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Waiakea plays big with smaller lineup


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POSTED: Tuesday, December 29, 2009

SIXTH IN A SERIES » Once again, the Waiakea Warriors are a team without a proven post scorer.

In fact, their lone effective low-post scorer would be Kamie Imai — an All-State Fab 15 point guard.

No, Waiakea doesn't fret about a lack of size. The Warriors just play sound basketball.

With a strong start, they are showing that height isn't everything in basketball.

Waiakea is ranked No. 5 in the Star-Bulletin Girls Basketball Top 10.

On paper: Waiakea is 6-0 so far, including tourney titles at the Waiakea Invitational and the First Hawaiian Bank Lady Na Menehune Preseason Peek.

All of the wins have been over OIA schools, most notably Moanalua.

Though Waiakea lost All-State Fab 15 guard Kanisha Bello to graduation, the Warriors haven't lost any chemistry.

Imai continues to prosper in coach Grant Kauhi's up-tempo system. She's able to run the fast break and set up the halfcourt offense. That's where Waiakea has an edge.

Guards like Alyssa Kealoha-Ferreira, daughter of former Hilo standout Bruce Ferreira, are quick off the dribble. Kealoha-Ferreira was one of the bright spots in Waiakea's two and out at last season's state tourney. At 5-foot-1, she fearlessly drove into the paint over and over.

The skinny: Though six of the eight players in Kauhi's rotation are freshmen or sophomores, most of them played year-round together.

“;It's a big advantage. Most of the things we're doing, they already know from the summer. We want to keep that up and extend,”; Kauhi said.

Sophomore Ciera Pacheco and senior Jamielynn Moe are reliable. Moe scored 19 points in a win over No. 9 Pearl City.

Posts Tricia Amuimuia (5-7) and Sefulu Faavae (5-7) are learning on the job. When Imai gets cornered, her teammates are ready for easy layups.

“;My girls are good at recognizing double teams. They'll yell 'double' and Kamie will find them,”; Kauhi said.

X factor: The new scheduling format in the BIIF means Waiakea gets less top-level competition. Playing only east-side teams until the playoffs, there will be no competition against defending state champion Konawaena.

Another prominent team, Kamehameha-Hawaii, is off the schedule since it is a Division II program.

Somehow, they might develop a killer instinct.

“;We'd be up on the Oahu teams by 20, and they would come back,”; Kauhi said of Waiakea's litany of seven- to nine-point wins. “;I told them, 'They're not like Big Island teams. They don't quit when they're down 20.' “;