The future is now for Kahuku’s Lady Raiders

Kahuku's Sisilia Kaufusi, an All-State Fab 15 selection last year, has transferred to a school in Utah and is no longer with the team. Photo by Bruce Asato/Star-Advertiser.

There’s something to be said for a five-game win streak.

After all, not all humans have experienced this, whether it was youth league, professional sports or right here in high school. The Kalani Falcons had this. They arrived in Kahuku on a cloudy, cool evening ready to defend their place atop the OIA East girls basketball standings.

Kalani. In first place.

By 9 o’clock, the lofty perch was one to be shared. Kahuku’s young hoopsters opened a 16-point lead and hung on for dear life, edging Kalani 41-38 at Thomas Walker Gymnasium. It was a game of contrasts and anomalies.

>> Aggression in the clutch
With Heidi Kishaba in rehab, recovering from a Grade 2 PCL injury suffered during Kalani’s game against Farrington more than a week ago, the Falcons showed some moxie. After shooting 8-for-45 from the field through three quarters, including 2-for-20 from 3-point range, they kept attacking Kahuku’s 1-3-1 matchup zone, which fooled me early on into thinking it was man defense. (There was at least one play when a defender chased her man from one sideline to the other.) That turned into an 18-point fourth quarter and nearly dissolved Kahuku’s 37-21 lead.

Daesha Viela, one of the smallest players on the court, was part of the attack. She consistently penetrated into the paint, and with Alayna Akiona connecting on two 3-pointers in the final minutes, Kalani finally got some consistent momentum.

>> The future is now
Kahuku looked like an elite OIA team for 25 minutes and 32 seconds. That’s the amount of game time it took to build that 37-21 lead. Then, with legs getting wobbly in coach Latoya Wily’s tight rotation, Kalani began its comeback.

The reality is, the Lady Raiders are just figuring out how to close a game. They struggled in the late going in a close win at Roosevelt. The same happened tonight. There was not much they could’ve done about Akiona’s sensational step-back, NBA-range wing 3 with 25 seconds left, but the Lady Raiders committed 23 turnovers. That’s 23 giveaways and 15 field goals, and normally any team that has more turnovers than buckets loses. (Conversely, Kalani had 15 field goals and 10 turnovers).

Freshman Leiah Naeata continued to play like a boss. She finished with 16 points, four rebounds and two dimes, often finishing plays with tough layups or fueling the fastbreak with lead passes. What makes Kahuku profoundly unique is defense and rebounding. The edge on the boards was 48-23, even though Logan Luke had a double-double for Kalani (10 points, 10 boards).

Sisi Kaufusi: 17 rebounds with 10 points.
Ilaisaane Po‘oi: six rebounds, four points before fouling out.
Tatianna Kamae: 11 rebounds with two points.

The x-factor was Kamae, a sharpshooting zone buster most nights who became a huge rebounding weapon. But there was another x-factor: junior guard Meleane Tonga. She had seven points and nine rebounds, providing key ballhandling against Kalani’s press, playing solid on-ball defense and providing a crucial energy player for Wily’s six-player rotation. (Naveah Pukahi entered the game in the final minute and hit a big free throw after Po‘oi fouled out.)

Even with the huge rebounding advantage, it wasn’t quite as good as Wily expected.

“We needed to box out a little better,” she said. “But our defense definitely helped us out. They definitely earned the win. Kalani’s No. 10 in the state and we had to do our part on defense.”

Kalani got the pace it wanted after halftime.

“It was a little too late,” Falcons coach Chi Mok said. “I take the blame for that. We should’ve adjusted way earlier. That’s our pace. It gets Kahuku’s bigs running.”

Kalani’s transition push goes hand-in-hand with fullcourt pressure, and that press wasn’t in operation until the second half.

>> First quarter: 16 field-goal attempts, 0 FT attempts, one offensive rebound, three turnovers, seven points. That’s 20 total possessions in just 8 minutes. Not bad. But the conversion rate, not great — .35 points per possession. One point per possession is generally good.

>> Second quarter: 16 FG attempts, 0 FT attempts, two offensive boards, one turnover, seven points. That’s 19 possessions, .37 points per possession.

>> Third quarter: 15 FG attempts, two trips to the foul line (2-for-4), four offensive boards, four turnovers, six points. That’s 25 possessions, .24 points per possession.

>> Fourth quarter: Here’s where it gets interesting. Nineteen FG attempts, two trips to the FT line (2-for-4 again), four offensive boards, two turnovers. That’s 27 possessions, 18 points, and .67 points per possession. That’s more of the Kalani formula, and even though .67 isn’t overly impressive, think of it this way: With a total of 64 possessions in the first three quarters, if Kalani had been able to push the ball and create more havoc, those 64 opportunities could have netted 42.9 points. In three quarters.

The caveat to this, of course, is that Kahuku’s six-man rotation was fresh in those first three quarters. Strong, bigger, more physical. That’s something that isn’t exactly measurable. While Kalani shot 17.8 percent from the field in the first 24 minutes, how much of that had to do with Kahuku’s determination on defense?

