OIA RED WEST
Coaches see Radford as division's clear favorite
In the West, there is a reason why smaller teams are bubbling with delight.
Leilehua, a squad that had one of the best 1-2 combos in Brittaney Stafford and Marquesha McVay last year, was decimated by McVay's departure.
"Thank God she left," Pearl City coach Mike Morton said of the promising 6-foot shot-blocker. McVay returned to Georgia with her family on a military transfer.
The bad news for the rest of the Oahu Interscholastic Association Red West is that Radford is not only unblemished, but empowered more than ever.
The arrival of freshman Ta Nitra Byrd separates Radford from the rest of the West even more, creating a canyon where there once was just a gap.
Aiea has a shot at the West title, at least in the eyes of Eric Nakabayashi. "It's gotta be Radford and Aiea.
Aiea didn't lose much," the Nanakuli coach said, noting the West's leading scorer, Natasha Helsham.
Mililani coach Scott DeSilva calls Nanakuli a potential surprise team.
"Nanakuli is the sleeper in the West. Keola (Mahelona) is legit. She's good," he said of the post scorer. "During the summer time, some of his girls played on our team, and whenever we needed a basket, we gave her the ball."
Still, DeSilva considers Radford the clear favorite. "They've got 10, 11 girls where there's no drop off in talent. He literally could play 10 girls every game," he said of Radford coach David Lane.
"With the returnees and experience they've got, they just reloaded," Leilehua coach Elroy Dumlao said, not forgetting Kapolei.
"If Kapolei gets that post game going, they should be pretty balanced," he added.
Here's a look at the Red West.
AIEA NA ALII
On paper: Capri Holiona and Natalie Helsham are the vanguard of Na Alii once again, providing an inside-outside punch. Jennifer Yuen and Nohe Fonoti could also add some scoring punch.
On paper: The Hurricanes have five returnees: Keisha Miller, Ashley Dela Cruz, Regina Simanu, Tamara Satcher and Jasmine Gibson. Dela Cruz is their best perimeter shooter. Gibson is recovering from a knee injury suffered last year.
On paper: Leilehua went 5-3 in nonconference play, including losses to highly-ranked Kamehameha and Konawaena.
More than ever, the Mules are looking to gallop up and down the floor. That's because center Marquesha McVay, an athletic 6-footer, wound up transferring back to Georgia with her family.
That leaves the burden squarely on the shoulders of fourth-year starter Brittaney Stafford, who has led the Mules in scoring since arriving on campus. Stafford was named to the First Hawaiian Bank Lady Na Menehune Peek Tournament on Saturday.
On paper: Mililani is relatively small and battled through nonconference (4-10) with a host of new players.
Joleen Realin and Chantel Tanuvasa are playing the post, though Realin is a natural guard. "I've had to move her to the 4 because our other posts have struggled," DeSilva said.
Ashley Anthony, a starting power forward, transferred back to the mainland with her family. DeSilva set the nonconference schedule before Anthony's family was reassigned by the military.
"We knew where our weaknesses are," the coach said. "Because we had a tough preseason schedule, girls who might not have been ready had to step in."
NANAKULI GOLDEN HAWKS
On paper: Nanakuli went 6-4 in nonconference play, including a win over West rival Mililani at the King Kekaulike tourney. Talented junior Sasha Montez spearheads the Golden Hawks offense.
Chazmyne Morgan, the OIA White soccer player of the year, leads the fast break and is a solid defensive player. "Her speed is a real asset for us," Nakabayashi said.
Keola Mahelona, Britney Wolf and Violet Mao rotate on the post. Mahelona and Wolf are juniors, and Mao is only a sophomore.
PEARL CITY CHARGERS
On paper: The Chargers have no returning starters, with the exception of point guard Desiree Luis, who started a couple of games. Luis and fellow returnee Kaiona Auyoung keep the team stable.
Ariel Komomua and Patricia Langi are vital contributors up from the JV.
On paper: The defending West champions are physically imposing and play with an unmatched aggression out West. Chelsea Villanueva and Marlena Malepeai have the strength to bang underneath against any center, but are among the top wings in the division.
Lane's team went 9-2 in nonconference play and should be even better than last year's squad.