LAHAINA - In the midst of Lahainaluna High School's run to the top of the 2014 Hawaii High School Athletic Association girls state basketball championship tournament, Lady Lunas' head coach Todd Rickard has stated this could be his best team ever. And over on the boys' side of the court, headman John Dudley has guided his charges to the top rungs of the Maui Interscholastic League standings.
With both rosters filled with underclassmen - there is but one senior on the top-rated Lady Luna team, and the boys have four - the future indeed looks golden for West Side high school hoops.
Taking a look at the success of the 2014 Lahaina Menehune teams - the middle school select programs - chances are that Red Tide basketball will reign for many, many more years to come.
Heading into the final games of the regular season, both the Lahaina Girls and the Lunatics (the boys' team name) are undefeated and riding high in first place of their respective Maui Menehune League Basketball standings with 9-0 records.
The overall champions for both divisions will be decided in the post-season tournament that will be played in early March with teams from Kahului, Wailuku, Waikapu, Upcountry and Kihei.
The Lahaina Girls, the defending MMLB champions, are coached by Ian Aotaki, who serves double duty as Rickard's top assistant with the Lahainaluna team, and Derrick Akamine, now also an assistant with the high school program. Coach Ian's daughter, Keiko Aotaki, is a co-captain of the team along with Braeanna Estabillo, and these two spearhead the attack for Lahaina.
A battle-tested rotating lineup of Aprelene Cuaresma, Bonnie Gunn, Tori Tihada, Angie Taufa, Aleiyah Wolf, Sheilaika Agabayani, Teani Rickard, Rachael Balagso, Alisi Finau and Amelia Uhila rounds out the team roster.
The Lunatics are coached by Iolani Kaniho - who also serves double duty during the basketball season as an assistant with the Luna boys - and Chad Viela, whose daughter Maiki came up through the Lahaina Girls program, was a Gatorade All-American and state player of the year out of Lahainaluna, and is now playing in her junior year for Washington State University.
Co-captains Aukai Kama and CJ Palma lead the way for the Lahaina boys. They are joined on the court by Tanner Johnson, Reeno Pascual, Iverson Turno, Nick Gayagoy, Fransver Castro, Naino Ko, Carter Stockham, Ikaika Viela, Siale Hafoka, Etuai Storer, RJ Campo and Ty Bates.
The Lahaina boys finished the 2013 regular season at 9-0 and took the first seed into the playoffs, but the squad stumbled in the tournament and had to settle for third place.
With their connections to the high school program, the coaches of both the girls and boys have accordingly molded their teams for a seamless flow up to the Lahainaluna pathway. They both run the court and play motion offenses, man-to-man defenses and some presses.
"We just want to build a solid base for the kids to move up to the Lahainaluna teams," concluded Coach Kaniho.
Check, and job well done.