Farrington, Kahuku seek repeats


POSTED: Tuesday, December 15, 2009

They stormed through the Oahu Interscholastic Association last season, winning their first 13 regular-season games.

The Farrington Governors were physical, quick and, most times, unstoppable. Then came a stunning playoff loss to Roosevelt, and the Govs had to respond quickly or lose all that momentum. They battled back in that double-elimination tourney, winning their next six games, including back-to-back matchups with the same Roosevelt squad.

Farrington's best season in decades nearly extended to a state championship. The Govs ousted 'Iolani before falling to eventual champ Konawaena 51-43 in the state semifinals.

The OIA regular season tips off tonight, two weeks earlier than usual. That means the Govs had only four nonconference games, including last week's close losses to Punahou (39-35) and Lahainaluna (48-39). Punahou finished second to Konawaena in the state tourney last season. Lahainaluna came in third.

Six OIA Red Conference games and three White contests are on tonight's slate.



The favorite: With Star-Bulletin All-State/Fab 15 guard Brydgette Tatupu-Leopoldo back for her junior season, the Govs have a swingman who is a matchup problem for defenses. So far this season, though, Farrington (25-7, 18-1 OIA Red last season) hasn't been itself. Tatupu-Leopoldo (5-foot-9) hasn't played a game yet due to tendinitis in a knee (she played volleyball in the fall).

Kirsten Liana (5-9) and Sofia Folaumahina (6-foot) anchor the inside, a duo matched by no other team in the league. Liana has guard skills in a center's body. Folaumahina is among the most athletic posts in the OIA. She had 12 points and eight rebounds against Lahainaluna and its imposing center, Milika Taufa.

Still, the Govs will go only as far as Tatupu-Leopoldo, voted No. 4 in the Fab 15, will take them.

The contender: Roosevelt (19-11, 11-6 last season) heads the list of title challengers. Last season's team went on a tear offensively after struggling early without Mikela Thoemmes (No. 10 in the Fab 15), their 5-9 post scorer. She played volleyball in the fall and is prepared to spark a squad that lost to Lahainaluna in last season's state quarterfinals.

Though the Rough Riders lost key backcourt starters to graduation, sharp-shooting Nicole Ramirez is back, and so is tough inside scorer Tasia Kamakawiwo'ole. Forward Joshlyn Noga transferred to Kahuku, an OIA White (Division II) team.

Former assistant coach Hinano Higa has stepped in for Clint Chikamori, who stepped down to spend time with his young family.

Long shots: There are teams that went far last year thanks to senior talent. Aiea and Kalani, teams that met in the opening round of the state tourney, lost those key players to graduation.

Aiea's Natasha Helsham, a Fab 15 selection (No. 6), departed to play for Idaho. Seven other seniors graduated, including center Carol Sio.

Kalani's run-and-gun squad lost guards Ashlyn Onaga, Jamie Higa and post Violet Alama (Cal State Northridge) to graduation, as well as coach George Weeks, who is now guiding the boys program at Hawaii Baptist.

Moanalua has versatile Joanna Nicolas (5-7) back after a stellar season as a smooth passer and rebounder. Na Menehune lost to Waiakea last week in the semifinals of their tournament.

Kailua, a force in the White last season, moves up to the Red despite losing six seniors, including Zsalei Kamaka and Ashley Jacobs. Sola Williams, a 5-9 guard/forward, is one of the Surfriders' key returnees.

The sleeper: Pearl City is on fire. The Chargers won seven of their first eight nonconference games, including a 34-28 victory over defending D-II state champion Molokai last week.

The Chargers are getting it done on the shooting skills of Jordan Ahakuelo, Glacen Florita and Alana Kaili. While most OIA girls teams have one, maybe two reliable shooters, Pearl City has weapons on the perimeter and in the post for coach Mike Morton.



The favorite: Kahuku. Despite struggles early on — losses to Clovis West (Calif.) 78-36, 'Iolani 51-40 and Mid-Pacific 70-46 — the Lady Raiders have plenty of size and skill.

Last year's team (21-3, 14-1 OIA White) dominated the conference before losing a 60-56 stunner to Kapaa in the state quarterfinals. Coach Junior Avei is trying to transform his team into a consistent, aggressive, high-octane performer.

With such an early start, however, Kahuku won't be any different from other OIA teams still trying to establish a foundation with just a few weeks of practices. In time, Kahuku could emerge as one of the best teams in the state regardless of classification.

Versatile Hi'ilei Cummings and 6-foot Amanda Tonga should dominate the White, while sophomore Temutisa Te'o's perimeter shooting and ball-handling skills could take pressure off point guard Rachel Tailele. The addition of former Roosevelt starter Joshy Noga will help immensely. Noga is a good ballhandler who could become a key rebounder.

The contender: Kaimuki (19-9, 12-4) lost streaky shooter Olivia Phommachanh, swingman Dinishah Fa'asoa and center Lani Mikaele to graduation. Coach Mona Fa'asoa's other daughters, Letishah and Dejah, return to anchor the backcourt. Last year's Bulldogs reached the semifinals of the state tourney, losing to Kamehameha-Hawaii 42-41.

The long shot: Kaiser had a pair of underclassman posts with potential last year (Haley Durham, 5-10) and Lijah Bowerman (5-8), but lost solid guards Keely Bitanga and Chelsy Okuma to graduation. Bitanga was also their best post scorer.