Sweet 16: Lunas thwart King Kekaulike for MIL girls crown

Lahainaluna won its 16th consecutive MIL championships. Photo courtesy Todd Rickard.

The more things change, the more the Lahainaluna Lunas dig deeper.

The same is true for the Waiakea Warriors.

At the Lahaina Civic Center, No. 9 Lahainaluna (11-6) swept through the second-round playoffs with wins over Kamehameha-Maui (51-37) and King Kekaulike (44-41). The Lunas sealed the MIL championship for a 16th consecutive season, rallying from behind to take the regular-season title before defeating KS-Maui and King Kekaulike.


King Kekaulike, which has suddenly overcome a late-season swoon, will battle regular-season runner-up Maui on Thursday for the second and final state-tourney berth for MIL Division I. The game will be played at Lahaina Civic.

“Both of them are tough. It’s going to be a close game,” Lunas coach Todd Rickard said. “King Kekaulike, they shoot a lot from 3, even sometimes when they’re up. They were up by 11 when they lost to Maui (in the regular season). When they played in the playoffs (on Monday), Maui looked kind of sluggish. King Kekaulike’s guards, that’s their strength. You have to pressure them up high. They can also drive by you for layups, so you have to pick your poison.”

Lahainaluna went to a matchup zone to challenge King Kekaulike’s shooters.

“They were still making those shots on the outside, though,” he said. “We love to play man to man, but sometimes you have to switch.”

Sixteen league titles in a row. Incredible.

“This was the most special one. A lot of people were counting us out, saying things like the dynasty’s over, saying it would be a rebuilding year. But we stayed true to our program, our girls paid attention to detail and they do everything we ask of them. They play Lunas basketball, playing 100 percent at all times and stuck together,” Rickard said. “These are a bunch of resilient girls. They didn’t like the idea, so there’s only two things they could do. Let it happen again or fight back. They didn’t want to come in second place or third place.”

The Lunas aren’t going into any stage of complacency.


“They’re so young and they improve every day at practice. I see good things for this group in the future,” Rickard said. “They’re starting to find some chemistry, so there’s definitely room for improvement.”

Sophomore Taylor Eldredge led the Lady Lunas with 14 points. Eldredge and most of the key Lunas are underclassmen. Young as they are, the Lunas have learned to deal with adversity. Veteran guard Abigail Akamine went down with a knee injury at practice two weeks ago and is done for the season. Her sister, Ashley, returned from a knee injury of her own to score 11 points on Monday.

“She had some key 3s, helped us defend and got rebounds. You can tell the knee is still bothering her,” Rickard said. “She’s going to try and finish out the season.”

On the Big Island, No. 2 Konawaena trounced Keaau and No. 4 Waiakea edged No. 7 Hilo, 54-50, in overtime. That semifinal win seals a state berth for Waiakea (16-2), which got clutch corner 3s from veterans Keeli-Jade Smith and Destynee Williams to rally the defending BIIF champion Warriors in regulation.

Hilo (10-5) had the ball and the bonus with 3 minutes left in OT, scored tied at 49. The Lady Vikings opted to hold the ball and instead of taking the last shot, they missed on a tough shot in the paint, then immediately fouled. Kelsie Imai came through with two free throws for the lead. After a corner-3 miss by Hilo, Waiakea sank two more foul shots to ice the crucial win.

Unlike the MIL and ILH, there is no recourse with a loss in the BIIF playoffs for teams that don’t win the regular season. Had regular-season runner-up Waiakea lost, the season would have been over. The difference between the BIIF and the OIA is that BIIF regular-season winner Konawaena earned a state-tourney berth. In the OIA, the only reward is a first-round bye and home court in the quarterfinals. Because the OIA has six state berths, a quarterfinal loser has a backdoor safety net. Not so in the BIIF for a semifinal loser.


For Hilo, another playoff loss has to be heartbreaking. The game on Tuesday was televised throughout the Big Island and available on Na Leo’s website. The Viks had control and the ball, and sophomore Keirstyn Agonias played lights-out basketball, clearly a match for any wing in the state on offense and defense. But down the stretch, Waiakea was the more disciplined team. Hilo hasn’t traveled in preseason or postseason in some time, but would be a title contender in any league.

Konawaena and Waiakea will meet for the BIIF title tonight, again at Afook-Chinen Hilo Civic Auditorium. The winner will earn a first-round bye in the state championships. The loser is likely to host a first-round game on Monday.

COMMENTS

  1. Normalyn Pagador-Akamine January 30, 2020 11:28 am

    Name correction for Lahainaluna Abigail and Ashley Akamine. Thank you for your article.


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