Kahuku, Kalani advance to OIA D-I girls basketball final


Kahuku’s Leiah Naeata, left, drove to the basket against Kaiser’s Macy Hill during Tuesday’s OIA girls basketball tournament semifinal game at Radford.

Leiah Naeata is a point guard and more.

The sophomore gave her team what it needed, five offensive rebounds in the third quarter, to spark a 15-0 run as No. 9 Kahuku pulled away for a 55-37 win over Kaiser on Tuesday night in the semifinal round of the Oahu Interscholastic Association Division I playoffs.

Naeata finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds — all 10 caroms were in the second half — for the top team in the OIA East. She took charge, however, in the trenches.

“Whatever I get is for our team. I knew to get more chances I had to go inside,” said Naeata, who usually led the fast break and dished out seven assists. “It feels great. It’s been 13 years since we won the OIA championship. We embedded that number into our brains.”

Coach Latoya Wily was all smiles after the game.

“We just needed to do the little things instead of turning over the ball — spacing, boxing out, the little things,” she said. “We tell the girls do whatever you can do for your teammates. Leiah and Tati (Kamae) are our guards who can battle on the boards. It’s an overall team effort, not just one person running the point.”

Kahuku (14-4 overall) will play Kalani for the title on Thursday night at Radford.

The Lady Raiders used their depth to wear down a Kaiser squad that suits up just nine players. The Lady Cougars committed seven turnovers in the first quarter. Trailing by just two points at the half, Kaiser committed eight more in the pivotal third quarter.

Kahuku’s rugged man-to-man defense limited Kaiser to 1-for-14 shooting from the 3-point arc.

When the teams met at Kaiser three weeks ago, Kahuku pulled out a 40-33 win. Kaiser finished third in the East, then upset Radford, the West’s second-place team, last week to reach the semifinals.

“Kahuku played well. They were looking up and getting their fast break going,” Kaiser coach Brianna Lagat-Ramos said. “Our girls didn’t show up. They beat us on second-shot opportunities.”

A crowd of about 500 at Radford saw Kahuku, unbeaten in the OIA East, roll to an 11-2 lead before struggling in the second quarter against a scrappy, sometimes sloppy Kaiser squad. The Lady Raiders clung to a 17-15 lead at halftime. Naeata took it upon herself to crash the glass and grabbed five offensive rebounds in the third quarter, adding eight points.

Meleane Tonga (10 points) got one of her seven steals and scored to open the lead to 27-15. After Serina Aumua-Tuisavura drove hard for a layup in transition, Kahuku led 30-15. After Kamae scored on another drive to the hoop, Kahuku had a 40-21 lead early in the fourth quarter. Kamae finished with 10 of her 12 points in the final stanza.

Stephanie Cannon had a team-high 13 points for Kaiser along with six rebounds. Trinidee Kahunahana added nine points. Taeya Blakeney, facing double teams for most of the game, finished with seven points, eight rebounds and two assists.

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Kahuku, Kalani advance to OIA D-I girls basketball final

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