Thursday, December 8, 2011

Lady Lunas Basketball Preview 2011-2012 - November 20, 2011

The Varsity

This is clearly Ana Lauese’s team. The senior captain and three-year starter is the heart and soul that drives this team. Though undersized in terms of height, there is no questioning her basketball ability, desire, strength and determination. She is blessed with balanced footwork and is probably has the best low-post moves on the team. She runs the floor. She handles the ball. She makes the right passes. She rarely turns the ball over. She can hit the three-pointer. She rebounds. And don’t make the mistake of trying to outmuscle her on a jump ball. She will tear it out of your hands and dislocate your shoulder or break your collarbone.

It will be interesting to see how the Lady Lunas do this year without Maiki Viela in her usual point guard position, scoring 20-plus points per game. No doubt they will be successful in the MIL – many of the Lady Lunas bench players, even the freshmen, would be starters and/or the best player on their team if they played for the other teams in the MIL.

There is a newcomer to the team – Princess Lauvao, a junior transfer from King Kekaulike. I recall her as a frontcourt player, but last year she was usually in plain clothes or on crutches as I believe she was injured most of the year last year. To my pleasant surprise, she is more than a front court player. Like Ana, she can handle the ball and she plays relentlessly and fearlessly. This past summer, I saw her running pick-up games down at 505 and handled her own against the boys. She has great ball-handling and passing skills and can hit the three with good form. Who needs a traditional point guard when you have two point forwards?

Probably rounding out the starting five for Coach Todd Rickard will be junior Petiola Tuakoi, who came into her own last year at the end of the year. I recall Molokai star and now UH two-sport player Kalei Adolpho was having her way with us in an exhibition game at the end of the year. Unfortunately, Ana Lauese could not overcome the height differential between herself and Kalei Adolpho. Coach Todd inserted Tuakoi into the line up in the second half and helped shut down Adolpho, allowing Maiki Viela to go off and score almost 30 points in the second half to win the friendly match-up of Maui’s best teams.

Other possible starters would be senior Paige Casil, a steady guard with a nice outside shot. Same with junior Amanda Matsuda, who looks fully recovered from her knee injury. And of course, the all-hustle, floor-burn team member Jade Chihara.

Coach Todd’s deep team also features the dependably steady Haley Nakamura, the sparkplug Loke Basques, and frontcourt players Makana Kaaikala-Caban, and Moana Hafoka, who sat out last year. Coming up from the JV squad are the twins, Lindsay and Taylor Bates, Mina Faaumu, Aloha Salem, Falau Hafoka, and sophomore Misha Whitehead. Coach Michael Bates comes up from leading the Menehune team to coach the JV team, as well as assist Todd at the varsity games. Long-time assistant coach Ian Aotaki will be leading the Menehune team, now that his daughter is playing and will of course be on the sideline for the varsity games.

As he does every year, Coach Rickard has his team playing a tough preseason schedule against some of the best teams in the state. They traveled to Honolulu to take on Kapolei, Punahou, and Kaiser. I believe they beat Kapolei in a rematch of their first round game in last years HHSAA playoff, but lost a squeaker to Punahou, in a re-match of last years HHSAA semifinal game. Not sure who won the Kaiser game, but I believe Lauese injured her knee in that one.

Then they traveled to Kona to play in defending, two-time state champion Konawaena’s Girls Invitational Tournament. They squeaked out a win over Kamehameha-Hawaii 60-58 (Lauese 22, Tuakoi 14), then after a back-and-forth close game for three quarters, lost by a wide margin to Konawaena 48-32. Moana Hafoka led the team with 10 points, and Lauese and Tuakoi had 7 each but turnovers did them in. In the third and final game of the tournament against Mid-Pacific, the Lunas got off to a slow start, trailing 17-8 in the first quarter. Then the Lunas scored 21 in the second to take a 29-28 lead at half. They still led 40-39 after three, but the Owls of Mid-Pacific went on a tremendous 4th quarter run, scoring 24 points to win 63-55. Lauese had 24 and Lindsay Bates had 11.

Junior Varsity

The Junior Varsity will be pulling double-duty this year. In addition to playing a schedule of games against other JV teams, most of the JV players will also suit up for varsity games as well. Leading the way are freshmen Lindsay and Taylor Bates, Mina Faaumu, Aloha Salem, Falau Hafoka, and sophomore Misha Whitehead. The freshmen saw success last year, winning the girls Menehune championship for Maui County in dominating fashion. Also on the team is Kyla Kahaialii-Blando. Although only 7 strong, Coach Michael Bates feels that this team will have little difficulty getting through their JV schedule. In fact, his priority is getting them ready to move up to the varsity level when appropriate.

Thus far, Coach Mike’s assessment of the team has been true. In a recent tournament held in connection with the Konawaena Girls Invitational Tournament in Kona, the JV girls won by scores of 92-9 vs. host Konawaena, 81-16 against Waiakea, and 72-9 versus Honokaa in a span of three days. On the road. Against programs that have good basketball teams. WOW.

My Two Cents

The Lady Lunas have yet to play a home game. Can’t wait to see them in person. They have a Thanksgiving tournament in which some strong OIA teams will be participating, including Pearl City, Kahuku, Nanakuli and Waiakea from the BIIF.

I’m also looking forward to seeing the JV play. Will they break a 100 against MIL competition? That alone would be worth the price of admission!

For articles on the Konawaena Invitational games, click here, here and here.

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