Lady Luna starting five looks to be among the state’s best
LAHAINA – You would be hard-pressed to find a more dedicated, intense mentor than Lahainaluna High School girls basketball head coach Todd Rickard, now entering his 22nd year at the helm of the Lady Lunas hoops program.
The veteran leader still maintains the drive and dedication to spend ten-plus months of the year involved with building one of Hawaii’s top scholastic basketball programs.
Coach Todd will be assisted by Ian Aotaki, Derrick Akamine, Michael Hooper, Mark Fernandez and Mario Balagso this year in the drive to win their second state championship.
After capturing their tenth straight Maui Interscholastic League championship, extending their unprecedented regular season winning streak to 92, the Lady Lunas were runner-ups at states last season and won their first title in 2010.
Rickard explained that the 2014 team has a polished, veteran core, but is still young with seven freshmen on the roster. This year’s Lady Lunas will be led by co-captains Folau Hafoka, a senior four-year starter who was a first team all-state selection last season, and Fiemea Hafoka, a junior three-year starter who garnered first team all-MIL honors in 2013.
Joining them in the first five on the floor for Lahainaluna will be 2012 MIL Player of the Year junior Cameron Fernandez, MIL all-star junior Keleah Koloi and sophomore forward Lisa Hafoka.
They will be joined on the Lahainaluna roster by freshmen April Cuaresma, Sheilaika Agabayani, Tori Tihada, Keiko Aotaki, Aleiyah Wolf, Rachael Balagso and Braenna Estabillo. Although this group is untested at the high school level, they are all veterans of the Lady Luna club program, the West Maui Youth Basketball League and the Lahaina Menehune League team.
“We will have a terrific starting five – one of the best in the state – and the next two or three players on the floor will be fine. They are just inexperienced at the high school level,” Coach Todd explained last week from the floor of the Jimmie H. Greig Gymnasium on the Lahainaluna campus last week.
“We’re going to take what we have and move forward.”
Rickard explained that the team has been working hard throughout the off-season with trips to California, Hilo, Honolulu, and Kona, and hosting a tournament during Thanksgiving weekend.
“We’ll still use an up-tempo style of play, mixing up our defenses with half-court pressure, trapping and man-to-man. On offense, we’ll try to attack the rim and work for high percentage shots,” he said.
The Lady Lunas will play a 12-game MIL schedule that runs through early February, followed by the state tournament in Honolulu in the middle of the month.
“We’ve had really great practices, and the girls are really working hard to build team chemistry. The experienced players understand their role in leadership with such a young team and they understand what they need to do; now they just need to put it together and get it done,” said Rickard.
“We’ve gotten a lot of support from the parents of the girls and the community as a whole. We really appreciate this, and hope we can get it done this year.”