HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL
Hilo hopes to take the next step after disappointment in tournament
There is reason for optimism for the Hilo Vikings.
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:
There is also reason why they may be a bit annoyed right now. The Lady Viks led perennial state powerhouse Iolani at halftime, only to fall 45-42 on Thursday in the opening round of the Wahine Warriors Classic at Kamehameha-Hawaii. With that loss, the Viks dropped into the consolation round and missed a chance to play more of the top teams in the state.
"They took it hard. I'd like to give Iolani credit, but we know we should've won that game if we'd taken care of the ball," Hilo coach Ferdi Masulit said. The Viks got a strong effort from All-State student Vicky Tagalicod. The 5-foot-9 junior had 17 points and 10 rebounds in an intense battle with Iolani standout Jamie Smith.
"Vicky was asked to do a lot. That kind of game, she knows what's expected," Masulit said.
Hilo (3-2) is also expected to do much, according to the Star-Bulletin Girls Basketball Top 10 panel. Coaches and media voted the Viks to a No. 6 ranking in this week's preseason poll.
While Interscholastic League of Honolulu girls basketball teams began practice on Oct. 29, the rest of the state didn't lace up the sneakers until early and mid-November. Hilo has plenty of room for improvement.
"We didn't really go through all of our offensive options yet (at practice), so we'll get better," he said.
How much better? Last year's team lost to Honokaa in the league playoffs and missed the state tourney. This season, the field is wide open, and Hilo could challenge defending BIIF and state champ Konawaena for the crown.
2006-07 record: 16-7 (10-3 BIIF).
On paper: Four starters return to the floor. Guards Aisha Sueda (5-4) and Kayla Nobriga (5-4), plus Chelsea Cooper (5-5) give the Viks a small, but active core to complement Tagalicod.
Masulit intends to go 10 deep thanks to a roster of 10 returnees.
The skinny: Hilo's cornerstone is defense. "We're not gonna have much height, but I like our man-to-man defense," Masulit said. "We were sharp (defensively) against Iolani."
Christine Laeda, a 5-5 sophomore, is Hilo's most relentless defensive stopper.
"She's constantly active, never stands still. You gotta work hard to get open if she's guarding you."
The Lady Viks worked out four times a week in the fall with speed and distance running, and weight training. Assistants Gary Cooper and Henry Miranda had the team doing squats, leg presses and some plyometric work.
"They really worked hard to improve. They look faster," Masulit said. "They are seniors now, so they recognized the urgency."
Tagalicod, who will likely be in the running for state player-of-the-year honors, traveled with Honolulu's Kalakaua Foundation Clinic team in the summer. "She's gotten better with trusting her teammates more," Masulit said.
Hilo's long-term success, though, will go beyond Tagalicod.
"We want to recommit ourselves to playing good defense. We have to be able to disrupt the offensive rhythm," Masulit said.
Next week, the Viks will fly to Oahu to play Mid-Pacific, Aiea and Kalani in another series of tests.
X factor: Sueda, the shooting guard, has shown significant improvement since last year.
"She's making more of an effort to drive to the basket, and she's improved her defense, too," Masulit said.