‘Iolani 54, Leilehua 36
Roosevelt 53, Honokaa 19
Lahainaluna 69, Kaiser 34
Punahou 48, Hilo 37
Lahainaluna 65, Leilehua 43
‘Iolani 56, Honokaa 29
Roosevelt 47, Punahou 46
Hilo 52, Kaiser 28
Lahainaluna 51, Punahou 49, OT
Roosevelt 48, Hilo 42
Leilehua 52, Honokaa 46
‘Iolani 62, Kaiser 13
It’s almost 8 a.m. this Sunday morning, which means, of course, that’s it’s tip-off time for girls basketball powerhouses Punahou and Lahainaluna at the Ted Fukushima Invitational at Kaiser High School. I made it back on the first flight from Maui (D-II football state-tourney game on Saturday night) and it was worth the effort.
Plusses of Sunday morning hoops?
>> Great competition in this tourney. Yes, it’s the first real action of the preseason and coaches are testing out all personnel, but that’s fine at this time of year.
>> No traffic. None. Except by Kalani High School. One lane Koko Head-bound is tied up due to a marathon or something.
>> Figuring out the drama. The rumor I heard a week ago was confirmed by a few people I spoke to on Maui last night. Three Lahainaluna starters transferred to Konawaena recently: sisters/guards Lindsay Bates and Taylor Bates, and guard Aloha Salem. This is mind-boggling because those three Lady Lunas are seniors and part of a program that has been established as a perennial state-title contender for years.
Coach Todd Rickard, his staff and players have developed that program with the basic formula of fundamental work at the youth level — their Menehune program. On the surface, whatever reason the players left is still murky, but what’s clear is that Lahainaluna is still deep. I’m seeing it right now. The Lunas are still very tall, they’re still aggressive defensively, and they’re still pushing the ball nicely.
I see versatile 5-10 forward Matafolau Hafoka. There’s 6-1 center Keleah‐Aiko Koloi, who’s a junior now. This is a program that produced an All-State POY in Maiki Viela (Gonzaga) and an All-State post in Milika Taufa (Indiana). There’s no question that Konawaena has produced a LOT of college talent from Jessica Hanato and Jazzmin Williams to Lia Galdeira and Dawnyelle Awa.
But I always thought — and still do — that Lahainaluna folks are some of greatest, most passionate and loyal coaches, fans and athletes on earth. I saw it last night when the Lunas beat KS-Hawaii on the football field. The alma mater by the team in the darkened lockerroom after the game. The Lord’s Prayer sung in Hawaiian. Chicken skin.
Konawaena? They have the third Molina sister — Cherilyn Molina — running the point as a freshman and she’s TOUGH. There’s All-State POY Chanelle Molina (junior) and their rebounding, shot-blocking other sister Celena Molina. There’s also a tall transfer from Australia, the savvy, skilled play of returning post Ihi Victor, plus a few more solid products of coach Bobbie Awa’s Stingrays youth program.
In other words, the Wildcats didn’t need more help, but now that the three ex-Lunas are on campus, they’ve got every chance to make the team and contribute. From what I understand, they’ve done just that. Konawaena has opened preseason play on the Big Island with lopsided wins.
Coach Awa has much to ponder, I’m sure.
I’ll post the Saturday scores when I find Coach Simon Bitanga (Kaiser). Hoops season is here!
Update 11:40 a.m.
Well, looks like Lahainaluna is doing just fine and the team has moved on, transfers or not. Coach Todd Rickard confirmed the big changes to the roster due to the transfer out by the three aforementioned players who are now at Konawaena. But he didn’t want to comment beyond that.
The players clearly have moved forward. I’m not sure if they’ve forgiven their ex-teammates, but by playing strong this weekend — beating Kaiser, Leilehua and Punahou, they know with certainty now that they are, once again, one of the state’s elite girls basketball teams.
Roosevelt looked fast and aggressive, as always, in a comeback win over Hilo. Keala Quinlan, who was a promising freshman contributor last season, is now a 5-10 sophomore and she really took command in the second half with several strong drives through Hilo’s normally tough man defense. She also hit an NBA-range 3 during a big fourth-quarter flurry.
When the Rough Riders and coach Hinano Higa decide to unleash their fullcourt and halfcourt pressure, they are relentless. Sharice Kawakami, Starr Rivera and their teammates are at midseason form, the way they spring those sideline traps.
Hilo’s Alexis Pana played well, but with three games in two days, she and her teammates wore down a bit against the taller Rough Riders.
It’s been a very good first two games. I thought teams might be more fatigued at this point, but the quality of play has been pretty fluid considering most (if not all) teams started tryouts on Monday and didn’t really begin to have practice until Thursday.
The host team, Kaiser, even made sure the officiating was at a high level. It’s been mostly (or all) officials are college and prep level.
Bonus points: Quinlan isn’t the only “big” hitting threes. Punahou’s Tyra Moe drained an open trey during their game with Lahainaluna. It was smooth, nice rotation, and by the time she’s in college, the 3-ball will be a big part of her arsenal — my guess. … Punahou’s got some nice shooters. One of them — I don’t know her name since there aren’t really any printed rosters — sank a rainbow 3 from the corner. Talk about flashbacks to Shanna-Lei Dacanay. … Leilehua coach Elroy Dumlao is clearly in preseason mode, letting his assistants do the work. He’s observing quietly. Now if he tells me he stepped down in the offseason, that’ll be a stunner. … Always great to see Daphne Honma direct her Honokaa Dragons. No matter what the talent level, her teams have always improved over the course of a season. I saw it up close in the 1990s, and two decades later, she’s still working her mantra on the young Dragons today. She has been up on her feet this entire game. Honokaa won the D-II state title last year and lost a whole lot of talent and experience to graduation. Sometimes, a coach has got to be up and visible, using these preseason games as a classroom. She’s truly a teacher of the game.
Update 1:05 p.m.
Turns out Coach Elroy was just relaxing on the bench after all, at least for three quarters. He said he wants the team to gel during this first week. But he was his old self during the fourth quarter. Coach Daphne was happy about her team’s progress this weekend. She said because she’s got a lot of younger players, having two three weeks without a game would’ve been better. But she said this tourney will help her Dragons.
‘Iolani looks sharp from the 3-point line this season. I didn’t keep stats, but there were at least six or seven treys in the first half, almost all were shot over Kaiser’s 2-3 zone. The Cougars went to man defense late in the half and did a nice job. ‘Iolani didn’t score for a few minutes after the adjustment. Might be the start of more man defense for Coach Simon’s squad.
‘Iolani doesn’t have a go-to source of points on the low post, but they do a good enough job of using the low and high posts as a hub, just moving the ball to open shooters.
UPDATE Monday, 8:35 a.m.
That was a fun Sunday. I’m not advocating more Sunday morning high school basketball, but I’m not against it, either! Just a note on ‘Iolani’s shooting prowess. The Raiders hit nine treys against Kaiser. Eight of them were in the first half against a soft 2-3 zone. Once Kaiser went to man, the tone changed.