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Roosevelt girls looking to step up


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POSTED: Saturday, December 26, 2009

THIRD IN A SERIES » Second in the Oahu Interscholastic Association is really good.

The Roosevelt Rough Riders want greatness. Last year's runner-up finish in the OIA Red girls basketball chase and a loss in the state quarterfinals left a sour taste, but the good news is that the Rough Riders are still loaded.

First-year head coach Hinano Higa, a longtime assistant to former head coaches Clint Chikamori and Bobby Keanini, has two cornerstones back in 3-point marksman Nicole Ramirez and post scorer Mikela Thoemmes.

Roosevelt is ranked No. 8 in the Star-Bulletin Girls Basketball Preseason Top 10.

On paper: Last year's squad finished 19-11 overall (11-6 OIA) and took fifth place in the state tourney.

This year, Roosevelt is 6-2 (3-0 OIA), losing only to 'Iolani (50-48) and Mid-Pacific (49-30).

Thoemmes can be unstoppable at times, using both hands to maneuver for shots in the low post. Her return at midseason last year from an injury sparked a remarkable run that included an upset of Farrington in the OIA playoffs.

The Rough Riders have experience in the backcourt with returnees Kelcie Namba, Charisse Tanabe and Abcde Furuta-Harada.

The skinny: The departure of Joshy Noga (to Kahuku) is key. Noga's ballhandling skills helped the backcourt against high-pressure defenses, but her rebounding would have been a big plus. Combined with the graduation of center Tasia Kamakawiwoole and defensive stopper Kathleen Nakata, much of the weight is on Ramirez and Thoemmes.

If the two elevate their game, it still might not be enough for the Rough Riders to get past Farrington. Roosevelt hasn't gotten a scoring boost yet from other returnees and newcomers. Status quo might be enough for Roosevelt to make the state tourney, but the development of third and fourth scoring options will be necessary for title runs in the OIA and state tourney.

X factor: If Roosevelt doesn't find more scoring, Thoemmes has the skills to dominate offensively. The 5-foot-9 senior has 3-point range and good handles—she poured in 35 points against Moanalua on Wednesday.