Mid-Pacific has a shot in ILH


POSTED: Monday, December 28, 2009

FIFTH IN A SERIES » He's a teacher by trade, but as a seasonal fisherman, Wes Masuda knows a thing or two about reading storms.

This winter, the new Mid-Pacific girls basketball coach is embracing a possible confluence of roundball elements. With some traditional powers in the Interscholastic League of Honolulu struggling to a degree, the senior-heavy Owls could be heading into a perfect storm.

Mid-Pac, which finished tied for 10th in last year's poll, is No. 6 in the Star-Bulletin Girls Basketball Preseason Top 10.

On paper: Last year's Owls were 16-8 with a junior-heavy lineup, but fell short of a state tourney berth with a heart-breaking 41-38 loss to Kamehameha in the playoffs.

Masuda was promoted from within the program—17 years at the lower levels—to replace Byron Cheng, who stepped down.

All-State Fab 15 guard Johnelle Kapua graduated, but the Owls have center Keaton McFadden and guards Jordan Kealoha and Ashley Yamachika back—easily one of the best returning trios in the state.

This season's squad was 8-2 in nonconference play, including a solid 49-30 win over No. 8 Roosevelt.

It's easy to forget, though, that last year's team was 10-1 before league play, then finished 6-7 in the rugged ILH.

The skinny: It's often about matchups and options, of which MPI has plenty.

“;Ashley can shoot, but she looks for her teammates. Jordan and Keaton, if they don't have it they can kick it out,”; Masuda said yesterday, shortly after the team returned from a retreat at Camp Erdman.

He has incorporated many of Cheng's philosophies and schemes. More importantly, Masuda trusts his seven seniors, who are all co-captains.

“;They all play well together. We don't have to push that,”; Masuda said. “;It's been like this from the summer. They don't get down on themselves too much and they definitely don't get down on each other.”;

X factor: Forward Jenna Savusa is one of the strongest defenders in the ILH—when she's not in foul trouble. If she can stay on the floor, the senior will benefit offensively when opponents collapse on McFadden or race to the perimeter to stop Yamachika and Kealoha.