High school basketball: Crash course for Waiakea

First-year Waiakea girls basketball coach Kevin Iwata and his team had a good lesson in organization and deadline pressure, and everyone, including the new guy, are still coming up for air.

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First-year Waiakea girls basketball coach Kevin Iwata and his team had a good lesson in organization and deadline pressure, and everyone, including the new guy, are still coming up for air.

The statewide basketball start date was Monday, when tryouts began. The Warriors needed to finalize their roster by Wednesday. That’s because their six-team preseason tournament starts Thursday.

Waiakea plays Waimea from Kauai in the feature game at 7:30 p.m. at the Warriors Gym. Then on Friday, it’s a monster challenge against Konawaena, the six-time defending Big Island Interscholastic Federation Division I champion.

It’s just the preseason, but during league games the Wildcats have been unbeatable. They’re 69-0 during that six-year run of title collecting. And their well of talent won’t run dry any time soon.

They’ve got all their main parts back in juniors Chanelle Molina and Ihi Victor, and sophomore Celena Molina, members of Konawaena’s Division II two-time state champion volleyball squad.

Last season, Waiakea wasn’t tall at all. The only one with height was 5-foot-8 center Shaila Apele. She graduated and left sizable shoes to fill.

In the BIIF semifinals, Hilo eliminated Waiakea 59-42. Apele scored 10 points but the one with the biggest impact was then-freshman Kryssie Okinaka, who scored 13 point to lead the Warriors (7-5).

“Kryssie is really quick offensively and defensively, and a real good slasher to the basket,” said Iwata, last season’s junior varsity coach. “All of the girls on the roster have really great attitudes, are willing to learn and play as a team.

“We’ll try to be defensive-minded and run-oriented. We’re short on height and have to utilize what we have, speed and play an uptempo kind of game.”

Iwata is an office manager at Macguire Bearings, a machine parts company. So being organized all the time is part of his job description. But putting in an offense or defense can’t be done in 10 seconds.

Senior point guard Kaydee Rapozo, sophomore guard Dani Oda and Okinaka can run a few of former Waiakea coach Grant Kauhi’s old plays.

“Basically, I’m familiar with everyone on the junior varsity and varsity,” Iwata said. “I like Kaydee’s leadership on and off the court. She works well with the others during the offseason, conditioning and tryouts, encouraging the other girls to give their best. She can defend, pass, shoot and get her teammates involved. She leads by example.”

Mika Martinez will start at forward. The junior didn’t play last year, but previously played for Kauhi on the JV level. She’s a new starter and so is junior Elyse Hasegawa, another forward and the third co-captain, along with Rapozo and Martinez.

“Mike is really humble and knows how to push the girls without getting across in a negative way,” Iwata said. “She’s a really good court leader and person. Down low, she’s fundamentally sound.

“Elyse made the team last year, but had injuries. She goes hard in all drills and at all practices. She leads by example and her determination is second to none on the court. She’ll be our other ‘4’ (power forward) and she can play defense and slash to the basket.”

If the Warrior can dribble-penetrate to the rim for kickouts, Oda will be waiting. Iwata likes her shot, but appreciates her intangibles as well.

“She’s a great shooter and defender, and she’s really easy to work with,” Iwata said. “She’ll give her body on the court, dive for a loose ball, do whatever it takes for the team.

“We’re really short and at times we’ll run a four-guard offense with a small forward. Mika and Christa Amuimuia (a senior) are the tallest at 5-7 or 5-8. Everybody else is shorter. We’ll count on everyone to come off the bench and give everybody a rest. We’ll be playing in-your-face defense, and do a lot of running and pushing the tempo.”

At 6 p.m. Thursday, it’ll be a good battle when BIIF Division II runner-up Kamehameha takes on Konawaena. The two powerhouses will apply defensive pressure on each other to squeeze out turnovers, and sprint for layups.

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Then one day later, it’ll be Waiakea’s turn to take on the league’s unbeatable Wildcats, who edged Hilo 46-45 for the BIIF D-1 title last season.

“It’ll be interesting with Kona’s pressure,” Iwata said. “Hopefully, for our girls, we’ll have a lot of spacing, dribble-penetrate, dish and pass, make a lot of cuts. I like the attitude on the team. We have a few weeks before the season starts (Dec. 9) and they’re willing to work hard to be competitive. That’s all I can ask for anyone on the team.”

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