New coaches lead middle school basketball programs
LAHAINA – A new wave of highly skilled mentors has solidified the Red Tide pathway to excellence at the middle school level here on the West Side. Jason Donez has taken the lead as coach of the Lahaina Girls Maui Menehune League team, while Luke Williams and Cheyne De La Garza are the co-head coaches of the Lahaina Boys program.
Coach Donez, the general manager of Leilani’s on the Beach restaurant – a standout supporter of West Side community educational and youth athletic programs – who has worked tirelessly in the West Maui Youth Basketball League and with the Lady Lunas team as an assistant coach, has assumed the leadership role with the Lahaina Girls.
For the Lahaina Boys, two former Lahainaluna High School basketball standouts and collegiate players – Williams and De La Garza – are the co-head coaches of the team.
Both led their Luna teams to Maui Interscholastic League titles and were honored on the MIL All-Star Team as Players of the Year while also receiving all-state recognition. They also went on to highly successful college careers. Ferdinand Palma is the assistant coach.
Their player roster includes Cash Palma (one of two returning players), Khen Harvy Ganoot, Noah Flores Alexander, Tainoa Buenconsejo, Emerson Flores, Kama’au Castro, Joa Navarro, Jimmy Falk, Dylan Falk, Kade Cunningham, returnee Denver Duque, Levi Basurto, Ian-Jay Cabanilla, Zachary Devane and Ryder Lombardi.
While the boys’ roster is stacked, the girls’ team has just seven players, but they have the size and tenacity to dominate their division.
Eighth-grader Kiera Kaniho is the lone returning player for Coach Donez, and she is joined by Taimana Faleafine Auwae, Maliama Taufa, Kayla Kalepa, Lola Donez, Margie Sana and Mata Faleta on the roster.
According to Williams and Donez, both teams employ up-tempo styles of play with constant movement on offense and high pressure on defense.
And, more important, the coaches pointed to the concerted effort of all of the players to work tirelessly in practice to develop an unselfish attitude.
“Our biggest strength is this is a group of kids that show up every day and give 100 percent due to their love of basketball. They have an awesome attitude of unselfishness,” said Coach Williams.
Donez echoed that sentiment in saying, “This team has overachieved through hard work and commitment to excellence in the culture of Lady Lunas basketball. They have learned to build good practice habits and build confidence to understand their roles and to contribute to the team effort.”
In conclusion, both Williams and Donez expressed the gratitude of their teams to the parents and families of the players, the Lahaina community, Maui Parks and Recreation Department, Luna coaches Jason Justus, Todd Rickard, Ian Aotaki, Derrick Akamine, Maiki Viela and Malika Taufa, and Westside Hoops for the continued support of the program.