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Lady Luna basketball team is inexperienced but scrappy

By Staff | Dec 8, 2016

The team includes (from left): front — Sheilaika Agbayani, Rachael Balagso, Braeanna Estabillo, Keiko Aotaki and Tori Tihada; back row — Alexia Plaza, Elisapeta Hafoka, Erin-Lei Hookano, Susi Namoa, Teani Rickard and Kayjan Pahukoa.

LAHAINA – It will be a changing horizon for the Lahainaluna High School girls basketball program as the 2016-17 season tips off this month. With the Lady Lunas’ “Big Three” of Fiemea Hafoka (San Jose State), Cameron Fernandez (Washington State) and Kelea Aiko Koloi (University of Hawaii at Manoa) having graduated and moved on to Division I collegiate careers, the current Lahainaluna team will be smaller, inexperienced and hampered by early season injuries. But they will win.

Make no mistake – these Lady Lunas are a scrappy bunch that is ready to step forward to form their own legacy of championship hoops here on the West Side. It is no coincidence that most of veteran head coach Todd Rickard’s roster has come up through the West Maui Youth Basketball Association and Maui Menehune League programs on the pathway to become a part of the golden glory set by Lahainaluna teams of the past 13 years.

That run encompasses 13 consecutive Maui Interscholastic League titles – including an unreachable 126-game regular season winning streak – to go along with eight final four appearances at the state tournament and the coveted championship in 2010.

Last year, the Lady Lunas went 25-2 to win their 13th straight MIL title and finished third at the state tournament.

Coach Rickard will once again have his trusty sidekick of 25-plus years, Ian Aotaki, as his top assistant along with a staff of Derrick Akamine, Jason Donez, Kai Fahukoa, and new additions Maiki Viela and Milika Taufa. Viela and Taufa were both key components of that Lahainaluna state championship team of 2010, were honored as state players of the year in their senior high school seasons, and went on to D-I collegiate careers at Gonzaga/Morehead State and Indiana University, respectively.

Senior returning starter Lisa Hafoka will lead the way for the Lady Lunas this year along with junior returnees Keiko Aotaki, Rachael Balagso, Tori Tihada and Breanna Estabillo. They will be joined by sophomore returnees Sheilaika Agbayani, Susi Namoa, Erin Hookano, Teani Rickard and Alexia Plaza.

“This will be a true test team for the coaches and the players,” said Coach Todd from the sidelines of the newly painted Jimmie H. Greig Gymnasium on campus. “We have no size, not much experience (in high school hoops); this is probably the least experienced team we’ve coached in years. And, we’ve been hit with some early season injuries to key players.”

Nonetheless, these Lady Lunas move with the confidence and the steely gaze of their stalwart mentor.

They have the practice regimen down pat, and this season they are being pushed to higher, more detailed levels of the game by Viela, perhaps the top point guard in Lady Luna history, and Taufa, one of the top post players ever to play for Coach Todd.

“We’ll run mostly man-to-man defenses with some zone schemes in certain situations,” Rickard explained.

“Due to our size, we will defend full-court sometimes and trap. We’ll mix it up and go to whatever works. On offense, we will cut and drive with structured movement and try to position our players on the court to accomplish the things we want to do. Overall, we want to be fundamentally sound with our willingness to work as hard as possible. Ultimately, our goal is to go to the state championship – just go out there and be successful. These girls understand the system and they understand what’s at stake. We want to be physically and mentally prepared. We know that these girls will play with heart, and if we come up short, it will not be for lack of effort – everyone can be assured of that.”

“Thank you to the community for their amazing support throughout the years – it is an honor to be a part of and represent them. Their passion is amazing,” concluded Coach Rickard.

Imua, Lady Lunas!