Kahuku hangs on to dethrone Kalani
Leiah Naeata poured in 33 points as No. 9 Kahuku stunned No. 4 Kalani 63-59 to capture the Oahu Interscholastic Association Division I girls basketball championship on Thursday night at Radford’s James Alegre Gymnasium. “We knew if we could handle their awesome fullcourt pressure, we would win the game,” said Naeata, a sophomore. Defense was key for Kahuku, which got torched early on by Kalani sophomore guard Kalena Halunajan, who scored 15 points in the first half, mostly on strong drives. The Lady Raiders made key adjustments at halftime.
“They’re strong drivers, so we worked on shadowing them,” Naeata said. Coach Latoya Wily’s team stepped up against a Kalani team that had just one loss in OIA play — against Kahuku. “We talked about taking care of the ball more, cutting the lanes off more. We know 15 (Halunajan) is one of their main drivers. Boxing out, staying calm in this high intensity environment,” Wily said. “It’s amazing. As a coach, seeing their hard work pay off tonight, we’re bringing back the title. We really wanted it.” Kahuku’s magical run through the OIA regular season, 13 wins without a loss, was a surprise. It took mostly immaculate ball-handling against Kalani’s torrential fullcourt pressure. Naeata carried the offense, getting help from long-range shooter Maya Claytor, who added 14 points, including two treys. Aja Tapusoa hustled for eight points and a team-high 11 rebounds. Kalani was resilient, rallying from a 47-37 deficit in the fourth period. Alayna Akiona’s 3 off a hustle rebound and pass by Kamalu Kamakawiwo‘ole cut the Kahuku lead to 57-55 with 1:25 left. Claytor’s versatility was key after Naeata fouled out with 1:10 left. She handled the on-ball pressure for the first time as the lead guard, and hit three free throws, including two after rebounding her own miss from the foul line, to make it a 60-56 Lady Raiders lead. Moments later, Kamakawiwo‘ole’s 25-foot 3-point bomb cut the lead 60-59. Kalani trailed 61-59 when Kamakawiwo‘ole pulled up from 22 feet and launched a 3 and missed. Meleane Tonga, who had missed two free throws earlier in the fourth stanza, swished two foul shots for a 63-59 lead. Halunajan’s desperation 3 from 28 feet missed and Kahuku ran out the remaining seconds. Kamakawiwo‘ole led Kalani with 21 points and added five rebounds and four blocks. Halunajan tallied 19 points. Akiona finished with 10 points. Both teams had already qualified for the upcoming Division I state championship tournament. AT RADFORD Kalani (20-7) 13 11 13 22 — 59 Kahuku (15-4) 13 17 17 16 — 63 Kalani: Kamalu Kamakawiwo‘ole 21, Daesha Viela 0, Lilehina Oyama 0, Alayna Akiona 10, Kalena Halunajan 19, Heidi Kishaba 0, Shelby McDaniel 5, Kandyce Woods 4. Kahuku: Meleane Tonga 5, Kalia Kaahu 0, Si‘itia Cravens 0, Lela Tonga 0, Tati Kamae 2, Aja Tapusoa 8, Liana Holani 0, Serina Aumua-Tuisavura 1, Leiah Naeata 33, Maya Claytor 14, Trisha Faumuina 0. 3-point goals: Kalani 3 (Akiona 2, Kamakawiwo‘ole), Kahuku 5 (Claytor 3, Naeata 2).