LAHAINA - It is a testament to the West Maui Youth Basketball League and to Lahainaluna High School hoops head coach Todd Rickard that the Lady Lunas are setting seemingly unbreakable standards of excellence with a streak of 90 consecutive Maui Interscholastic League victories and nine straight championships. Lady Luna basketball also has a state championship trophy from the 2010 season up in the Jimmie H. Greig Gymnasium on campus.
All the while, the girls competition in the rest of the MIL here on the Valley Isle has all but faded out of the rear view mirror of the Lady Lunas. Respectfully to the rest of the MIL, it is not that they are that bad - it is simply that Lahainaluna is that good.
And it all goes back to the development of knowledge and fundamentals of the game within the WMYBL - long the model for youth basketball in Maui County, guided by venerable leader Don "Show Me the Money" Rosenthal for some 30 years - and the painstaking dedication of Rickard to pave the highway of success from the youth league, up to the high school and on to the hierarchy of high school hoops in Hawaii.
The team includes (from left): front — Loke Basques Rosenthal, Fiemea Hafoka, Taylor Bates, Lindsay Bates, Aloha Salem, Kalena Balingit and Kyla Blando; back row — Lisa Hafoka, Cameron Fernandez, Keleah-Aiko Koloi, Kahlo Uhila, Lau Hafoka and Mina Faaumu.
Lahainaluna has been a force at every state championship tournament in the last decade, and this season they are ranked at number two behind only defending state title holder Kamehameha Kapalama of the Interscholastic League of Honolulu.
The Lady Lunas lost a preseason contest to the Warriors, but they have since been on a tear, defeating 2013 state runner-up Hilo and perennial contender Konawaena last month, and now rolling through the MIL with winning margins of 30, 40 or 50 points.
Coach Todd, along with his trusty sideline sidekicks Ian Aotaki, Mike Bates, Eddie Pamat and Derek Agamine, have built a Formula I race car on the court this year that is as deep and talented as any other team assembled at the historic campus at the top of Lahainaluna Road.
"We are deep - probably ten players deep - and experienced," said Rickard last week, as he enters his 20th year at the helm of the Lady Lunas.
"We can go with any combination of the first ten players and have no drop off in the level of play. We play defense, we run, we can shoot the ball, we rebound, and we are experienced from last year."
This year, Lahainaluna returns 2013 MIL All-Stars Fiemea Hafoka, Loke Basques Rosenthal, Lindsay Bates, Taylor Bates, Lau Hafoka and Keleah-Aiko Koloi, and the team added last year's Player of the Year Cameron Fernandez, who transferred from King Kekaulike.
Rounding out the roster are letter winners Mina Faaumu, Aloha Salem and Kyla Blando, along with first-time varsity players Kalena Balingit, Lisa Hafoka and Kahlo Uhila.
"We have good size, we run the floor, and we can rebound and shoot the ball well," commented Coach Todd. "As always, we will run and press full-court and use our depth to our advantage. And, again as always, our goal is to win that state championship, and we should be a contender for the next three years or so.
"We send our thank you out to the Lahaina community for their tremendous support throughout the years. Like all the sports here at Lahainaluna, the support for our team is unmatched. Our fans are the best - in good times and the bad - and this makes this place a great place to grow up in life.
"For myself, for my family, we really appreciate this special community. You know, the first rounds of the playoffs this year will be played at the Lahaina Civic Center, and we hope to see every seat filled there for those games. Hopefully, we can finish it off this year and compete well at the state tournament."