Friday, August 3, 2012

HHSAA DIVISION I Girls Basketball: LAHAINALUNA 54, KAHUKU 60 (OT) – February 10, 2012

Having watched the Lady Lunas on OC 16 the night before lose to the Iolani Red Raiders in a tough semifinal match up, I knew flying into Honolulu on Friday that the 3rd place game was going to be at 3pm. Had they won last night, they would’ve been playing the marquee championship game at 7:00pm against Konawaena. Kind of a bummer, but at the same time, after the last hectic non-stop 2 months of basketball game shooting that I’ve done,  it was different going into shooting a game that did not really have much at stake.

Consolation games are the worst. How can you get up for it? Especially after such a tough loss the night before, losing to Iolani on a night filled with questionable calls and every call seemingly going against you. The electricity is just not there in the arena, as both teams are coming off losses and big “what if’s”.

Today’s opponent was the Red Raiders of Kahuku. Lahainaluna had beaten them earlier in a preseason tournament at Lahainaluna. At the time, Kahuku was missing one of their top players and Lahainaluna still had their center, Petiola Tuakoi, patrolling the middle.  For this re-match, Kahuku was playing at full strength while Tuakoi was nowhere to be found, apparently ruled ineligible for the state tournament.

The atmosphere was totally relaxed. The arena was maybe a quarter filled with die hard fans of both schools. The problem, for me, though, is that the colors for both schools are red and white. I like to get shots of our team’s fans in the stands but with everyone wearing red, I couldn’t tell who was for the Lunas or who was for the Red Raiders.

The all-red theme extended to the team uniforms. Both teams were wearing their home whites. With red trim. Not only a referee’s worse nightmare, but for the photographer and fans as well. All the players wearing the same color made it look like a team was playing against itself. For referees call “Red ball”, kinda hard to do when no one is wearing red. For the fans, the scoreboard didn’t differentiate the teams other than home and away. So who is the home team? Who’s winning? For me, having everyone wear white totally throws off the color balance on the photographs. Fortunately, shooting in the Blaisdell is great because of the dark backgrounds and the lights really focused on the playing floor. Still it is always nice to have contrasting colors of home and away uniforms in the pictures.

Of course, since this game didn’t really matter, the fact that both teams were wearing the same colors was not a big deal. After all, this game wasn’t going to be shown prime time on OC-16. Howard Dashefsky must’ve breathed a sigh of relief on that!

I was able to walk in and plop myself right on the baseline to shoot the teams warming up. I learned this time around to act like I belonged there, so with all my expensive-looking camera gear, the Blaisdell Arena ushers or other credentialed photographers did not tell me to get out. The girls, disappointed as they were from losing the night before, were loose, smiling and having some fun during warm-ups . . . something you would not have seen had the game actually meant something.

The game started off sloppy. It seemed more like a friendly exhibition game than a HHSAA playoff game. Players from both teams were smiling and joking with each other. It was like a scrimmage. These teams, after all, have a friendly history. Players were blowing lay-ups. Lunas players were dribbling too much, not really running the plays, taking ill advised shots or turning the ball over.

Finally, Coach Todd had enough and inserted some players off the bench. After being down early, the Lunas’ full court defense became effective and the Lunas were able to take the lead and control the lead for most of the game.

The second half, particularly a period of about 7 minutes bridging the third and fourth quarter, was the Loke Basques’ show. She was on fire! The Lunas were able to mount a double-digit lead into the fourth for what seemed to be a win.

Unfortunately, the bigger, stronger Red Raiders began to take it to the undersized Lunas. The stated earlier, the Lunas were without their center Tuakoi.  Lauese was hobbled and Lauvao was benched most of the second half, either because of her ongoing foot problems or because of some plays she made in the first half – I’m not sure. The Lunas had gotten their lead based on the full court pressing of their smaller, quicker players. But that well was beginning to dry up.

First, Taylor Bates sustained a nasty forehead contusion when she inadvertently butted heads with a bigger Kahuku player going for the ball. Due to concussion precautions, she did not return the rest of the game.

First Haley Nakamura fouled out. Then Lauese fouled out. Then Jade Chihara fouled out.

Coach Todd had no choice but to put Lauvao back in, hobbling on her sore feet.  The Lunas were still up 3 with seconds left. Lauvao was at the line to extend the lead but missed a free throw.  Kahuku went the length of the court and found a key player in the corner who, of course, swished in the three pointer to tie it.

The Lunas scrambled back down. With Lauese and Chihara out, the ball was in the hands of capable and steady senior Captain Paige Casil. She drove the lane and hoisted up a shot as the clock wound down. The shot fell short, but wait! The whistle blew! A ref’s arm was up! FOUL! Shooting two!

The Lunas had a chance to take the lead and get the win. This game, though meaningless as anything short of a state championship is not acceptable for Lahainaluna, was in their hands. Third place, after all, was better than fourth place.

So Paige Casil stepped to the line, with literally no time left, for two free throws. Automatic right? Usually, the answer would be yes. Unfortunately on this night, the first one missed. Time out. Up went the second attempt . . .  she missed that, too. OVERTIME!

The Red Raiders went on to win in overtime. All in all, an entertaining game but meaningless in the big picture.  So even though those free throws were missed, take solace in the fact that it was in a meaningless game and not the championship game, being broadcast on OC-16. That would have been devastating!

With that, the Lady Lunas’ season was officially over. But knowing them, the team, sans Lauese and Casil, would be out running around in the hills of Lahainaluna shortly,  getting ready to battle for the State championship again next year.

Click on the following links for Maui News articles on the Lady Lunas postseason run.

Lahainaluna girls receive third seed for state tourney.
Young Lunas look to reclaim state crown.
Lunas into state semis.

Lunas Fall short against Raiders
Lunas fall to Red Raiders in Overtime, Finish Fourth

For more photos, click here.

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