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Wildcats Sports

West Hawaii Today Basketball Preview

Posted Wednesday, January 07, 2009 by Bobbie Awa
A Season Of Changes - Revised Schedule, New Coaches, Give Biif A Different Look
 
by Daniel Brock
West Hawaii Today
dbrock@westhawaiitoday.com
Wednesday, January 7, 2009 8:45 AM HST
On the Big Island, girls basketball is the sport of queens.

Since 2004, Big Island Interscholastic Federation teams have won twice as many state titles in wahine hoops (four) than in all other sports -- regardless of gender -- combined.

This season brings the promise of more success for Hawaii Island teams, with several offseason shake-ups adding spice to the traditional winning stew.


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A year after the girls season was moved from spring to winter, the regular season schedule has been made intradivisional. That means Division I teams will square off against each other in a home-and-home series, while Division II teams will also match up twice.

Three coaches will make their BIIF debuts this season. In Division I, Rebekah Keiser takes over at Kealakehe, and Kelly Lerma is the new man in charge at Hilo. Meanwhile, Bradley Estabilio will look to lay a solid foundation at Division II Kohala.

There have been some major shake-ups, as well. Hilo standout Vicky Tagalicod signed with USC in the offseason and decided to forgo her high school senior year to focus on rehabbing an injured knee.

Across town, 2008 Division II Player of the Year Kanisha Bello has joined last year's Division I Player of the Year, Kamie Imai, at Waiakea. Bello left Kamehameha, where she won a state title and appeared in another state championship game, in search of top-flight competition in Division I.

Who will step up this season, and what team will be crowned the BIIF's -- and possibly the state's -- best in 2009? Here are BIIF Division I and Division II girls basketball previews, with teams listed in alphabetical order:


DIVISION I

Hilo

- Coach: Kelly Lerma (first season, interim)

- 2008 record: 10-2 (lost to Konawaena in BIIF tournament semifinals)

- Players to watch: G Lisa Okimoto (5-6, Jr.), G Chelsea Cooper (5-7, Sr.), F Christine Laeda (5-7, Jr.), G Chelsey Santos (5-5, Jr.)


- The skinny: The Vikings have come up one game short of the state playoffs each of the past four seasons, and now they could be further away than that.

Vicky Tagalicod, one the BIIF's top players in recent times, hurt her knee in last year's conference tournament and will forego her senior season with the Vikings so she can rehab and prepare for her freshman campaign at USC, with whom she has signed a National Letter of Intent.

But with a deep rotation, Lerma hopes to build a cohesive, quick-moving unit that will help make up for the loss of his would-be star player.

"We have a whole bunch of juniors that are scrappy little girls," Lerma said. "They're a bunch of young ladies that are ready to play."

Like many BIIF teams, Lerma wants to see Hilo get out and run the floor.

"It should be an up-tempo type of game," he said. "They're hungry and willing to give a little extra."

And as for being without Tagalicod?

"They have to understand that Vicky isn't there anymore, and they have to do it by themselves," Lerma. "It's their team now."

Honokaa

- Coach: Lane Guzman (second year)

- 2008 record: 7-5 (lost to Keaau in BIIF tournament quarterfinals)

- Players to watch: G/F Kaylene Kanekoa (5-5, Jr.), - Maku Torres (5-5, Jr.), G April Cano (5-3, Jr.)

- The skinny: The junior trio of Kanekoa, Torres and Cano will lead the Dragons as they look to replace All-BIIF center Jamaika Lorenzo, who averaged double-digit points last season.

Guzman says his undersized team will look to get out and run, but he's also preaching patience on the offensive end of the floor.

"We (want) to score a lot on fast breaks," Guzman said. "As one of the smallest teams, we're going to have to rebound better offensively and be patient on offense."

There had been talk that Honokaa would drop to Division II, but Guzman nixed that notion in the offseason.

"We felt we were a D-I program and we could compete with anybody," Guzman said. "It's tradition at Honokaa, we don't ever want to settle for less than competing for the BIIF championship and the state championship."

And even if this isn't the most athletically gifted Dragon team of the past several seasons, Guzman remains confident heading into league play.

"It doesn't take talent to hustle," he said. "It doesn't take talent to outwork everybody else."

Keaau

- Coach: Mark Kawaha (third year)

- 2008 record: 7-6 (lost to Waiakea in BIIF tournament semifinals)

- Players to watch: G/F Rayleen Naki (5-3, Sr.), PG Tiare Anguay (5-1, Sr.), G/F Jackie Kaio-Goo (5-6, Jr.)

- The skinny: The Cougars return four starters from a team that finished above .500 in the 2008 regular season. Waiakea then knocked Keaau out of the BIIF tournament for the second year in a row.

Kawaha isn't concerned, however, that his girls will have to face the Warriors twice in regular-season play this year.

"It's just more of a challenge for us," Kawaha said. "I'd rather have it that way. Most of our players are back, and we have a lot of experience."

