Red Raiders Have Promising Team With Solid Senior Core
Meet the Kahuku High School girls basketball team: (front, from left) Tania Latu, Alayna Galeai, Lamatia Tito, Brittney Fesolai; (middle) Linora Nauahi, Elizabeth Hill, Kelcy Latu, Teaja Afalava; (back) Kenra Moe, Nicole Nautu, Keisha Moeai, MacZeen Ale, Krystle Manguba-Glover. Photo courtesy of www.HI50sports.com
As long as his team is successful, Kahuku girl basketball coach Peni Latu doesn’t mind if the Red Raiders are short on the style points this spring.
“In the past, Kahuku always had the big-name players,” said Latu, whose team opened its Oahu Interscholastic Association Red Division season with a 57-42 win over Kaimuki last Wednesday. “Our motto with this group is that we’re a no-name team with a no-name coach.”
The Red Raiders have thrived in recent years, winning the OIA in 2004 and 2005 in addition to a pair of runner-up finishes in the state tournament in each of those seasons under current BYUH coach Wendy Anae. Kahuku finished 12-7 last year, including a state tournament appearance under Val Anae, who returned to the Mainland during the off-season. Latu was Kahuku’s Intermediate girls coach under Wendy Anae in addition to serving as the boys junior varsity coach the past few years.
“It’s been a good (transition to the head girls position),” said Latu. “Many of these girls were on my first (Intermediate) team five years ago, so I know them, and they know me. There isn’t anything they can sneak by me,” he added with a laugh.
Although perhaps an ideal fit for the program, Latu’s appointment came late in February, leaving them behind in scheduling and other areas.
“We had to scramble to get games, but we got the games we needed,” said Latu, whose team played Mililani (twice), Sacred Hearts and Kapolei, among others during pre-season. “It helped us build some confidence.”
Latu will work with a veteran group this spring as seniors Brittney Fesolai, Lenora Nauahi, Kenra Moe, Keisha Moeai and Krystal Manguba-Glover closed the pre-season as the starting lineup. Nicole Nautu and MacZeen Ale also figure big in the rotation. Nautu had been a starter early in pre-season before an illness caused her to miss four games.
“Our strength is our senior core,” said Latu. “They’re more mature. The only thing that some of them lack is game experience, but we’ve had balance all through pre-season. We’ll also have a strong bench. The under-classmen will be a key to our success.”
For the Red Raiders, everything will run through its back court, which will feature both Fesolai and Nauahi. “With our size, we want to press and push the ball up and down the court,” the coach said. “Playing defense - that’s what sets the tone. We need to get better there, but if we can keep improving, we’ll be able to compete.
“Brittney could play all five positions,” he added.“She had the most points (in 2006) out of this bunch, so if we can keep her out of foul trouble, she can take us a long way. Lenora sets the tempo for us. She’s probably our quickest player, and she brings scoring to the table.”
The pair will be complemented by an inside game that includes Moe, Moeai and Manguba-Glover. All three are above 5-9.
“Kenra can take over a game when she steps up,” Latu said.“She just has to play more to gain confidence. Keisha works hard day in and day out, and Krystal plays with high energy. If we can control that, she can be really effective on offensive and defensive ends.”
Kahuku went 4-3 in its pre-season and got stronger with each game, having closed the schedule with a 32-point win over Mililani only three days after they’d lost to the Trojans by 15.
“The girls see the potential if they come mentally ready to play every night.”
The Red Raiders, who were to meet Kalaheo over the weekend, return to action on Thursday when they host Moanalua. Kahuku follows up that encounter with a visit to Farrington Saturday for a game. Both games begin at approximately 6:30 p.m.