LAHAINA - The 2011-12 season for the Lahainaluna High School girls basketball team came to a disappointing end last week, as the Lady Lunas were turned away at the Hawaii High School Athletic Association state playoff tournament. The team lost to Iolani in a semifinal contest, then fell to a red hot Kahuku team that emerged from deep in the bracket ratings in the third place game.
Lahainaluna came in as the third seed and won its way into the final four - for the fourth straight year - with a 46-28 runaway win over Waiakea in the quarterfinals of tournament. In the semifinals against second-seeded Iolani, the Lady Lunas ran neck-and-neck with the Interscholastic League of Honolulu champions but faltered down the stretch to finish on the short end of 66-56 score.
In the third place game, the Kahuku Red Raiders simply would not be denied. After fighting their way through the preliminary rounds, the team that came in as the fourth place OIA entry got hot when it really counted to defeat Lahainaluna. The Lady Lunas couldn't hold onto a seven-point lead with a little over two minutes to play as the Red Raiders nailed a three-point shot with 30 seconds to play to send the game into overtime. In the extra period, Kahuku built an eight-point lead and then hung on for the 60-54 win.
Coach Todd Rickard said seniors Ana Lauese (right) and Paige Casil helped bring the team together.
"Our girls gave it everything they had, and we could have won either of these last two games," said veteran Lahainaluna coach Todd Rickard. "It's disappointing that it turned out this way again (the Lady Lunas finished fourth last season as well), but the girls played their hearts out in this tournament, and that's the way it goes."
Coach Rickard, assisted by Ian Aotaki, Eddie Pamat, Kaea Rickard, Scott Soldwisch and Mike Bates this season, bid aloha to two seniors at tournament's end: co-captains Ana Lauese and Paige Casil. "These two really came through with a quiet, yet firm, sense of leadership for this team. They really helped bring the girls together to make this a very successful season," said Coach Todd.
The good news for Lady Luna fans is that Lauese and Casil are the only student athletes who competed for the last time in the red and white of Lahainaluna. Returning next year will be current juniors Amanda Matsuda, Haley Nakamura, Princess Lauvao, Jade Chihara, Makana Kaaikala Caban and Moana Hafoka; sophomores Loke Basques and Misha Whitehead; and freshmen Taylor Bates, Lindsey Bates, Folau Hafoka, Aloha Salem, Mina Faaumu and Kyla Blando. A talented eighth grade class on the Lahaina Menehune team will also bolster the Lady Luna program.
"We'll be looking forward to next year with this group of players - this could be one of the best teams we've had here. We'll see if they will put in the work that the teams before them have put in; that's what matters," concluded Coach Todd.