In the end, Kalani is capable of outlasting most opponents in a high-pace game. Those 27 possessions in the final quarter? There are NBA teams that sometimes don’t get that number in a 12-minute pro quarter. Can the Lady Falcons replicate that pace for four entire quarters? If replicated tonight’s fourth quarter, which was more modest than prolific, this is what the numbers would look like: 28-for-76 from the field (36.8 percent), 8-for-16 at the foul line, 16 offensive rebounds, just eight turnovers. And 72 total points. That wins most games.

Plausible, not very possible on a regular basis, right? We shall soon find out.

For Kahuku, much like the St. Francis boys basketball team’s penchant for dipping in the third quarter due to normal fatigue, the key will be maintaining leads after halftime despite the short rotation. It’s a good problem to have. The JV team scorched Kalani 63-18 tonight. Of course, there’s talent and speed and players with endurance on that squad. Who knows if coach Wily is exploring the possibilities?

It’s a long road to the big dance, and good decisions are rarely rushed decisions. Even after a contributing player moves to another state (5-10 sophomore Liana Holani) in midseason.

Most points-per-possession equations I’ve seen will minus offensive rebounds rather than count them as extra possessions, which seems ludicrous. When Maryknoll played Kamehameha two weeks ago, the teams had nearly identical PPP, and the biggest difference was that Isabella Cravens grabbed eight offensive boards, giving her team eight more possessions. In a game her team won by eight points. If she doesn’t grab those eight offensive caroms and has zero instead, there’s a very good chance the game goes into overtime or Maryknoll loses.

In Kahuku’s case, there were 41 field-goal attempts. That’s a modest number we see more in high-stakes, slow-down ILH games. Then there are the two disparate stats: 13 offensive rebounds and 23 turnovers.

>> In other words, the Lady Raiders’ 41 points came on 54 possessions that resulted in a shot attempt. There were nine more possessions that led to either 1-and-1 or two-shot trips to the foul line. That’s now 63 possessions. In this game, when Kahuku didn’t turn the ball over, the PPP rate is .65. Modest, but decent. Throw in the 23 giveaways, now we have a splattering of perfectly fine meals onto the floor, a PPP rate of .48.

Imagine the day when they are so efficient that they average 1 point per possession. On 86 possessions. That’s massive.

Whatever the numbers, statistics or formulas, the numbers that really matter are simple. At 5-1 in the OIA East, Kahuku’s future is not two years from now and it isn’t next year. The future is now.


  1. 71 alumni December 28, 2017 6:21 am

    It is a big confidence boost, this early in the season. Cut down on the mistakes and keep up with the great defense. Way to go Lady Raiders

  2. Fiatagata Memea December 28, 2017 9:59 am

    For endurance, might I suggest some lap swimming. Let’s say 20 laps to start with, then increase each time they take the pool. Just ask the girls water polo team!

  3. JusSaying December 28, 2017 10:43 am

    Oh bcoz Kahuku has a pool to swim laps in yeah lol….

  4. What the Hell, Honda! December 28, 2017 8:07 pm

    Is it me or did anyone else feel that the article made fun of Kahuku’s win? Diction is important and Honda’s use of vocabulary may have impressed a few, but when it comes to basketball, it was obvious which team he was rooting for. It was an exciting game and I believe Kahuku deserved a better article. Professionally, journalism (especially covering high school student-athletes trying to get to college) should be hopeful and uplifting, not punitive and demeaning. Every spectator noticed NO rotation, just five girls playing their hearts for 4 full quarters (until Po’oi fouled out) in the last few moments of the 4th quarter. All the girls played their hearts out (both teams): injury or not. It was a physical game that depended on key plays and strong defense. Next time, can the report for Kahuku’s game actually do a better job in showcasing these young ladies; could it actually include an accurate account of the 1-3-1 defense and NOT man to man. Come on. Be fair Paul Honda! Of course they “were winded”, it was an intense game. Focus on those that played, not those that were injured or currently not on the team. Goodness!

  5. #Go Lady Raiders December 28, 2017 8:18 pm

    Anyone thinking about the article? Who needs the breakdown of stats like that? So, after this exciting game, the article focuses on mistakes, would-have-beens and could-haves.

    Try, unfair calls by officials and media (scoring live) making fun of a win, that wasn’t a great win!? Kahuku needs a chance, a chance to be known. I get it, Kalani was the favorite; but don’t count out Kahuku. Kahuku should have beaten Kaiser, but Kahuku didn’t read their offense well. Kahuku’s rebuilding, for a team that just started playing together ( this season)– not too shabby. Get to know that team, it’s made up of great ladies. They deserve good coverage!

  6. Billy Hull December 28, 2017 8:31 pm

    I’m only thinking about why the same person would post the last two comments using different fake names.

  7. Ice December 29, 2017 1:16 am

    How many timeouts did kahuku get?

