OIA EAST PREVIEW
Kahuku, Roosevelt expected to contend
Kaiser and Kalaheo are also among the serious challengers
First of Three Parts
With a new coach at the helm, the Lady Raiders of Kahuku may seem ripe for the picking in the tough Oahu Interscholastic Association East.
However, after a 7-3 start in a challenging nonconference schedule, no other coach is willing to predict a Kahuku slide from the top.
"I think Kahuku and Roosevelt will be the strength of the conference," longtime Kalaheo coach Chico Furtado said of Kahuku, the two-time OIA girls basketball defending champion.
The Lady Raiders return a formidable trio of contributors in Artevia Wily, Camilla Ah-Hoy and Ane Vea. That inside-outside combination is tough for any OIA foe to match up with.
"I'm hoping we can give Kalaheo a game," first-year coach Val Anae said. "If we can cut Tavy loose, we'll have a lot of fun. 'Milla is a great athlete. She had 10 steals in one of our games last week."
Roosevelt, though, may have a better group of basketball players. Tati Beasley is easily one of the most talented hoopsters in the state. Along with center Shannon Miyashiro and newcomer Iwa Rodrigues, Roosevelt has three year-round players who could lead the school to an OIA title -- if they stay healthy.
"Our bench is thin, but there are possibilities," coach Bobby Keanini said. "We'll take it game by game."
Blending the "old" with the new has actually made Keanini smile.
"These girls have been so easy to coach, so grounded in their schoolwork," said Keanini, who is also a longtime assistant with the boys program at Roosevelt.
Kalaheo, meanwhile, is in reload mode. Senior guard Shanadee Canon is a matchup problem for most defenses, but she won't have a posse of experienced teammates.
The OIA season starts tomorrow.
Here's a look at the East squads:
On paper: After losing to Hilo, the Lady Govs posted wins over Pearl City and Maryknoll during last week's Lee Cashman Classic. Janiene Telefoni-Sablan has been a consistent scorer of late, and Tatiana Alualu is also showing big potential. Joanna Montero, a fourth-year varsity player, is a co-captain along with Alualu.
The skinny: A group of players was recently disciplined, including all-league performer C'ani Kealoha, who was due to have a breakout season. Even without her, the Govs went 8-3 in nonconference play.
Kahuku Red Raiders
On paper: Anae takes over for sister-in-law Wendy Anae, who moved to Utah. Val Anae, who played on Kahuku's first OIA championship team (1980), wants to develop her inexperienced players soon.
"We have some skills, but we're lacking in the basic fundamentals," the former All-American at Brigham Young said. Kahuku lost in the state quarterfinals last season and wound up fourth in the Star-Bulletin Top 10.
The skinny: Kaimi Ah Puck is emerging as another 3-point shooter. Another key contributor is Christine Meredith, who is averaging 10 points and eight boards per game.
On paper: New season, new coach, one mainstay. Sharde Pratt is the lone returning starter from last year's state-tourney qualifier. Higuchi, who coached Kaiser's JV team years ago, returns to a situation that is almost like starting from scratch.
Under Lisa Mann, last year's squad lost in the opening round of the state tourney and finished at No. 7 in the final Star-Bulletin Top 10.
The skinny: The East doesn't have a dominant team, but the parity and talent level is still fairly high. Pratt can carry the Lady Cougars to a point, but she'll only be effective if Kaiser's backcourt grows up in a hurry.
On paper: Canon is capable of averaging more than 20 points per game. Furtado is leaning heavily on his senior, but won't weigh her down.
"I think people know we run everything through Shan. She needs to come up big for us and for her. She's had good years, but I don't think she's had open-your-eyes kind of years, partly because we had Taylor (Smith) and more well-rounded talent," Furtado said. Last year's team lost in the state semifinals and wound up ranked sixth in the Star-Bulletin Top 10.
The skinny: Furtado hopes to see key production from Kaliko Kepa, Kendra Fischer and Lohi Aweau. Hoku Denning will also make a difference on the boards when she returns from a hamstring injury.
On paper: Young and small, the Lady Tigers have their work cut out. Chelsie Sato, now a junior, remains one of the most versatile players in the state. Kaitlyn Ikehara is one of the streakiest long-range shooters around. In one recent nonconference game, she sank six treys in the first half and none after the break.
The skinny: Some players didn't return as expected, leaving Victorino with no choice but to put inexperienced players on the floor. They started two juniors, two sophomores and a freshman during the recent Lady Tiger Challenge.
On paper: The Menehunes aren't tall, but have some talented, versatile players such as Jade Miller, Britni Ronolo and Jamie Ronolo.
The skinny: Execution will be key for undersized teams like Moanalua, but a playoff berth is within reach.
Roosevelt Rough Riders
On paper: Beasley and Rodrigues are among the best perimeter players in the state. Dianna Zane had a terrific season as a freshman and leads the team in assists.
The skinny: The talent is there, but whether the Rough Riders mesh as a unit and reach their potential may depend on the injury situation.