The week has gone quite nicely so far for Kiana Vierra.
On Wednesday, the 5-foot-10 wing signed a letter of intent to play basketball at UC Santa Barbara. On Thursday, she sank five treys in nine attempts and finished with 15 points as Kamehameha defeated McKinley 56-28 at the McKinley Black and Gold Classic.
A year from now, she’ll be suiting up for the Gauchos, who are in the Big West Conference. That means home-and-home matchups with Hawaii.
“Their coaches were very kind to me all the time. They always made me feel at home. Their team was very good together. I felt like even if I went away, it still would feel like home with their team. Even their academics, their academics are very strong,” she said.
The task at hand, however, might be a deep run into the ILH playoffs and the state tourney. Vierra and point guard Jewel Paaluhi-Caulk are the only two seniors on the roster. There are eight freshmen and sophomores.
“I think we executed well. We got multiple people to score, not just our main scorers. We worked everybody into the game,” Vierra said. “I think our team is doing very well together. We need to gel a little bit more. We have a young team, but I think overall we’ll do pretty good this year.”
Even with the youth, Kamehameha has six returnees. Kalina Obrey, a sophomore, had 10 points in the paint. Vierra, though, is clearly an elder stateswoman on the team.
“I try to be vocal with our team because I think that’s what they need to get hyped up. Not everything can come from our coaches. What the coaches relate to us, we relate to the rest of our team. That’ll help them out,” Vierra said.
Warriors coach Joseph Cho was grateful to see a team that was in sync as much as any at the tourney.
“I was glad we could get our young players some experience. We need to bring our young players along with our experienced ones. We still have some work to do, but it’s early in the season. ILH doesn’t start for another month, so that’s what this preseason is for,” he said. “The returnees besides Ki and Princy (Paaluhi-Caulk), they’re all young. They’re all going to come back again next year. That’s a good thing.”
The experience of Cho and his staff helps immensely. He coached for two decades in the Northwest before returning to the islands.
“I think they can be a little bit more relaxed, but some of the girls, although they’re talented, it’s they’re first time coming up to D-I. It’s a big step from JV to D-I, especially to D-I in the ILH,” Cho said. “We kept it simple. We didn’t do too much. We’re just trying work with our young kids to get our basic offenses down. We still haven’t put in some of our offense that we ended up last year with. I first had to make sure they learn these, and then we can move on.”
A key departure was the graduation of all-state guard Mikiala Maio, a powerful guard who became more of a post scorer — and a clutch one — as a senior. At the state tourney, the Warriors ousted Kahuku 58-40 and Farrington 52-47 before falling to eventual champion Konawaena in the semifinal round. They won the third-place game against Lahainaluna.
“A lot of our offenses were primarily Mikiala, but now we have Kalina who can take Mikiala’s spot. We’ll get those in the next couple of weeks,” Cho added.
Obrey, who also plays volleyball, was a steady contributor as a freshman. The 5-11 sophomore is quicker and more explosive this season.
“She’s been doing a lot, constantly playing basketball or volleyball. She’s a one-in-a-million kind of girl you don’t come across who’s constantly working on becoming better as a basketball and volleyball player. I’ll tell you a secret. She may not play as much inside as she will play outside. She has been working on her 3-point shooting, and we’re going to bring her outside sometimes to open up the lanes if they’re on us, and they she’ll take it to the basket,” Cho said.
Obrey has offers from HPU and Willamette.
“She has aspirations to go to a smaller school and play both sports,” Cho said. “I think Longy (Noelle Sua-Godinet) has really grown up from last year. She played a lot and I think she’s ready to step up. I think Malie (Marfil), she’s ready to step up, too. She’s grown a little, played a lot of summer basketball and club basketball. I’m really pleased. And we’ve got Kaylee-Brooke Manuel, who has come up from the JV and worked her tail off the last couple of years. She’s just got to get used to the speed of varsity.”
Manuel is a 6-1 junior. Sua-Godinet, a 5-9 wing, and Marfil, a 5-7 wing, are sophomores.
“We’ll see how we do tomorrow,” Cho said.
Kamehameha plays Kalani on Friday, 2 p.m., and then takes on MIL champion Lahainaluna on Saturday, 2:30 p.m.