Kahuku appears to be strong again


POSTED: Tuesday, December 23, 2008

It's not that unusual, really.

In football, Division II 'Iolani is a regular in the Top 10, finishing the recent season at No. 6.

Volleyball's Top 10 is home to Hawaii Baptist, a relatively small school that finished fourth in the final poll. Word of Life, another D-II team, was sixth.

That's why the concept of Kahuku as a D-II team is in the girls basketball Top 10 is impressive and puzzling. The Lady Raiders have been an OIA Red title contender for ages, winning OIA crowns in 2004 and '05 under Wendy Anae, who is now the coach at BYU-Hawaii. Kahuku has six OIA crowns since 1980, matched by no other program.

Kalaheo, since '80, has five titles.

However, the Raiders were 5-10 in league play last season (8-13 overall), and when center Taeja Afalava moved with her family to Utah after volleyball season, the school chose to move down to the White Conference.

The results so far are intriguing. Kahuku scored 163 points against Molokai (82-63) and Word of Life (81-30) - both D-II teams. Molokai is the heavy favorite to win the MIL's D-II title.

That roll at Farrington's Maroon and White Tournament was punctuated by a 54-45 win over Kamehameha. Pretty amazing for a first week of competition. Since then, Kahuku played in the St. Francis tournament, losing to D-I Sacred Hearts. With one nonconference game left, the Lady Raiders are 5-1.

On paper: Even without Afalava, Kahuku is strong and big in the low post. At 6 feet, Adele Schwenke is immovable and has great hands and a smooth shooting touch. The Raiders are loaded with quick forwards like Jovan Falemalu and Lavinia Latu.

Shooting guard Nile Te'o sank six treys in the win over Molokai. Point guard Rachel Tailele is only a sophomore, but she is the driver in coach David Te'o's run-and-gun system.

The skinny: Kahuku has the depth and athleticism to press often, but offensively, it's a 3-point festival. They will shoot with the first open look. The loss to Sacred Hearts and a close win over St. Francis has opened a new chapter for the team.

“;We've outrun teams, but those ILH girls were able to keep up,”; coach Te'o said. “;Plan B is to run our offense and it has a lot of wrinkles that need work.”;

Tailele is explosive off the dribble and loves the run-and-gun. Her increasing maturity will be necessary for Kahuku to execute its halfcourt offense.

Falemalu and Latu missed the past week because of a club volleyball tournament in Nebraska. Next week, they'll be gone again along with Nile Te'o and Tito Lama - four starters in all - to a club volleyball tournament in Samoa.

Once the team is reunited, there is more than enough talent to outrun slower foes and outmuscle smaller teams in the post.

X factor: Hi'ilei Cummings' versatility is a big plus. When they go with a small lineup, the 5-9 Cummings becomes a center.

“;People are going to come to know this girl. She can play any position on the court,”; coach Te'o said of the long-range shooter.