It may take a year, even two, but the Waiakea Warriors are on everyone’s radar by this point.
Even in the aftermath of a 75-40 shellacking by top-seeded Maryknoll on Friday, there’s only everything to like about the talented Warriors and their senior-less roster.
“Waiakea is very young. I was very surprised when I paid attention to what they have. They remind me of us two, three years ago,” Maryknoll coach Chico Furtado said. “That team’s going to be here for the while. We’ll have to deal with them in the future, for sure, but tonight was our night.”
It was, as expected, the kind of result that happens when two teams in basically different age groups battle. Waiakea, the team without a senior, has held its own and then some against every team on the schedule except for the top seed in this tournament. Nine of the 13 Warriors are freshmen and sophomores. It was, essentially, mostly 14- and 15-year-olds taking on 17-year-olds.
Zaelynn Lui-Cabinatan, a junior, led Waiakea with 11 points. Sophomore Kayla Iwata had nine points and classmate Kelsie Imai finished with four points against a fast, physical Maryknoll man-to-man defense. Jazelle Dorser added seven points. As a team, the Warriors committed 25 turnovers.
Maryknoll, with its 11 seniors, has matured over the span of four seasons, and the poise that comes with experience is a huge plus. Waiakea, 18-9 overall (including nonconference games), is 6-9 against Top 10 teams and 12-0 against unranked opponents.
“That’s the caliber we need to get to,” Warriors coach Brandon Kauhi said. “Maryknoll has been there. We’ve got to find ways to execute. We’ve got to get back to basics. People try to rely on athleticism, but against Maryknoll, you can’t.”
The third-place game between Waiakea and Lahainaluna, might be a thriller. Tip-off is set for 1 p.m.
“We told the team, being in the final four, we’ve got two great games,” Kauhi said. “We will treat this like a championship game. We win or we learn. With injuries or grades or transfers, you can’t assume that we’ll be back. You never know.”