Three seasons ago, Amaya Oliver’s world was so bright.
Then came the knee injury in early 2018. The rehab. The comeback.
Oliver is almost all the way back. The 6-foot-1 senior hustled for 21 points and 12 rebounds, her blonde hairdo bouncing all over the hardwood as St. Mary’s (Stockton, Calif.) pulled away for a 60-44 win over Konawaena on Thursday in the opening round of the ‘Iolani Prep Classic.
It was not easy for St. Mary’s, which finished the 2018-19 season ranked No. 13 in California. The Rams lost in the first round of the playoffs. That was bittersweet for Oliver, who was rated among the Top 25 players in her class as a freshman when her team was ranked No. 1 nationally.
“I’m trying to win a state championship. We only made it to the first round in the NorCal (playoffs). We have a chip on our shoulder,” she said.
St. Mary’s coach Tom Gonsalves coaches Oliver in AAU with the Cal Stars program. He considers her “90 percent” at this point.
“During the summer, she could hardly move,” he recalled. “She’s made a lot of progress. She’s got offers from just about every mid-major on the West Coast. We’re hoping she gets some from the Pac-12.”
Her hunger is contagious. The Rams never lost composure despite seven 3-point bombs — five by freshman Braelyn Kauhi — in the first half by Konawaena, which trailed 25-24 at intermission. After a scoreless second quarter, Oliver had 15 points and eight boards after the break as the taller, energized Rams stifled the Wildcats.
“Motivation, morale has to be high to win games,” said Oliver, who said her favorite offer so far is from Fresno State. “I’m back at full strength. I’m looking to get more offers after this tournament here and our showcase in January.”
Point guard Tai Sherman was sharp, scoring 11 points and dishing three assists for St. Mary’s. Sophomore Sophia Lee splashed three treys in three attempts for nine points for the Rams, who left two key players back home. One, freshman Brooklyn Perry, averages 15 points per game. Coach Gonsalves she was set to travel with the team on Wednesday, but was kept at home when her father wasn’t able to get time off from work.
Senior Caiyle Kaupu added 13 points and seven rebounds for Konawaena. Kaliana Salazar-Harrell chipped in six points. The Wildcats shot 7-for-15 from the arc in the first half and 1-for-6 after the break.
South Medford (Ore.) 54, Kahuku 36
The pure shooting stroke of Eastern Washington signee Bella Pedrojetti was on display from near and far. The 5-foot-9 senior scored 17 points, including three treys, to lead the Panthers. Toni Coleman tallied 12 points and Kaili Chamberlin added 11.
“I don’t know if they looked crisp all game, but we’ll take the win,” South Medford coach Tom Cole said.
Tati Kamae led the Lady Raiders with 15 points and Leiah Naeata chipped in 10. Kahuku tied the game at 15 on a Naeata trey and took the lead on a breakaway layup by Kamae, 17-15, with 5:09 left in the first half.
“Hawaii is sometimes such an amazing place that sometimes we forget that we’re here to play basketball, and we let our guard down,” Cole said. “We know that every team we play from the island going to be tough and play hard for all 32 minutes. We hope to match that intensity.”
South Medford will play St. Mary’s in the semifinal round on Friday. The Panthers landed in Honolulu on Tuesday. St. Mary’s got here on Wednesday.
“I hope we can play better tomorrow. We did not have good performances by some of the kids who typically have played better under these circumstances,” Cole said. “We’ve played (St. Mary’s) over the years. I’ve known their coach a long time. We actually go to his event in January, the MLK Showcase that they put on. We’ve had some battles over the years. Tom does a great job, has a strong program, and I know they’re going to get after us.”
Kahuku will take on Hawaii powerhouse Konawaena on Friday. Coach Latoya Wily saw a lot of plusses in the loss to South Medford.
“It’s a great learning for our whole team and that includes our staff. We just wanted the girls to come out, compete and play to our strengths. I’m proud of them,” Wily said. “It’s not the outcome we want, but playing one of the top teams in Oregon and the nation, I heard, we can feed off the positives and adjust the negatives.”
Kamae’s emergence is a major bonus.
“Tati is our most athletic player. When her mindset is on, good things happen for everybody. It was pretty much we missed a lot of free throws and a lot of layups, so we’ve got to buckle down on those things,” Wily said. “We’ll try to make the adjustments and come back to ready to work hard. I mean, Konawaena’s a great team, too. They’re awesome.”
‘Iolani 61, Radford 19
Lily Wahinekapu pumped in 18 points and younger sister Jovi Lefotu added 11 as the host Raiders overwhelmed the Lady Rams. Peytyn Yee chipped in seven points, and Haylee-Anne Ohta, Alexis Huntimer and Alexsandra Huntimer tallied six each.
Angela Howell led Radford with six points. Angel Assah hustled for five points.
Mater Dei (Calif.) 65, Kamehameha 30
Alyssa Frescas scored 16 points and Meaali‘i Amosa tallied 15 as the Monarchs raced to victory over Kamehameha, the No. 3-ranked team in Hawaii. Ayana Johnson added 14 points.
Malie Marfil scored nine points and Lagi Sua-Godinet tallied eight for Kamehameha, which will meet Radford in consolation play on Friday. Mater Dei will battle host ‘Iolani.
Mater Dei opened the lead to 24-12 early in the second quarter, but Kamehameha cut the margin to seven. Brooke Demetre then hit a baseline jumper and a straightaway 3 as the Monarchs went on an 14-0 run. Anna Bradley‘s corner 3 at the buzzer gave Mater Dei a 38-17 halftime lead.
Expectations are very high for the Monarchs, who finished last season No. 7 in California.
“We arrived Wednesday about 11 o’clock in the morning. Everybody’s been great to us. We’ve been having a great time, probably too good a time,” Coach Kevin Kiernan said.
The Monarchs have seen ‘Iolani play twice already.
“We saw them on Monday night, and we got a chance to see them today. A lot of respect. They know how to play basketball,” said Kiernan, who guided Mater Dei to a 28-4 mark last season. “We were a little shaky. Tomorrow will be a really tough game. The home school looked really good today, so we’ve got to prepare for that challenge tomorrow.”
The team has enjoyed the water since arriving.
“We got some beach time in. We’re going on a hike tomorrow. Get in a little snorkeling. We’re glad to be here. Hopefully, can be play a little better,” Kiernan said.
Mater Dei’s 6-3 junior sharpshooter, Stanford commit Demetre, finished with nine points.
“Brooke can shoot it. Alyssa can shoot it. We looked a little out of rhythm today,” Kiernan said. “Hopefully, as we get deeper in the tournament every day, we get a little bit better. What’s important for this group is to share the ball. When we move the ball, we’re a really good team. When we try to go one-on-one, we’re not so good.”
3:30 p.m. Radford vs. Kamehameha, consolation
5 p.m. Konawaena vs. Kahuku, consolation
6:30 p.m. St. Mary’s vs. South Medford
8 p.m. Mater Dei vs. ‘Iolani
2:30 p.m. Seventh place
4 p.m. Fifth place
5:30 p.m. Third place
7 p.m. Championship