Hoopbook: Kahuku flourishing despite departure of Kaufusi

Kahuku's Sisilia Kaufusi, an All-State Fab 15 selection last year, has transferred to a school in Utah and is no longer with the team. Photo by Bruce Asato/Star-Advertiser.

Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel had a hit song back in 1970 that proclaimed, “Cecilia, you’re breakin’ my heart. You’re shakin’ my confidence daily. Oh Cecilia, I’m down on my knees. I’m beggin’ you please to come home.”

Kahuku knew that feeling well a month ago, though the Lady Raiders have roared to success since. Kahuku is unbeaten in the OIA East at 8-0 after a 1-4 preseason. The Lady Raiders are without All-State Fab 15 post Sisilia Kaufusi, who played with Kahuku in week one preseason. They opened with losses to ‘Iolani, Mid-Pacific and Sacred Hearts in the Matsumoto Law Group Black and Gold Classic, and later lost to Maryknoll — three losses to Top 10 teams out of four defeats.

Since then, Kaufusi did not play another preseason game with Kahuku. Her Twitter page lists Provo High School in Utah as her current home. In her profile pic, she is standing in front of the school’s entrance. She has family members who recently played women’s basketball and football at BYU.

Without Kaufusi, the Lady Raiders won at Kalani 51-48 two weeks ago in a game that had two team without their leading scorers in preseason. On Saturday, Kahuku hit the road again and rallied past Kaiser 40-33, and now Big Red is 8-0 in the East.

Sophomore guard Leiah Naeata has stepped up with four games of 20 or more points, including 22 in the victory at Kalani. Naeata is averaging more than 18 points per game in OIA play. Aja Tapusoa and Tati Kamae have also stepped up, scoring nearly double figures in regular-season action.

The final three games in the regular season: Roosevelt on Thursday, at Farrington on Saturday and home against Kaimuki next Monday. The win over Kaiser is key. That gave the Lady Cougars their third loss in league play and also gave Kahuku the head-to-head tiebreaker in case they finish the regular season with the same record. However, Kaiser would have to run the table in its next three games for that to happen.

In other words, Kahuku can clinch second place with one more win. The top two finishers in the East will get first-round byes in the playoffs. Kahuku can seal that playoff bye with a win over Roosevelt, which currently shares third place with Kaiser and Moanalua at 5-3.

Kaufusi, a 5-foot-10 senior, began high school at Maryknoll before transferring to Kahuku, where she was No. 4 in the Star-Advertiser Fab 15 last season as a junior. She averaged 21 points per game in OIA play and 19 points per game overall. Her regular-season high was 30 points with 8-for-9 shooting at the foul line against Moanalua. In a state-tourney loss to ‘Iolani, she had 25 points and nine rebounds.

The numbers that Kahuku likes most, though, are 8 and 0. Life after Sisilia hasn’t been so heart-breaking after all.

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Hoopbook: Kahuku flourishing despite departure of Kaufusi

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