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Lahainaluna boys basketball team, wrestlers shine at state tourneys

By Staff | Mar 2, 2017

The Lahainaluna High School girls wrestling team recently scored 191 points to win the state title — the team’s second championship in the last three years (see story on page 12). During the same weekend in Honolulu, the boys wrestling team finished seventh, and the Luna boys basketball team reached the final four at the state hoops tournament. PHOTO BY TOM COOPER.

LAHAINA – After the final whistle had blown at the Neal Blaisdell Arena in Honolulu on Feb. 18, to signal the end of the Hawaii High School Athletic Association’s state wrestling championships, the entire 50th State from Hilo to Hanalei was wondering, “Wat da chicken hekka is going on over there on the West Side of Maui?”

Specifically, athletic directors and coaches are seeing red – Lahainaluna High School red to be precise – after the Luna wrestlers put on a performance for the ages on the mats following the boys basketball team’s bronze medal effort on the hard court in the same building two nights before.

The Red Tide weekend began with the Luna boys hoops team, under third-year head coach Jason Justus, winning a thriller in the HHSAA state third place contest as junior CJ Palma hit a three-pointer with 14 seconds left in the game to beat defending state champion Iolani 60-58 for the third place trophy. The Raiders had taken this season’s eventual champ Kahuku to overtime before losing that contest to send them to the bronze medal game.

Lahainaluna thus finished the season at 16-1 to solidify its position as one of the top tier basketball programs in the state. The Lunas bid aloha to senior tri-captains Jeremi Santos, Carver Locke and Tevake Faleta, but will return a solid core for next season. Current juniors CJ Palma, Siale Hafoka, Iverson Turno, Carter Stockham, Isaiah Tanner, Koa Evalu Robinson and Aukai Kama, as well as sophomore Reece Pascua, all return for next year.

The Lunas won their third straight Maui Interscholastic League title in an undefeated regular season (14-0) and reached the state final four for their top finish in their Division I history.

Both the Lahainaluna boys and girls wrestling teams were hot going into the state tournament after winning MIL championships over arch-rival Baldwin, and the Lunas turned up the heat at the Blaisdell for the state tournament. The Red Tide Wahine were particularly on fire as they piled up 191 points to win the program’s 17th state title and second in the last three years. The 45-point victory margin over second place Kamehameha Kapalama is the second most in girls tournament history.

The Lady Lunas’ charge was led by state championship efforts from Ira Navarro at 97 pounds, Alexis Encinas (at 112 pounds), Nanea Estrella (117 pounds) and Kauanoe Keahi (138).

In a heartbreaking defeat, Ivy fell short in her attempt for a second straight 107-pound championship and settled for the silver medal there. Sami Saribay (fifth place at 102 pounds), Taylor Pelegrino Hayase (fourth at 142), Shannon Jaramillo (fourth at 145) and Ailani Lanoza all contributed to the Lahainaluna onslaught.

On the boys’ side of the mat, the Lunas finished the tournament in seventh place with 74 points. They were led by senior Kainalu Estrealla’s silver medal in the 126-pound event. Also adding points for Lahainaluna were Alan Sanchez (fourth place at 106 pounds), Kawehi Gilcoat (fifth at 126), Ty Bates (fifth at 182), Nate Beard, Zeff Dudoit, Apakasi Felemi, Reeno Pascual and Enoka Phillips.

“This was a great experience for all of us,” said veteran Lahainaluna head coach Todd Hayase. “We are just so proud of the team as a whole, and so thankful to the Lahaina community for all of the love and support they provide for us.”