LAHAINA - Step by step, a stairway to success continues to be set by the youth athletic directors of the West Side community at large.
Last week, the West Maui Youth Basketball League and Commissioner Don Rosenthal were recognized for the 28 years of setting the foundation that has led to the rise in prominence of the boys and girls basketball programs at Lahainaluna High School.
Also key to the construction of championship-caliber Luna teams has been effort of the leaders of the Maui County Menehune League teams in Lahaina.
The young Lahaina Girls team finished 6-4 this season. Photo by Glen Pascual.
This year, Ian Aotaki for the girls and Nick Webb with the boys have directed the programs for the middle school age kids.
Lady Luna head coach Todd Rickard, who, along with Mike Bates, assists Aotaki with the girls team, said, "The main goal of the Menehune teams is to get the kids ready to play at the high school level. If we can get two, three or four players to step up to play for the varsity, then we are very happy."
This season, the majority of players on both Lahainaluna squads played on the local Menehune League teams.
Coach Nick, assisted by Iolani Kaniho, Alec Austin, Chad Santiago, Casey Smythe and Peter Hett this year, guided the boys team to an 11-2 record, leaving the Lahaina Lunatics in third place in the ten-team league.
The player roster included team captains Chris Kaniho, Drew Austin and Kalalani Kaaikala, along with fellow eighth-graders Justin Inovejas, Michael Niu, J.D. Rosario, Jacob McCoy, Calen Matsuda and Kia Kenolio. Seventh-graders Herzain Cardenas, Sky Freeman and Carver Locke, and sixth-grader C.J. Palma completed the team roster.
"This team really played strong defense, and we are really proud of this, because it takes a strong work ethic to play this way, which leads to the creation of winning habits. It is important that the kids at this age learn this, and we are happy that everyone bought into what we are trying to teach, which gets them ready for the Lahainaluna way," said Webb.
The Lahaina Girls stampeded through the first half of their season before a knee injury took out their top post player, eighth-grader Keleah Koloi. They still managed to finish the year with a 6-4 mark, good for fourth place.
A very young team with but two eighth-graders - Andilyn Alavazo and Koloi - the future does indeed look bright for the West Side program.
Seventh-graders Maya Ryan and Kalo Uhlia will return next season, along with sixth-graders Bonnie Gunn, Braeana Estabillo, Keiko Aotaki, Angie Taufa, Sheilaika Agbayani, Aleah Wolf and Rachel Balagso.
"The team produced this year. Now, we're ready to move forward to continue to work toward our main goal of winning the state championship with the Lady Lunas," concluded Coach Ian.