Team Aloha upsets Storm Black for title
Aloha means hello, and it can mean goodbye.
For the stunned crowd at the Nike Storm & Swish Fall Shootout, including a number of Division I coaches, Aloha also means champion.
Team Aloha, a squad of 12 hand-picked girls basketball players from across the islands, upset California Storm Black to capture the tournament championship yesterday at UC Santa Barbara.
Shawna-Lei Kuehu, Punahou's two-time state player of the year, led Team Aloha with 21 points. Honokaa standout Keisha Kanekoa, a recent commit to the University of Hawaii, added 13.
The Storm, one of the top club teams on the West Coast, led by 10 at halftime, but Team Aloha rallied with its fullcourt press and outscored its foes 36-14 in the second half.
"It wasn't because of our preparation. We only had two practices," Team Aloha coach Dana Takahara Dias said. "It was big hearts with great attitudes of perseverance."
The title marked a successful debut for the team, sponsored and organized by the Hawaii High School Athletic Association and Mayor Mufi Hanneman, who was an unofficial assistant coach.
The squad opened play on Saturday with a 55-48 overtime win over California Swish Black. Team Aloha then defeated Clutch Players 55-37.
Yesterday, Team Aloha routed SGV (Temple City, Calif.) to reach the finals. Hilo standout Vicky Tagalicod suffered a broken foot in the first 2 minutes of play and missed the rest of the tournament. Then came the matchup with the Storm, a team that Kuehu played for during the summer at a Nike elite tournament.
"They missed her a lot," Takahara Dias said.
The team will travel from Santa Barbara to Los Angeles, then board a plane and return to the islands tonight.