That experience comes primarily in the form of Naki, Kaio-Goo and Anguay. The former two are guard-foward hybrids who can bang inside or get out and run, while Anguay is a veteran at the point.

"We have a lot of balance," Kawaha said.

Kealakehe

- Coach: Rebekah Keiser (first year)

- 2008 record: 2-10 (lost to Konawaena BIIF tournament quarterfinals)

- Players to watch: - Dannielle Bean (5-9, Sr.), G/F Eliza Del Rosario (5-8, Sr.), G Chara Cabreros (5-4, Sr.)

- The skinny: Keiser was part of an NAIA national championship team as a player in 2002, and she hopes to bring some of that success to a Waverider program that has been down of late.

She's also realistic about taking over a team that has won just six regular season games in two years.

"Probably my biggest goal for the season is to be competitive," Keiser said. "We've got a lot of good teams in the conference. ... But, really, I just want to see us be competitive, not go get rolled when we play."

Keiser will have an experienced, if not deep, squad. There are only nine girls on the Kealakehe roster -- but just three are underclassmen.

Despite the lack of depth, Keiser still wants to see Kealakehe get up and down the floor.

"My preference would be to be a run-and-gun team," Keiser said.

Bean, who is returning from an ankle injury she picked up during volleyball season, Del Rosario and Cabreros will provide leadership, while Keiser is preaching a return to fundamentals.

"I want us to focus on defense, to be a defensive team," Keiser said. "I just want to see improvement on a lot of ends: taking care of the ball, being aggressive on offense (and) the transition game."

Konawaena

- Coach: Bobbie Awa (ninth year)

- 2008 record: 11-5 (appeared in HHSAA tournament)

- Players to watch: G Kara Hanato-Smith (5-4, Sr.), F Lia Galdeira (5-7, Fr.), G Dawnyelle Awa (5-7, Fr.)

- The skinny: Konawaena is young -- there are three freshmen and three sophomores on the roster -- but Awa's bunch has gotten off to a fast start, going 15-2 in the preseason and winning the World Youth Basketball Tournament in Kailua-Kona last month.

"We're trying to work better as a team," said Awa, who watched her team clinch the WYBT title with an 18-point win over Kamehameha. "We get better after every game and every tournament."

Awa will also have the luxury of an 11-man roster this season, so expect to see the Wildcats press -- something they normally don't do.

"We've got enough players to work that in some," Awa said.

Awa is also looking forward to the intradivisional schedule.

"We're actually very excited," she said. "We know it's going to be tough games day in and day out. We've got to be prepared for every game. ... Once you see them, win or lose, you have to make adjustments. Preparation is going to be key this year."

Waiakea

- Coach: Grant Kauhi (fifth year)

- 2008 record: 14-2 (BIIF regular season and tournament champion; placed fourth at HHSAA tournament)

- Players to watch: G Kamie Imai (5-7, Jr.), G Kanisha Bello (5-7, Sr.), PG Amanda Hubbell (5-6, Sr.)

- The skinny: In an odd twist, the defending-champion Warriors may have been the biggest beneficiaries of intradivisional scheduling changes designed to bring parity to the league.

Joining 2008 Division I Player of the Year Imai is Bello, last season's Division II Player of the Year, who transferred from Kamehameha so she could play against a higher level of competition.

"Playing Kona twice, Hilo twice, Keaau twice, that's going to get her ready for the next level,'' Waiakea coach Grant Kauhi said.

It's not all good news for Kauhi, however. Though Imai averaged 16.3 points per game last season and Bello will bring her 14-point scoring average across town, the Warriors lost five of their top seven players from a team that was undefeated heading into the state tournament.

The list of departed players includes Kira DeMorales, who averaged 10 rebounds per game in 2008. That leaves Waiakea a little short on a number of levels.

"I lost all my height," Kauhi said. "Kamie's my guard, and she's my tallest player at 5-7."

But Kauhi said that won't affect his team's style of play.

"We're still going to run and gun," he said.

After a slow start in the preseason, the Warriors (5-5) won their annual holiday tournament and seem to be getting on the right track just in time for league play.

"We're getting to where we want to be," Kauhi said. "We just got to fine-tune stuff -- blocking out, rebounding and execution on offense."


DIVISION II

Hawaii Prep

- Coach: Dr. Craig Kimura (ninth year)

- 2008 record: 8-9 (placed sixth at HHSAA tournament)

- Players to watch: G Cori Wang (5-5, Sr.), G Maya Chong (5-1, Sr.), F Tayler Wang (5-8, Jr.), G Katie Ho (5-3, So.)

- The skinny: Ka Makani aren't deep, but they possess a weapon every team in the BIIF would love to have: Tayler Wang.

An All-BIIF performer as a sophomore, Tayler Wang had a monster conference tournament, as well, averaging 20 points and 9.5 rebounds a game.

