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Anuenue plays on despite being overwhelmed

Kahuku is the No. 1 boys high school basketball team in the state, according to the Star-Advertiser’s poll of coaches and media. Anuenue never came close to winning a game this season and finished 0-15.

These teams should’ve never played each other. But they did Saturday, and Kahuku won 121-18.

I’ve seen quite a few lopsided high school basketball games, but this is the first I’ve heard of one team beating another by triple-digits.

Kahuku is in Division I and Anuenue is in Division II. The whole reason for having divisions is competitive balance. As it stands now, the Oahu Interscholastic Association schedule is determined more by geography than classification.

Wouldn’t it be better the other way around?

“That’s an OIA decision we have to make as athletic directors and as a league,” said Lapule Schultz, the Anuenue AD. “As it is right now, it’s East and West. I would prefer to have Division II play only other Division II teams, but it’s not just my decision.”

Anuenue is a Hawaiian language immersion school that faces unique challenges. Many students transfer out during their high school years or earlier because of the difficulty of prepping for post-secondary education when everything must be learned in two languages.

That means the varsity sports teams have many athletes who are inexperienced compared to their opponents. Eight of the 10 players on the Na Koa roster this year were freshmen.

“I was trying to tell our boys it doesn’t matter who we’re facing and what the deficit is,” basketball coach William Romena said. “If we keep going the whole game and don’t give up, we’ll walk out with our heads up high. I’m proud of our boys.”

When he was in high school, Schultz often saw lopsided scores, from the other side. He is a 1994 graduate of Saint Louis School, when the Crusaders were near the peak of their football dynasty that spurred football classification because of mismatches.

“We have different values and different goals,” he said. “It’s not that they don’t get discouraged. But they’re out there to represent the Hawaiian language and the Hawaiian community and we do our best. When we do end up on the (losing) side, we have great coaches who encourage them to see the bigger picture. We are blessed. We keep the bigger picture of what we do in mind and we try our best.”

According to the line score from Saturday’s game at Kahuku, the hosts led 39-5 after the first quarter and then outscored Anuenue 29-0 in the second quarter.

Although I was not at the game, I agree with those who say there are ways a team that vastly overmatches its opponent can try to avoid running up the score to a 100-point-plus victory, without turning it into a mockery. Romena said he received a text from a fellow coach asking, “How can the (Kahuku) coaching staff let that happen?”

But Romena said the lopsided score was caused as much or more by Anuenue’s inexperience as Kahuku’s size and skill and aggressive style of play that included a 1-2-2 press at times.

“We did not do our part in taking care of the ball,” Romena said. “I think we had over 40 turnovers, and a lot of it was not them pressing. We got it across halfcourt and then we’d make the mistake. They’ve got some speed. We made passes we thought were wide open, but they cover so much ground. Major credit to the athleticism of the Kahuku boys. If I was in the stands I’d have been in awe.”

Jessiya Villa — possibly the best player in the state — scored 24 points. Coach Brandyn Akana told the Star-Advertiser’s Paul Honda that Villa, Kahuku’s starting point guard, played just 10 minutes, 40 seconds. Even though it was senior night, Villa and others in their final home game were not allowed by Akana to re-enter, the coach told Honda.

“He’s an awesome kid to watch, they’re a fun team to watch,” Romena said. “The (Kahuku) kids were respectable, not like they were taunting, nothing like that. The Kahuku fans were cheering for us. They wanted us to get in there and score. A father of a Kahuku player came over after and said he liked how our boys didn’t give up, and once he was part of a game worse than that. They’ll live, they’ll get through it. I asked after if anybody did not want to come back next year. They said, no, Coach, we’re all coming back.”

See Honda’s blog post at for more on this topic.

#BrandynAkana #JessiyaVilla

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