Upstart Kahuku finishes off No. 10 Kalani
BRUCE ASATO / BASATO@STARADVERTISER.COM
Kahuku guard Leiah Naeata dribbled past the pressure defense of Kalani guard Daesha Viela in the third quarter at the Kahuku gym on Wednesday.
Maybe the future is now after all.
With just two seniors on their roster, a lineup flush with talented underclassmen and a youth program on the rise, the Lady Raiders of Kahuku are building toward the future. They’re also taking a stand in the present after a 41-38 upset of No. 10 Kalani on Wednesday night at Thomas Walker Gymnasium.
It was almost a collapse for the bigger Lady Raiders, who tired in the second half, committing 12 turnovers against Kalani’s relentless fullcourt pressure. A 16-point lead melted down as Kalani’s Alayna Akiona drilled a step-back, NBA-range 3-pointer to cut the lead to 39-36 with 25 seconds left.
Moments later, Logan Luke hustled for a 10-foot putback and Kalani was within 40-38 with 9 seconds to play.
Kahuku freshman Leiah Naeata hit one of two free throws with 6.4 seconds left for a three-point lead, and Kaylie Espinas rebounded for Kalani. Her halfcourt shot with 2 seconds left fell short and the Lady Raiders escaped with the win, moving into a first-place tie with Kalani at 5-1.
“All of us made mistakes, but I’m proud of our team for hustling and getting back on defense,” Kahuku coach Latoya Wily said. “We know Kalani has great shooters.”
Akiona finished with 11 points and six steals, and Luke added 10 points and 10 rebounds for Kalani. Daesha Viela added eight points and Espinas finished with seven.
The Lady Falcons couldn’t get their fastbreak going for three quarters, shooting a combined 8-for-45 from the field against a tough man-to-man defense.
“Our defense definitely helped us out,” Wily added. “The team definitely earned the win. Kalani’s No. 10 in the state and we had to do our part on defense.”
Naeata had 16 points, four rebounds and two assists for Kahuku (6-7 overall). Center Sisi Kaufusi had 10 points and 17 boards, and twin-tower partner Ilaisaane Po‘oi tallied four points, six rebounds and a block.
Kahuku got a massive effort on the boards from Tatianna Kamae, normally the team’s 3-point sharpshooter. She scored just two points, but hauled down 11 rebounds and added two steals. In all, Kahuku outrebounded Kalani 48-23, but the visitors had just 10 turnovers compared to 23 for Kahuku.
“Our energy was down the whole game. Kahuku wanted to slow it down,” Kalani coach Chi Mok said. “We talked at halftime about speeding up the game, but it was a little too late. I take the blame on that.”
A 17-14 halftime lead ballooned for Kahuku early in the third quarter as Kaufusi, a 5-foot-11 junior, powered inside for eight points during a 14-2 run.
In the fourth quarter, Po‘oi hit a left-handed fastbreak layup and Kahuku led 37-21 with 6:28 left. Fatigue, however, became a major factor, and the visiting Falcons began to chip away.