West Maui Youth Basketball League honors top coaches and players for sportsmanship
LAHAINA – The West Maui Youth Basketball League All-Star Classic is clearly the highlight youth athletic event during the winter months here on the West Side. The sparkling Lahaina Civic Center – home of the Maui Jim Maui Invitational Basketball Tournament that is rated the top preseason intercollegiate showcase in the nation – hosts the hoop dreams gathering of participants, families and community leaders for the party festival saluting the 33-year program and, most especially, the dedicated leadership board.
A near capacity crowd filled the LCC three weeks ago for the event and were treated to contests featuring the top talent of the Tiny Mite, Peewee and Midget divisions of the league. At halftime of each contest, the WMYBL feature awards, for the outstanding coach and for the top sportsmanship player award, were presented. Each division’s coaches vote for the Coach of the Year honor, while the officials and scorekeepers of the league select the Sportsman of the Year winners.
In the Tiny Mite category, Bourbon Berry from the Blazers was recognized as the Coach of the Year, and Irie Ho’oikaika Mansanas was honored as the Sportsmanship Award winner.
For the Peewee category, veteran mentor Andy Alavaso was voted the outstanding coach, while Noa Gordon was recognized as the sportsmanship recipient.
Mario Balagso, who has coached in the WMYBL since the beginning, was honored by his peers as the Coach of the Year in the Midget Division. Pono Dukes was saluted as the sportsmanship winner.
During the Peewee Division ceremony, a special announcement was made that recognized Jade Chihara as the WMYBL sportsmanship winner ten years ago. In an enlightening twist of fate, she was named to the New England Men and Women’s Athletic Conference Sportsmanship honor three weeks ago.
She played for four years on the Lahainaluna High School team that went undefeated and won four Maui Interscholastic League titles and a state championship. Jade was recruited by Smith College, a Division III school, and for four years was the Pioneers’ top defensive player and the team captain for the last two seasons. She will graduate in May with a degree in Environmental Sustainability and Women and Gender Studies. And it all began here on this same Lahaina Civic Center court.
Current WMYBL Commissioner Sean Gordon, himself a product of the program from his “hana buttah” days to his current leadership of the model program, recognized the various individuals, groups and businesses that have supported the league throughout the years.
“To the coaches, parents, sponsors, staff and Maui County Parks and Recreation Department, we thank you for everything you do for this program. Most especially, mahalo to Jason Donez and Leilani’s on the Beach for sponsoring the All-Star Classic games and awards, and, above all, thank you to my family and my wife, Anela, for all they do for me in running the league.”
Correction: Kai-Lah Kawano-Vaea of the Magic was inadvertently left off of the player list of the Tiny Mite East All-Star team in the original article for the event. The Lahaina News sports desk apologizes for the error.