HIGH SCHOOL REPORT
JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Top-ranked Iolani has come a long way in the last few years. The Raiders are trying for the school's first girls basketball state title since 1996.
The Iolani girls basketball team stays together like a big happy family
THE 6 a.m. workouts. The state tournament losses. They added up for the Iolani girls basketball team over the past three years.
This season, the senior-heavy squad has spared nothing. Offseason, preseason, regular season, it all means the world to these hoopaholics. No complaints, no whining. Just dedication and sweat.
Sixteen wins into the current season, a surprising thing happened to the top-ranked girls basketball team in the state -- the Raiders lost.
A 41-33 defeat at Kamehameha ended the possibility of a perfect season. More importantly, the Raiders learned quickly that nothing is a given. Not when the defending state champion, Punahou, comes from your league. And not when every team in the Interscholastic League of Honolulu is capable of pulling off an upset, if it can be called that.
Since the loss, the Raiders have bounced back. The next night, they soundly defeated the same Kamehameha Warriors.
"For me, they got back to just playing basketball. I think they got a little too mechanical," coach Glenn Takara said. "Even if we call a certain play or offense, there will be times when it's not going to be open. You have to play basketball."
The details are also what co-captain Keilyn Fujioka saw.
"We did all the little things we didn't do the night before. The mentality of our preseason team, to keep running, to never let down no matter what the score is," the senior center said. "We played our game. We pressed, we did the fast break, we hustled more."
This is the payoff year, so to speak. If the Raiders are capable of beating any team by 30 points, they have also lost their aura of domination after the loss to Kamehameha. Unlike the perception two weeks ago, when the Raiders seemed unbeatable, they are, alas, only human. Seventeen wins in 18 games is, of course, not the work of average humans.
AS THE RAIDERS roared past nonconference foes in February and March, there was no way to deny their depth and talent. More than that, the Raiders clicked on many levels on both ends of the floor.
Guards Kaz Masutani, Chelsea Unemori, Chanel Hirata, Marci Kang and Meilin Akamu bring quickness and 3-point capability to complement the drive-and-dish skills of Hennasea-Sue Tokumura. Alana Matayoshi is a true slasher, able to create off the dribble or hit the mid-range jumper. Forward Jamie Smith has become a double-double statistical force as a sophomore, but when teams focus on her, Alana Wall and Sarah Turgeon step up. Fujioka (6-foot-1) and Megan Burton (6-2) are unmatched in the state when it comes to twin towers at center. They haven't spent much time together on the court in game time, but their battles in practice have honed skill and intensity levels.
"WE HAVE A LOT of talent, and we can play, I think, any style of basketball," Takara said. "We could go small. We could push it up. We could put in a big lineup and pound it in more. It'll depend game by game, what the matchups are going to be and adjust from there. We just try to take care of ourselves first, and do what we do good, and make little adjustments."
JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Point guard Hennasea-Sue Tokumura is one reason the Raiders are playing some of their best basketball since a loss to Kamehameha.
Fujioka and Tokumura anchor different parts of the floor, but as co-captains, they're crucial liaisons between the players and coaches when necessary.
When Tokumura was born, her hair and eyebrows were so light, there was only one wayher mother could describe it.
"She had a sea of henna on her head," Sanae Tokumura recalled.
Hennasea was a fitting name, and Sue was her grandmother's nickname. In her pre-hoops days, she was a prodigy in ballet, and when her instructor learned that Hennasea-Sue was done with pirouettes, he wailed in agony.
Tokumura has noticed the changes within the team, as well as her coach, over the years.
"We have our laughs as a team, but we know when to get focused. Every year, it's been different. My first year, it was a new crew, but as we got closer, he lets loose a little at practice sometimes. He's a joker, but he's cool," she said.
"If we're having a good practice, where we come out strong, there's more joking around, I guess. But most of the time we try and be serious or we'll run for it," she said.
Takara chuckled about their insights. "That's pretty much true," he said.
NOTHING, HOWEVER, comes without a price. After a day off and a busy weekend at the school's Family Fair, Monday's practice was borderline brutal. The Raiders ran and ran, even though they had a game with Maryknoll just 24 hours later.
"We had our fun, but now it's back to basketball," Takara said.
Knowing precisely what his team needs makes a big difference.
"He's not a screamer, but when he cracks down and wants us to focus, he's serious," Tokumura said. "When we beat Punahou, that's when we have the most fun. But when we do bad, that's when we have to stick together."
Championships are glorifying, no doubt, but Takara sees things a bit differently. The bond between his players is something he will not surrender, not for anything else.
The big difference this year is they're looking out for each other, caring for each other. It's a big family.
"If we don't win the state championship, there will be disappointment, but I would still consider the season a success because of how they got along with each other," he said.