Lunas reign again
KAHULUI – This one was anything but pretty, but the Lahainaluna High School girls basketball team’s 87th Maui Interscholastic League Division I victory in a row will at least give the Lunas things to work on before the state tournament in a week and a half.
The Lunas claimed their ninth consecutive MIL D-I crown with a 57-37 win over Maui High in the MIL tournament final at the Sabers’ gym on Friday night.
The details are what coach Todd Rickard will focus on in practice, beginning immediately, he said. The Lunas (14-0) were 12-for-35 from the free-throw line, shot 20-for-54 (37.0 percent) from the floor and committed 17 turnovers.
“That was ugly basketball all the time,” Rickard said. “You know, Maui High, this is the championship game. Any time you play a tournament, it doesn’t matter, you wipe out all the records, it doesn’t mean a thing. (The Sabers) came out and they battled tonight.
“We came out a little bit complacent, but the bottom line is they got the job done. We move on from here.”
Lahainaluna’s lead was just 21-16 at halftime, due in large part to its 3-for-16 performance at the line.
“Tomorrow morning, definitely tomorrow morning, that is what we are definitely going to be doing, for sure,” Rickard said.
Rickard said the rare chance to play meaningful minutes in the second half would help his team for the state tournament.
Lahainaluna completed a sixth straight unbeaten run through the MIL, and is 29-5 overall this season.
“We are battle-tested, but like I said, sometimes our team gets a little bit complacent,” Rickard said. “We have a lot of young players, but when you have young players like that, you have got to deal with the mistakes and the stuff that comes with it, and I think they are going to learn from it.”
If there are a couple things the Lunas can always count on, it is defense and rebounding. They dominated the boards and forced Maui High into 38 turnovers – 14 in the first quarter, which ended with the Sabers leading 8-7.
The turnovers continued to mount for Maui High (9-5), which will also be at the state tournament as MIL runner-up.
The Sabers got within 21-20 after a three-point play by Trina Valencia, who had a game-high 18 points, and a free throw by Christina Lotulelei to open the second half, but the Lunas closed out the third quarter on a 23-9 run, behind a pair of 3-pointers by Taylor Bates and eight points inside by Keleah-Aiko Koloi.
“They do a lot of pressing,” Maui High coach Gilbert Silva said of Lahainaluna. “They pressure you a lot, force you into a lot of turnovers. We tried to stay with them and we got our game plan, and I took early timeouts, couldn’t reset again. You know, that’s why they’re the champions.”
Petiola Tuakoi led the Lunas with 12 points, and along with fellow seniors Jade Chihara, Amanda Matsuda and Makana Kaaikala-Caban was part of the third straight class to finish 56-0 in MIL play.
“It was ragged, there is a lot more things that we have to work on, but we’re getting there,” Tuakoi said. “Free throws, definitely, definitely, everything is on the docket in practice tomorrow. Everything, we have got to work all around, not just one thing. Defense, our defense is our main priority. We’ll be ready (for state).”
* Robert Collias is at email@example.com
LAHAINALUNA GIRLS 57, MAUI HIGH 37
Mina Faamu 0, Fiemea Hafoka 9, Jade Chihara 4, Taylor Bates 8, Amanda Matsuda 0, Loke Basques 6, Keleah-Aiko Koloi 10, Lindsey Bates 4, Folau Hafoka 2, Petiola Tuakoi 12, Andilyn Alavazo 2.
MAUI HIGH (37)
Jasmine Cabajar 1, Liana Tanaka 4, Jordyn Vega 3, Trina Valencia 18, Jamilyn Tamura 0, Jo’voni Shimabukuro 1, Kuulei Bailey 4, Jenicca Tamura 0, Nicole Pagan-Eldredge 0, Brittnie Suda-Molina 0, Emma Hanlon 0, Christina Lotulelei 6.