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Na Alii open season with win over Sabers

King Kekaulike High School’s TC Pahukoa shoots between Maui High’s Jordyn Luna (left) and Kylenna Rieta on Wednesday night during the first quarter of Na Alii’s 63-42 win at King Kekaulike Gym. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photos

PUKALANI — In a battle of two young teams with their eyes firmly planted on the top spot in the Maui Interscholastic League Division I girls basketball race, King Kekaulike High School struck the first blow.

Na Alii rolled to a 63-42 win over Maui High on Wednesday night in the league opener for Na Alii at their home gym.

“We watched them play against Kamehameha (Maui) the other night and they looked really good,” King Kekaulike coach Cy Peters said of the Sabers. “They are a good team, but my girls worked hard and they deserved to win.”

King Kekaulike’s Ledjan Pahukoa scored a game-high 23 points, including four 3-pointers, most of them from several feet behind the line.

“She’s been hitting them like that through the preseason and in practice, but it’s a team concept and they got that going,” Peters said.

Na Alii’s Kailia Purdy puts up a first-quarter shot against the Sabers’ Jordyn Luna.

Maui High (1-1) fell behind early in the rematch between the two teams who fought for the MIL’s second spot to the state tournament last season behind perennial champion Lahainaluna.

Maui High won the right to go to state last season, but it clearly won’t be easy to get back there. Lahainaluna coach Todd Rickard was an interested observer on Wednesday.

This season, both King Kekaulike and Maui High have talented, young rosters and the Lunas have no seniors on their squad. The Sabers have just one senior in Kylenna Rieta and three juniors. Na Alii have just two seniors — Cailyn Ukida and Alia Ah-You.

Na Alii rolled to a 13-5 lead at the end of the first quarter and pushed the lead to 31-16 on a drive to the basket by Kreyajan Pahukoa with less than two minutes left in the first half.

The Sabers closed to 31-21 at halftime on a 3-pointer by Ronie-Lynn Butihi with five seconds left in the second quarter.

King Kekaulike’s Namahana Kaeo-Young releases a shot Wednesday.

The lead grew to its largest margin, 61-33 with 3:49 to play, on a free throw by Namahana Kaeo-Young.

“We didn’t come out the way we wanted to tonight,” Maui High co-head coach Crystal Bal said. “We knew that they shoot the long 3s. All I can just say is we have to go back to the drawing board and work, work, work.”

The Sabers rolled past Kamehameha Maui in their opener on Monday, but never seemed to get into their offensive flow on Wednesday. They next face Lahainaluna on Monday.

“I feel that I have a young team and, you know, we work really hard,” Bal said. “I’m just a little bummed right now, but we just have to move forward and move onto the next, which is Lahainaluna on Monday.”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com.

Maui High’s Kayla Thornton heads upcourt against Na Alii’s Kreyajan Pahukoa.

MAUI HIGH (42)

Jordyn Luna 5, Jacy Anne Dela Cruz 3, Reizel Yadao 0, Kayla Thornton 5, Hiilani Arai 1, Kylenna Rieta 7, Makena Stevenson 1, Atasha Timbreza 0, Sophia Otsuka 2, Natea Rosete-Tokuhisa 0, Kaylyn Cortez 0, Leiana Thornton 8, Ronie-Lynn Butihi 6, Shanice Ngatuvai 0, Kiana Manuel 4.

KING KEKAULIKE (63)

Cailyn Ukida 0, TC Pahukoa 2, Kylee Dee 0, Mary Pahukoa 4, Ledjan Pahukoa 23, Namaha­na Kaeo-Young 18, Amalee Peters 2, Alia Ah-You 0, Ashante Wong 2, Kreyajan Pahukoa 4, Kamalani Puu 0, Kailia Purdy 8, Kiera Archangel 0.

Maui High 5 16 7 14–42

Maui High’s Kylenna Rieta and King Kekaulike’s Ashante Wong battle for rebounding position.

King Kekaulike 13 18 14 18–63

*****

MIL Standings

DIVISION I

W L Pct. GB

Lahainaluna 1 0 1.000 —

King Kekaulike 1 0 1.000 —

Maui High 1 1 .500 1⁄2

Baldwin 0 1 .000 1

Kamehameha Maui 0 1 .000 1

Wednesday’s Result

King Kekaulike 63, Maui High 42

Monday’s Games

Lahainaluna at Maui High, 7 p.m.

Baldwin at King Kekaulike, 7 p.m.

Wednesday, Nov. 11

Kamehameha Maui at King Kekaulike, 7 p.m.