  8. ilh December 29, 2017 8:39 am

    @ What the hell honda & # Go lady raiders

    #calledout, #heytheredoublenameperson, #atleastchangecomputers, #twoheadedredraider, #ICEtryingfochangethesubject, #tooshabbytwonames1noob, #11minutesbetweenposts, #whatdaheckisdiction??, last one, #BillyHullisonesavage.

    Thanks Billy and Paul, great read and entertainment.

  9. Olympia December 29, 2017 11:42 am

    This is what I noticed. Yes, Kahuku did play a 1-3-1 all game. They did not play man to man on a single play. It worked but I wouldn’t have ran it. Often, Kalani had wide open shooters. They were just off. Also, by playing the 1-3-1, Naeata the Kahuku PG often had to run corner to corner to close out on shooters on ball reversals. That’s a lot to ask of one player, especially your pg.

    I thought the officiating was very one sided. At one point before Kalani started to foul late in the 4th quarter on purpose to stop the clock, the foul count was 24 – 7. That’s a huge disparity. It seemed the size advantage that Kahuku had really affected the way the officials reffed this game. Kahuku kids would barely touch the Kalani kids and there was a foul. On the other end, Kalani kids would bump Kahuku kids, often forcing them off their line and no foul was called. The Kalani guards were able to handcheck the Kahuku guards and often use one of their hands to steer them. That’s a foul.

    Overall pretty exciting game.

  10. Basketball Fanatic 60 December 29, 2017 12:56 pm

    Why do people always have to be and see things in a negative way? I didn’t think Paul was being negative or making fun of anyone. He’s actually saying how young Kahuku’s team is, and the stats do show it with the turnovers, because more seasoned programs with actual year round players of at least 5 or more, won’t have that many turnovers in a game. But they are in a rebuilding process, and they are still starting to make a name for themselves, which is a positive compliment in my eyes. Hence his title “The Future is now for Kahuku’s Lady Raiders”. Any who a win is a win, regardless who is playing someone has to win or lose. Congrats to the Kahuku team and right back to kalani. Whether kahuku was playing man or a 1-3-1, or whether kalani should’ve pressed earlier or not, the coaches know their players collectively, let them do their job. We have a problem here in Hawaii with thinking that we are all coaches and know better. I’ve been watching hawaii girls basketball for over 20 years, and I just want to see an OIA D1 girls basketball team make it further into the state tournament then they have in the past 10 years. Kalani joined D1 this year, kaiser & kahukus coaches are new and in the rebuilding stages for their programs. Roosevelt had a new coach also, but unfortunately they lost their coach to a bunch of nonsense, and so much negative and positive have been going on in the OIA as well as the ILH & outerisland programs. All I want to see is competitive OIA teams that are up to par, and can compete with the ILH and outer island teams like before. It won’t be an overnight change, but I feel & can see that a few OIA teams are headed in the right direction. So let’s stop with the negativity already! Paul Honda & every sports site in Hawaii shouldn’t let anyone have the option to comment. It’s just drama in the making. Goodluck to all the girls basketball teams this season. I am looking forward to the near future when girls basketball will be competitive all around the state and not just the same teams are obviously anticipated to make the state championship games every year, but props to those programs who do make it every year. I love basketball!

  11. Kalei808 December 29, 2017 8:03 pm

    Thank you Basketball Fanatic!

  12. Paul Honda December 30, 2017 2:20 am

    You’re right. Kahuku played man-to-man in the first quarter and 1-3-1 zone the rest of the night. I’ll make that distinction in the story. Mahalo.

  13. Paul Honda December 30, 2017 2:25 am

    Olympia, you’re right. I’m looking at the video and it was a 1-3-1 matchup. There was at least one time when a defender chased her man from one sideline to the other, so who knows? But definitely matchup zone, and a pretty good one, too.

  14. RR4L December 31, 2017 12:17 am

    I was proud of my daughter and her team. Kahuku will have to work hard/harder to get noticed so it’s definitely a learning season. I thought Mr. Honda pointed out valuable information to work with. I think it always comes down to numbers. We drill it into our daughter’s head over and over. Btw Kalani Falcons were awesome! I envy seeing seasoned players attacking the basket and shooting 3-pointers.

  15. Paul Honda December 31, 2017 8:10 am

    Mahalo for understanding my long post that can easily pass for gibberish. There’s no question how much potential the Lady Raiders have. But their youth is like no other girls varsity team I’ve seen so far this season. Maybe Konawaena and Waiakea compare. Konawaena’s frontcourt is all underclassmen. Waiakea has zero seniors and only four juniors. Every time I see Kahuku it’s impressive to see the improvement they make from week to week. If they cut those turnovers in half, that’s probably +8 to +12 more points per game. Huge. Not to mention fewer fastbreak opportunities for opposing teams off those giveaways. It would not surprise me if Kahuku has one of the top 5 scoring efficiencies in the state when not turning the ball over. Anyway, the video highlights are ready.

  16. RR4L December 31, 2017 8:48 am

    Coming from you Honda, that’s amazing. I will let my daughter know because you’re right, those turnovers are killing them. They’ll keep fighting!

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