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Talented LHS girls basketball team looks to compete for the state championship

By Staff | Dec 21, 2017

The team includes (from left): front — Tori Tihada, Kreyajun Pahukoa, TC Pahukoa, Rachael Balagso, Sheilaika Agbayani and Teani Buenconsejo; back row — Aira Baguyo, Teani Rickard, Abigail Akamine, Susi Namoa, Erin Hookano, Maalaea Kaneaiakala, Kayjan Pahukoa, Braeanna Estabillo and Tiare Arista. Not pictured are Keiko Aotaki and Ashley Akamine.

LAHAINA – The hoop dreams continue for the Lahainaluna High School girls basketball team. But, as the 138 regular season winning streak, 13 consecutive Maui Interscholastic League titles, HHSAA final four streak adds up, there is only one goal that the venerable, 25-year veteran Lady Luna head coach Todd Rickard is fixated on: the state championship.

There is no looking back to the state title his Lahainaluna team won in 2010 or counting up wins and MIL titles. For Coach Todd and assistants Ian Aotaki, Derrick Akamine, Jason Donez, Rey Ross, Michael Hooper, Kai Pahukoa and Maiki Viela, the future is now.

That is particularly true for the veteran group of seniors led by team captain Rachael Balagso, Keiko Aotaki, Braeanna Estabillo, Sheilaika Agbayani, Tori Tihada, Kayjun Pahukoa and Maalaea Kaneaiakala, most of whom have been a part of the West Side Hoops program for over seven years.

Add to that the junior group of Susi Namoa, Teani Rickard and Erin Hookano, and the depth of experience of the current team is undeniable. First-year players Teani Buenconsejo, TC Pahukoa, Abbey Akamine and Ashley Akamine round out the Lady Luna roster for the 2017-18 campaign.

So, as most of the team has been in the program for six years or more, it is no surprise that Coach Todd sees this deep experience as a most formidable advantage.

“These are veterans that know the system well – they know what it takes to be successful. They know how to work hard, and they are in great condition and our team speed is good,” he said.

“We’ll mix up our defenses with man-to-man, full-court pressure, zone presses – mix it up to use our team speed and athleticism. On offense, we’ll always be moving with basic motion schemes and screen variations, as we have some great shooters,” he continued.

“These girls have worked so hard all through the years and especially this past summer, as we traveled to Honolulu, California and Chicago to participate in tournaments there. At one point we played 16 games in 14 days, so we’ve developed some toughness inside and the conditioning to play up-tempo all the time.”

The Lady Lunas, currently ranked third in the state behind Maryknoll and Kamehameha Kapalama, will play 15 MIL games through the end of January.

The HSAA state tournament is set for Jan. 30 to Feb. 4 at the Blaisdell Arena in Honolulu.

“We’d like to say thank you to the entire Lahaina community for their unending support. Especially to the parents and families of the girls for the sacrifices they’ve made and for always being helpful. I hope our girls appreciate this. And to all the coaches and managers, thank you, and I feel blessed to be a part of this,” he said.

“These are outstanding girls that are great to be around, and our seniors have shown great leadership in all areas, and everyone has put in the work to be successful. These girls deserve everything they attain. They have stayed tight through it all and we wish them well. They deserve to get to the championship final.”