses in the MIL back then, it was Lahainaluna and King Kekaulike that eventually qualified for the state tournament. Aguirre was hired in the offseason, replacing longtime coach Gilbert Silva, who had retired.

Lahainaluna wound up at the ‘Iolani Classic last week, losing to Nevada state champion Centennial (69-36), then beating Kamehameha (34-26), and losing to Maryknoll (42-37).

Before Maui and Lahainaluna have an epic showdown, the Sabers are in the midst of a crazy, busy week. They will land on Oahu soon and play in Damien’s tournament with games against Kamehameha on Thursday, Damien on Friday and Waipahu on Saturday. After the matchup with Waipahu at 11 a.m., Maui will head to Maryknoll for a 2 p.m. battle.

Four games in three days. Then, next Tuesday, Maui goes to Lahainaluna.

It’s a good time to be a Sabers girls basketball player.


  1. Nolies December 15, 2021 12:00 pm

    The volleyball girls have club season at the same time that girls basketball is going. Makes it too hard on the girls to try to play both. At NSVBC they sometimes schedule practice same time as basketball. It’s hard cause the likelihood that they can play college b-ball is low compared to college vball. A few years ago their was an article that said that per capita Hawaii had the most D1 Womens volleyball players.

  2. Noliesisjustexcuses December 17, 2021 8:20 am

    a few years ago per capita- DONT EXPLAIN IT hahaha

  3. Paul Honda December 20, 2021 12:24 pm

    Good point. Leiah did play club ball there in the summer and then with her school team in fall outside league during senior year.
    So yes, she did play with her school team as a senior. Just not in the school season.
    Any more questions, ILH Strong?

  4. Paul Honda December 24, 2021 4:34 pm

    Senior year, senior season. Guess how most players in high school basketball get recruited? You know it, through club ball.
    I’m not saying it’s unnecessary to play a high school season, but Leiah said that getting exposure in the summer and fall were crucial. It worked for her. I’m happy for her and her family.
    Any more semantics questions?

  5. Paul Honda December 26, 2021 11:20 am

    Good info. I’m glad her uncle is sharing this. Which side of the family are you on, her mom’s or dad’s?

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