LAHAINA - It's been over a month now since the Lahainaluna High School Lady Luna basketball team suffered the heartbreaking defeat to ILH powerhouse Punahou to finish with the runner-up medals at the 2014 Hawaii High School Athletic Association's State Championship tournament.
But the fire in the spirit of head coach Todd Rickard is as hot today as it was that fateful night on the Neal Blaisdell Center floor, when the Lunas battled back from a 17-point deficit to cut the Punahou lead to five in the final minutes of the contest, but could come no closer as the final buzzer put a close on the season.
"We will not rest on finishing second best in the state," said Coach Todd last week. "We'll get back to work to prepare to challenge the top teams for the championship - we will settle for no less than that. We always strive to be the best, and we are ready to work toward that goal."
Although the Lady Lunas will lose speedy senior swing player Loke Basques Rosenthal to graduation, Rickard and assistants Mike Bates, Ian Aotaki, Eddie Pamat and Derrick Akamine will look next season to a sterling senior core for leadership to the coveted championship goal.
Team captain and All-State and All-Tournament player Lindsay Bates, All-Tournament power forward Folau Hafoka, sharpshooting guards Taylor Bates and Aloha Salem, and forwards Mina Faaumu and Kyla Blando form that senior group, and they will be complemented by the return of junior standouts Fiemea Hafoka, Cameron Fernandez and Keleah Ako Koloi. Returning sophomores will be Lisa Hafoka, Kalo Uhila and Kalena Balingit.
Coach Todd noted also that nine freshmen from the championship Menehune League team will move up to bolster the Lahainaluna team for years to come.
The Lahaina Girls, coached by Ian Aotaki and Derrick Akamine, went undefeated and captured the league championship three weeks ago.
The Lahaina Lunatics, the boys Menehune League team, also completed an undefeated season to win the league title. Coached by Iolani Kaniho and Chad Viela, the boys intermediate select team will send seven players up to help the Lahainaluna team climb to the top of the Maui Interscholastic League standings.
The Lunas finished the season as the MIL runner-up. The team won a thrilling first round game in the state tournament and finished in eighth place overall in the state finals.
The Luna boys will have to fight back to the tournament without head coach John Dudley, who has stepped down after four years at the helm of the Lahainaluna program.
Coach John, who resides in Kula, has stated that he will spend more time with his family and also needs to devote more to time to his business, Maui Photo World.