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Basketball players working hard to prepare for the upcoming season

By Staff | Jul 9, 2015

From left, Joaquin Donez, Tre Rickard, Juztin Gaorian, Tanner Johnson, Mason Whitaker, Malino Jacinto, Thomas Reece, Cort Ballinger and James Williams are among the West Maui players who traveled to the West Coast to participate in two weeks of intense workouts.

LAHAINA – The tracks are solidly set and the pathway to success for youth basketball is moving ahead as both the boys and girls programs here on the West Side have spent much of the summer fine-tuning team skills in preparation for the upcoming season.

At multiple levels, including the West Maui Youth Basketball League, Maui County Menehune League, and in the Maui Interscholastic League, Lahaina and Lahainaluna High School teams have risen to championship caliber not only on the Valley Isle, but on the state platform as well.

The Lady Lunas continue to dominate the MIL with an all sport record winning streak of 112 straight victories and have become a regular representative at the state tournament with a HHSAA title in 2010 and a runner-up finish last season. The Luna boys have also developed into a championship caliber program to win last year’s MIL title and battle to a fifth place finish in the state playoffs, defeating the top seeds in the tournament in the process.

Dominating high school athletic programs such as Lahainaluna basketball require high-quality development pathways, and the Lahaina community has been blessed with the West Maui Youth Basketball League and the Lahaina Menehune teams.

Lady Luna head coach Todd Rickard has stated time and again that the success of the Lahainaluna team is intimately connected the youth programs that take place in the Lahaina Civic Center. And, Jason Justus, the leader of the resurgent Luna boys team, would be the first to agree that these youth leagues prepare the players for the next level.

Both the Lahainaluna boys and girls teams traveled to the Mainland this summer to participate in training camps and youth tournaments.

For the Lady Lunas, that meant a trip to Calgary in Canada followed by a swing down to Anaheim near Los Angeles, as the defending state silver medalists participated in showcase tourneys from July 2-8. Before those trips, Coach Rickard took the team to Honolulu and Kona to compete in several tournaments against the top programs in the state.

Coach Todd, along with longtime assistant Ian Aotaki and Menehune head man Derrick Akamine, guided a seasoned roster of Fiemea Hafoka, Cameron Fernandez, Keleah Koloi, Lisa Hafoka, Mina Lafitega, Keiko Aotaki, Tori Tihada, Braeanna Estabillo, Rachel Balagso, Sheilaika Agbayani, Sane Hafoka, Susie Namoa, Teani Rickard, Abby Akamine, Ashley Akamine and Tiani Buenconsejo.

“Participating in these tournaments will prepare our girls – especially the younger ones – for the upcoming season and the state tournament. It will be an advantage for us to have the experience like the full house, raucous atmosphere of our preseason match-up with Kona (last year’s state champ) this summer. What an exciting game that was! And it will really be an advantage for us to play in tournaments like that one,” added Coach Rickard.

The Luna boys team and the middle school team from Lahaina also traveled to the Mainland and participated in two weeks of intense workouts in Reno, Nevada, on Monday through Friday, then traveled to California for AAU tournaments in Fresno, San Francisco and Sacramento.

The Lahaina boys were hosted by the Reno Ballers program in Nevada, and they are currently returning the hospitality to the Mainland team here on the West Side.

Dan Williams, founder and leader of Westside Hoops, along with Lahaina Boys coach Jason Donez and Lunas head man Jason Justus, guided the Lahainaluna contingent in Reno. That roster included Kala Kaikala Caban, Kevin Lammer, Gage Johnson, Tavake Faleta, Carver Locke, Kyle Schulz, CJ Palma, Iverson Turno, Marvin Sidon, Sam Balantac Jr., Kapuni Gushiken, Reece Pascua, Carter Stockham, Jeremy Santos, Tre Rickard, Joaquin Donez, Juztin Gaorian, Malino Jacinto and Tanner Johnson.

“The boys did really well up there in Reno,” said Coach Donez last week. “They won both of the middle school age tournaments and worked really hard at the practices during the week. I think it will really show up in how the boys play this season.”

Coach Dan added, “This is a workout schedule that tries to mimic a college semester as we try to play 80 games and put in 400 hours of practice. We also try to incorporate character building into the trip as much as we can.”