But while Kimura conceded his offense is "pretty much built around" Tayler Wang, he stresses that it will take more than one superstar to finish on top in Division II.

"Tayler will be the first one to tell you: It takes the whole team to get her the ball," Kimura said. "As good as she is, she needs the support of her teammates, and we've got to learn to play defense."

Wang's sister, Cori, and Chong will provide experience in a seven-man rotation, as HPA seeks a Division II crown and its fifth-straight state tournament appearance.

"It's pretty wide open," Kimura said of the BIIF race. "I don't think you say it's just HPA and Kamehameha. ... By no means are we looking at a two-team race for D-II. I think it's three, possible four teams."

Kamehameha-Hawaii

- Coach: Kalani Silva (third year)

- 2008 record: 12-5 (BIIF regular season and tournament champion; placed fifth at HHSAA tournament)

- Players to watch: G/F Kayla Lacaran-Costales (5-5, Sr.), - Kim Palea (5-7, Jr.), G Io Heaukulani (5-6, Jr.)

- The skinny: It's hard to replace a reigning conference player of the year -- especially when she is one of five starters not returning in 2009.

But that's what Silva will attempt to do after Kanisha Bello -- and her 14 points per game -- transferred to Waiakea and the rest of his starting lineup from last year graduated.

"It is going to be scoring by committee this year. You can see that already this year. Everybody, six, eight, 10, 12 points. Different girl, different night. It depends on what they're taking away, who's down, who's up."

Silva said that while everyone will have to contribute, the offense will run through Palea in the post.

"From a coaching strategy standpoint, we always go in, then out," he said. "A lot of our offensive sets, we pound it inside as much as we can."

Despite what seems like a rebuilding year, Silva is not excited about the intradivisional schedule changes.

"It's going to really hurt us, honestly," said Silva, who guided the Warriors to the state title game in 2006 and a state championship in 2007. "The caliber of team that we play in the BIIF, compared to the state ... you're not going to get that level of competition in Division II here."

Ka'u

- Coach: Mark Pocock (second year)

- 2008 record: 3-10 (lost to Kamehameha in BIIF tournament semifinals)

- Players to watch: G Amber Pocock (5-5, Jr.), PG Koko Kuahuia (5-5, Sr.), - Pua Kailiawa (6-2, Jr.)

- The skinny: In Kailiawa, the Trojans have the makings of perhaps the BIIF's most dominant post presence -- but Pocock said she's still a work in progress.

"It's just consistency on her part, to bring it every game," Pocock said. "Her biggest thing is to believe in herself and believe in her skills."

If Ka'u can get Kailiawa going, they'll likely challenge for the Division II title. Last year, the Trojans' largest margin of defeat to a division opponent was eight points. And in the preseason, Ka'u played Kamehameha tight before losing in overtime.

"For us, it's turnovers and free throw shooting and rebounding like everybody else," Pocock said. "I think we'll be in every game this year."

Kohala

- Coach: Bradley Estabilio (first year)

- 2008 record: 4-8 (lost to HPA in BIIF tournament semifinals)

- Players to watch: G Kristen Estabilio (5-5, Sr.), G Maka Marquez (5-4, Sr.), F Julia Naumes (5-8, Sr.), - Sierra McAniss (5-11, So.)

- The skinny: First-year coach Estabilio wants to keep things simple for his Cowgirls.

"I'm just trying to get them to play hard and compete every game," Estabilio said. "We're starting with the basic fundamentals."

Though he has several upperclassmen on the roster, including his daughter, Kristen, Marquez and Naumes, Estabilio said there's less experience in his squad than one might believe.

"There are no club teams here like in Kona or Hilo, and a lot of these girls play multiple sports," he said. "So while it may be their second or third year on the team, they're not playing year-round."

Estabilio said he's going to try to have his girls press some and run when they can, but that he "doesn't want them to think too much."

For this year, at least, Estabilio just wants to see his team get better.

"As far as wins and losses, I don't have a particular goal," he said. "But I want to see the girls improve throughout the year.

Pahoa

- Coach: Pete Brigoli (eighth year)

- 2008 record: 1-11 (lost to Kohala in BIIF tournament quarterfinals)

- Players to watch: G Whitney Hirano (5-4, Sr.), G/F Ashley Christian (5-6, Sr.), G Delorainne Butay (5-5, Jr.)

- The skinny: Brigoli returns for his eighth season as Daggers head coach after taking last year off. In his absence, the Daggers tied Parker for last place in the regular season and were bounced in the first found of the BIIF tournament.

With an experienced squad returning in 2009, Brigoli hopes to turn things around.

"We're looking to run the ball a lot more. We've been weak in that the last few years," Brigoli said.

Parker isn't fielding a team this season, so Pahoa may find itself alone at the bottom of Division II after going a combined 3-22 over the past two seasons. Brigoli, however, is keeping things positive.

"We do have speed on the team," he said. "They should hold their own."



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