Waiakea tries to do it without big post player


POSTED: Sunday, December 21, 2008

Instead of keeping his talented Waiakea Warriors at home, coach Grant Kauhi took them to Oahu in early December for a good taste of what the state's better teams could offer.






        With league play in high school basketball approaching, the Star-Bulletin is counting down its preseason Top 10s, as determined in a poll of coaches and media members:


10.  Honokaa


9. Waiakea



With leading scorer Kamie Imai back home to focus on academics and an SAT, the Warriors took their lumps from Punahou and Kamehameha.

Still, Waiakea is the defending Big Island Interscholastic Federation champion, and the addition of Kamehameha-Hawaii transfer Kanisha Bello doesn't hurt. A topsy-turvy early schedule is currently on an upswing, so coaches and media see enough to give the Warriors a No. 9 ranking in the Star-Bulletin Preseason Top 10.

On paper: The Warriors lost two key players in center Kira DeMorales and guard Kirsty Imai to graduation. Bello brings a nice mid-range shot and savvy scoring instincts to complement Kamie Imai, a 5-foot-8 junior point guard.

Amanda Hubbell is among the most experienced returnees and freshman Alyssa Ferreira, daughter of former Hilo standout guard Bruce Ferreira, shows remarkable poise. Ferreira could be one of the best freshmen in the BIIF.

Last year's Warriors went 18-0 in league play (18-4 overall), but fell to 'Iolani 67-45 in the quarterfinals of the state tourney.

Their first week of competition at Farrington's Maroon and White tournament was an eye-opener. Without Imai, the Warriors struggled against Punahou's fullcourt man press, then were overwhelmed by Kamehameha. Then, overnight, they regrouped and knocked off Farrington.

With Imai back, they still struggled last week, taking a lopsided loss from rival Hilo in the Wahine Warriors Classic at Kamehameha-Hawaii. The Warriors redeemed themselves by tripping Hilo in this weekend's Waiakea tournament.

“;It was a complete turnaround,”; assistant coach Jason Kauhi said yesterday. “;Last week was our first week with Kamie back and our defense and rebounding were horrible. Last night, we used our press and we were hitting our shots.”;

Moanalua was 4-4 in nonconference play going into last night's game with Keaau.

The skinny: If and when Imai and Bello, a commit to Idaho, find their chemistry together, Waiakea's run-and-gun tempo will be restored.

X factor: Finding enough rebounding will be key for Kauhi, whose up-tempo game was a lock thanks to DeMorales last year. Otherwise, the Warriors may well run by their Big Island foes only to be halted by a slowdown tempo at the state tournament.

Waiakea has a history of strong post players going back to Sheila Azevedo and Kalei Namohala. Without a dominant post, the Warriors are counting on Imai to shoulder a big part of the boardwork.