The road to a State Championship for the 2013-14 edition of the Lahainaluna Lady Lunas basketball team begins with an ambitious and challenging preseason schedule on the road. As they did last year, the Lady Lunas will play in two preseason tournaments simultaneously in Honolulu.
They ain't playing cupcakes, either. Opponents include perennial powers and HHSAA participants such as defending state champs Kamehameha Schools Kapalama, Punahou, Kaiser, Kahuku, Kapolei and Farrington. They follow that up with a preseason tournament at home, their traditional Thanksgiving tournament at Lahainaluna. I am not sure who the participants are, but typically they have pretty good competition come over. The Lady Lunas usually go to play in a tournament at Konawaena, but I'm not sure if that is happening this year. In any event, the Lady Lunas usually schedule a top heavy preseason schedule because by the time the MIL regular season comes along, the competition is not as strong. They like to test themselves early, to see where they stand when it comes time for the games to count - at the HHSAA state tournament.
If you're in Honolulu today to Saturday, try and stop by either Farrington or Kaiser High Schools and support the Lady Lunas. Their schedule is as follows:
Thursday, November 14, 2013
4:00pm Kaiser Tournament - vs. Punahou
6:30pm Farrington Tournament - vs. Kapolei
Friday, November 15, 2013
4:00pm Kaiser Tournament - vs. Kamehameha Schools Kapalama
6:30pm Farrington Tournament - vs. Kahuku
Saturday, November 16, 2013
11:00am Farrington Tournament - vs. Farrington
2:00pm Kaiser Tournament - vs. Kaiser
Hopefully they can fly home in time to watch the Lahainaluna football team take on Kaiser in a Division II HHSAA football semifinal game.
This year's team is very young - only one senior is on the roster, 4 year varsity letter winner Loke Basques. Though young, this team is far from inexperienced. In fact, this may be one of the deepest and talented teams in Lahainaluna history. From one to twelve, any of those players are capable of starting. They lack the traditional size in the middle like they've had in the past with standout post players like Milika Taufa and Petiola Tuakoi. However, this team is perfectly suited for Head Coach Todd Rickard's full court pressure and up-tempo style of play. The guards are the strength of this team, led by juniors Lindsay Bates and Taylor Bates, Aloha Salem and sophomore Fi'mea Hafoka, a returning MIL-first teamer. The Bates sisters and Hafoka will likely take turns handling point guard duties and be the primary harassers on defense. They all shoot the ball well and are always looking to get others involved. Hafoka is a big guard with great handle and athleticism with a great knack for the ball defensively. If she gets aggressive offensively and takes the ball to the hoop when the opportunities are there, the points and free throw attempts will come. Salem is lights out from 3-point range - I personally have not seen a girls player with a sweeter shot and quick release like hers.
The forwards are just as strong. In addition to the steady leadership, defense and scoring provided by Basques, the Lady Lunas welcome MIL's reigning co-Player of the Year last year Cameron Fernandez, who received the honor as a freshman for King Kekaulike. She is an aggressive scorer with great basketball skills and instinct. Junior Folau Hafoka and sophomore Andilyn Alavazo will be doing the dirty work down low, rebounding and enforcing the paint. Hafoka also has a good jump shot from 7-15 feet on the baseline and along with Alavazo are reliable finishers in the paint. Junior Mina Faamu is also a good shooter and finisher.
Their bigs: sophomore Keleah Koloi and freshman Kalo Uhila are very athletic, active and aggressive. In addition to having very refined post moves for a young big, Koloi is also an excellent face-up shooter from 7 feet out, so defenses have to play her honestly in the post or on the wings. She should be a reliable double-digit scorer for the Lunas, as she was as a freshman, because she is an excellent free throw shooter and will likely draw a lot of fouls down low.
Junior forward Kyla Blando-Kahaialii and freshmen guards Kalena Balingit and Lisa Hafoka round out the roster. Kahaialii has grown from a raw player to a reliable player. Balingit and Hafoka played large roles, along with Uhila, on last year's Menehune team which won the County championship. With no JV team for the Lady Lunas this year, they were forced to join the varsity squad. However, they each have the skill set required to contribute positively to the team.
Very little weaknesses. Great depth at all positions. All in great condition. Players that LOVE the game of basketball. Players that excel in the full-court game and are willing and able to play on both ends of the floor. Players that really get well together and have bonded both on and off the floor. Even if they face bigger teams, this team can outrun them. They have weapons for the half-court game as well. This will be a very interesting season for sure. State Championship? I may be biased, but I think they have as good a chance as any team. Kamehameha Kapalama returns a bunch of seniors to its State championship team. Here's hoping for a major case of senioritis. Konawaena, as always, will be up there, especially with their precocious sophomore star Chanelle Molina. Iolani? Gosh, I hope we get to see them again so we can beat them after they ended our runs in each of the last two seasons.