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Lunas claim 16th straight MIL title

Lahainaluna edges King Kekaulike 44-41 in Division I tournament championship game

Lahainaluna High School’s Taylor Eldredge release a 3-point attempt in the first quarter of the Lunas’ 44-41 win over King Kekaulike in the MIL Division I tournament final Tuesday night at the Lunas’ gym. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photos

LAHAINA — The Lahainaluna High School girls basketball team wrapped up its 16th straight Maui Interscholastic League title with a dramatic 44-41 win over King Kekaulike on Tuesday night.

The Lunas have been to nine state final fours, three state finals and own the 2010 state title in that span, but coach Todd Rickard said this may be the most satisfying MIL crown his team has ever won.

The Lunas (12-2) saw their MIL-all-sports-record 164-game winning streak broken with losses to King Kekaulike and Maui High this season. In fact, it was Na Alii who broke the streak in the Lunas’ gym in December.

“I think it probably is the most satisfying,” Rickard said as his players were receiving their MIL gold medals in the the middle of the Lahainaluna gym. “All of them, they’re great, but for this team I don’t think nobody really gave them really a chance to pull this off.”

Ashley Akamine missed several games in the middle of the season with a knee injury, and then right before she came back, her twin sister Abigail Akamine suffered a season-ending knee injury.

Lahainaluna’s Piper Pascua shoots in the first quarter Tuesday.

“It feels really good, you know, especially just seeing everyone so happy,” Ashley Akamine said after scoring 11 points in the finale. “It’s not really about winning for me, but just seeing everyone so happy.”

Ashley said she is now playing for her sister. They are two of the four juniors on the Lahainaluna roster, which has no seniors.

“Yeah, I really do feel that way,” Ashley Akamine said. “I feel like I need to step up and take her place.”

The game came down to the final possession, when King Kekaulike’s Ledjan Pahukoa missed a long 3-point try that would have tied the game.

The game was tied 34-34 going to the final quarter, but the Lunas quickly took a 39-34 lead on a 3-pointer by Akamine and a mid-range jumper by Kiera Kaniho. A few moments later, a 3 by Aira Baguyo pushed the lead to 42-36, and a baseline jumper by Taylor Eldredge made it 44-37 with 2:30 to play.

The Lunas huddle and celebrate after their championship-clinching victory Tuesday.

Namahana Kaeo-Young scored inside and Ashante Wong scored on a rebound in the final minute to bring Na Alii within three points, but they would get no closer.

Now, King Kekaulike will play Maui High on Thursday in a second-place playoff for the final MIL spot to the state tournament.

“One shot, it came down to one shot,” King Kekaulike coach Cy Peters said. “It was awesome, an awesome game.”

Eldredge finished with 14 points to lead Lahainaluna.

During an exciting, back-and-forth third quarter, Na Alii came back from a 26-18 halftime deficit to tie the game. In the end, it was the Lunas, again.

“Awesome, awesome, Coach Todd does a great job with the program,” Peters said. “They have a culture. The talent level may not be the same, but they keep playing with the same heart.”

Many of the Maui High players were in the packed stands on Tuesday night, hoping for the chance to reach state. Na Alii have been to only two state tournaments ever, in 2014 and 2011.

TC Pahukoa led King Kekaulike (9-5) with 14 points.

“We gotta be, it’s our last chance, we gotta be ready,” Peters said of the final game of the season on Maui.

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com.

KING KEKAULIKE (41)

Cailyn Ukida 3, TC Pahukoa 14, Ledjan Pahukoa 9, Namahana Kaeo-Young 4, Annalee Peters 2, Ashante Wong 5, Kreyajan Pahukoa 0, Kailia Purdy 4, Kamalani Puu 0.

LAHAINALUNA (44)

Ashley Akamine 11, Alea Kimokeo 0, Aira Baguyo 8, Piper Pascua 4, Kiera Kaniho 5, Taylor Eldredge 14, Ame Taufa 0, Margie Ruiz-Sana 2.

King Kekaulike 7 11 16 7–41

Lahainaluna 15 11 8 10–44

*****

MIL Tournaments

GIRLS

Tuesday’s Result

D-I final: Lahainaluna 44, King Kekaulike 41

Thursday’s Games

D-II semifinal: Seabury Hall vs. Hana at Molokai, 5:30 p.m.

D-II semifinal: Lanai at Molokai, 7 p.m.

D-I second-place playoff: Maui High vs. King Kekaulike at Lahainaluna, 7 p.m.

Friday’s Game

D-II final at Molokai, 7 p.m.

Saturday’s Game

D-II overall championship or second-place playoff, if necessary, at Molokai, 10 a.m.

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