Luna boys basketball team develops championship identity
LAHAINA – When he took over the helm of the Lahainaluna High School boys basketball program before the start of last season, Jason Justus expressed the need for the Lunas to find an identity of their own. He hoped that his team could emulate the Lady Luna mystique that has carried that program to seemingly unmatchable heights here on Maui and at the state level.
The Lahainaluna girls have won 12 straight Maui Interscholastic League titles – winning 120 consecutive regular season games in the process – and finished in the final four of the last five state championship tournaments after bringing home the first Neighbor Island title for girls or boys in 2010.
To be precise, Coach Justus hoped his charges could match the dedication, work ethic and commitment that have led the Lady Lunas to the top.
More to the point, he emphasized his admiration and belief in the relentless defensive pressure employed by Coach Todd Rickard’s Lady Luna teams.
Justus served his belief in, and respect for, the attention placed on the Lahainaluna girls’ defensive style of play.
“Your shots aren’t going to always fall, but your defense has to show up every time,” he says.
The Luna boys went undefeated in 2015 to win the MIL championship and finished fifth at the HHSAA State Championship Tournament, knocking out the top-seeded Oahu teams along the way.
The squad is headed to states once again after winning the league title this season. And, the championship manuscript of hard-nosed, physical defense written by Rickard’s Lady Lunas has been the imprint of the Justus system. The identity is in place – mission accomplished!
At these heady times for the Luna hoop teams, the only down thought turns to the senior student athletes on the rosters as they suit up in their red and white uniforms for the last times.
For the Luna boys, it will be the last run for Kalalani Kaaikala Caban and Kevin Lammer, whose value to the team’s championship run is undeniable, according to Coach Justus.
“Kalalani and Kevin have been quiet emotional leaders for our team. They both worked very hard all season long to become examples of team players and leaders by a positive action on and off the court,” said Justus, who was assisted this season by Alec Austin, Freddie Baisa and Kalei Houpu.
“Kevin is simply an outstanding team player – the type of kid that will play defense, rebound and do all the dirty work without complaining. No matter what he does in life, he will always be a great team player,” Justus continued to say.
“And Kalalani has been our quiet leader, and that has been contagious for the whole team, as they followed his example to work hard over the entire summer. That has led to him having a good senior year.”
“Coach Jason and Coach Dan (Williams) of Westside Hoops have been great influences for all of us on this team,” said Kaaikala, who is headed for Walla Walla, Washington, an NAIA college, for basketball and a health sciences course of study.
“All of the coaches have pushed us to always do our best and helped us to gain confidence in ourselves. We really bonded together and became just like family under the leadership of all the coaches and Dan and Genevieve (Ruvald) from Westside Hoops. I’m really thankful to my family and all of my boys on this team, too.”
For Lammer, who is headed for the University of Colorado Denver to study business, the support of his parents, the coaches and Westside Hoops all contributed to build a sense of confidence in him.
“My mom and dad have supported me in all things and help me become a self-motivated person. Especially, Coach Alec Austin was there to push me as a voice in the back of my head to do it right. They’ve all given us confidence and faith in ourselves that we can do this,” he concluded.