HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL
Lahainaluna checks in at preseason No. 8, remains team to beat in MIL
Years of development at the youth and prep levels has given the Lady Lunas of Lahainaluna a firm foundation.
Top 10 Countdown
With girls high school basketball season approaching, the Star-Bulletin is counting down its preseason Top 10, as determined in a poll of coaches and media members:
1. Next Thursday
That's why they are still the team to beat in the Maui Interscholastic League, even after losing 10 players from last season's squad. Even the loss of All-State candidate Ofa Namoa, who moved to Kentucky, hasn't derailed the Lunas' train.
At their tourney last week, the Lunas defeated Kailua, Maui and King Kekaulike. Coaches and media in the Star-Bulletin Girls Basketball Top 10 poll voted the Lady Lunas to a No. 8 ranking.
"We should do all right," coach Todd Rickard said. "We lost quite a few girls, but we have a lot of upcoming young girls who are athletic. We really won't drop off that much. The absence of Ofa inside might hurt us a little."
Namoa, at 5-foot-8, is a Barkley-esque forward who had 16 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks in a state quarterfinal loss to Punahou. Namoa moved to Kentucky to live with her cousin, former Lahainaluna All-State center Fatai Hala'api'api and her family.
"It's a better situation for her there," Rickard said.
2006-07 record: 20-4 (13-1 MIL).
On paper: The Lunas like to press fullcourt and create an up-tempo pace.
"We always will press. There's nothing different," Rickard said.
Milika Taufa, a 5-11 center, was the MIL player of the year. A junior, she is similar to Hala'api'api in size, but is much more skilled offensively at this stage.
The backcourt has experience with third-year starter Rachael Rickard and seniors Lovely Tagudin and Roxanne Padron.
Newcomer Mele Filikitonga (5-7) is up from the JV and saw limited playing time during the state tourney last season.
"She gives us defense and rebounding, and she runs the floor well. She's probably the fastest on our team," Rickard said.
The skinny: When the Lunas play in the MIL, where few teams put pressure on the ball from end to end, they are very tough. If they take care of the ball, Taufa will benefit the most.
After dominating the MIL, she was effective even with limited touches against Punahou and had 12 points and 10 rebounds. She also had 14 points and 13 rebounds against Roosevelt.
X factor: The Lunas are the class of the MIL again, but their progress at the state-tourney level will depend on guard play. The backcourt struggled against fullcourt and halfcourt defensive pressure from Punahou. In that game, the Lady Lunas committed 40 turnovers.
The addition of freshman guard Maiki Viela will help.
"We gotta learn how to handle man pressure and value our possessions. That's our problem. Punahou just jumped on us and our girls were shell-shocked," Rickard said.
The Lunas will get plenty of high-level competition beginning tomorrow in the Wahine Warriors Classic at Kamehameha-Hawaii. Lahainaluna will meet Waiakea. The field also includes all three Kamehameha teams, Iolani, Hilo and Honokaa.