Todd Rickard has seen more than his share of great team basketball.
The longtime Lahainaluna girls basketball coach has high expectations every winter for the Maui Interscholastic League’s dynastic program. For now, though, that elite standard is just a bit out of reach, and Rickard is none too pleased. After a 49-45 loss to ‘Iolani on Thursday at the McKinley Black and Gold Classic, he was as cranky as an rusty engine.
“I’m disgusted. We didn’t have one plus tonight. No effort. No hustle. No execution. Jogging up the court,” Rickard said after the preseason-opening loss. “But the girls needed this.”
Indeed, with just eight players in uniform — the same number Konawaena suited up earlier in the day for a win over Sacred Hearts — the normally blazing-fast Lunas seemed to be motoring on fumes at times. Two starters — Susie Namoa (knee) and Sheilaika Agbayani (foot) — sat out with injuries, and though Lahainaluna rallied from an 11-3 deficit to take a a 20-19 lead into the half, there wasn’t much gas left in the tank. That’s the nature of preseason hoops, especially in week 1 of competition.
“We’re supposed to be in better shape than this,” Rickard said. “I’ve never seen this team before.”
It was a typically muggy night in McKinley Student Council Gymnasium. ‘Iolani went 10 deep, and Raiders coach Dean Young kept sending in waves of substitutes. He must’ve seen the fatigue in the Lunas, too. ‘Iolani brought heavy fullcourt pressure in the third quarter and never ceded ground. With freshman Lily Lefotu Wahinekapu (18 points, seven rebounds) sparking the Raiders, they roared to a 37-26 lead and hung on down the stretch.
Veteran guards Braeanna Estabillo (14 points) and Rachael Balagso (10) were steady, and the Lunas had two chances to tie the game on 3-point bombs in the final minute, only to miss. Rickard wasn’t going to be happy with his team’s performance regardless of victory or defeat.
“We didn’t deserve to win that game. If we had won, they might’ve thought, ‘It’s OK to play like this.’ We can’t do this against teams like Konawaena, Kamehameha and Maryknoll,” he said, noting three other powerhouse teams in the tournament.
The Lady Lunas don’t have much time to dwell on the loss. They meet defending ILH champion Maryknoll in a 1 p.m. game on Friday.