Lunas to face familiar foe
LAHAINA – Things don’t change much game to game for the Lahainaluna High School girls basketball team.
In their next matchup, the Lunas will see a mirror image.
Top-seeded Lahainaluna (15-0) is in the semifinals of the Hawaiian Airlines Division I State Championship for the fifth time in six years, and will play Hilo on Friday at the McKinley gym for a spot in Saturday’s title game.
“I know that they run, they are similar to our team, basically,” Lunas coach Todd Rickard said of the Vikings (12-2). “The full-court press, man full-court press, they run transition offense, try to get the easy layups, the easy baskets.
“Both teams will be going at it on the offensive end, on the defensive end. It is going to be full court. It is going to be a track meet out there, that’s for sure.”
The Lunas own a preseason victory over Hilo on the Big Island – they have also defeated third-seeded Punahou and Mililani, this year’s other semifinalists.
“I remember (Hilo) is very fast, but we are fast, too,” junior forward Folau Hafoka said between wind sprints Tuesday at practice.
The Lunas have adjusted to whatever has come their way all season en route to a 28-1 overall record that includes an active 23-game winning streak.
In their 61-57 quarterfinal win over Maryknoll on Saturday at the Lahaina Civic Center, 6-foot sophomore center Keleah-Aiko Koloi, Lahainaluna’s leading scorer this season, played just eight minutes and had one point and two rebounds while committing four of the team’s 26 turnovers.
Cameron Fernandez, the Maui Interscholastic League co-Player of the Year last season as a freshman at King Ke-kaulike, played 16 minutes and had four points, two rebounds and a steal, with five turnovers. She was cleared to play the day of the game after missing most of the season with a stress fracture in her foot.
Point guard Taylor Bates fouled out with just over three minutes to go after scoring 12 points, while three other Lunas finished with four fouls, including Bates’ twin, Lindsay, who had a team-high 16 points.
Loke Basques – the only senior on the roster – finished the game, playing most of the second half, after picking up her fourth foul with 2 1/2 minutes left in the second quarter.
“They play aggressive, they are a tough team around the bucket,” said Spartans coach Chico Furtado. “Coach Todd, he’s got to live with that. If he is going to press and be that aggressive defensively, he is going to have to live with some foul trouble from time to time, especially if you’ve got referees calling the game tight.”
Maryknoll lost 29-28 in overtime to Punahou in the Interscholastic League of Honolulu championship game.
“I think we are looking at a Lahainaluna-Punahou final now,” Furtado said.
When asked if his team needs to stay out of foul trouble this week, Rickard chuckled.
“I don’t think that us getting into foul trouble during that game is going to change anything that we do,” he said. “It’s something we are definitely working on, though.”
The Lunas made up for some of the issues against the Spartans with a 50-25 rebounding advantage – Lahainaluna had 25 offensive rebounds.
Hafoka finished with eight points, eight rebounds and five steals.
“Nobody’s selfish on the court,” said Hafoka, one of seven Lunas to average at least eight points per game during the MIL season. “Everybody just plays their own game and everybody works as a team.”
Lahainaluna claimed the only Division I state basketball championship in MIL history in 2010. The upcoming games are the talk of the school, said Fiemea Hafoka, who is not related to Folau.
“Everybody talks about it and says positive things,” she said. “They believe in us.”
The Lunas have won 10 straight MIL crowns, and their last 92 games in league play.
“We still have two more games to go and I feel that if we do win these last two and we become the state champions I definitely could see this as the best team we ever had,” Rickard said. “From this point on we don’t just play for the community, we don’t just play for Lahaina, we don’t just play for Lahainaluna, we play for everybody on Maui.”
* Robert Collias is at email@example.com