It’s Shaylin Navarro’s last season on the Ka‘u girls basketball team, and the senior guard is hoping to create her own branch of family history.
She’s the niece of 2004 Ka‘u graduates and twins Elias and Elijah Navarro, the latter the former Trojans girls volleyball coach. They were on the history-making Ka‘u boys volleyball team that reached the state tournament for the first time in 2002.
The Navarro brothers led the Trojans back to states the following season. Back then there wasn’t statewide classification. Small schools had to battle the giants on the same Big Island Interscholastic Federation playing field.
Their aunt, Deanna Navarro, was the coach in 2003. She took over for Guy Enriques, who is part of the six degrees of separation, linking the Trojans from their glory days in the past to their present.
He’s now the Kamehameha-Hawaii boys volleyball coach. One of the youngsters he helped mold was Ka‘u senior Marley Strand-Nicolaisen, who led Ka‘u to its first BIIF volleyball title for either the boys or girls programs.
Her teammate for volleyball was Toni Beck, a junior. Beck is on the basketball team, bringing aspirations of reaching states and making history again.
However, while the volleyball squad was poised as a BIIF contender from the start, it’s not the same situation for the basketball team.
If reaching states were a game of musical chairs, the Trojans would always be the last one standing when the music stopped.
Last season, they fell to Hawaii Prep 56-32 for the league’s third spot to the Hawaii High School Athletic Association Division II state tournament. It was the same deal in 2011; they lost to Honokaa 59-42.
The two previous seasons Ka‘u bowed out in the BIIF Division II semifinals. Those two years the league had two state berths. It’s a broken record, but the Trojans were the ones standing when the music stopped.
“This year, I think we can push and make states,” young Navarro said. “We’ve always had opportunities. Hopefully, we can do it this season.
“The team is hard-working, but we need to improve and work together. We know how to play ball, but we’ve still got to make it click.”
The Navarro surname is a household sports name at Ka‘u. Her grandfather, Crispen Navarro Jr., was a Ka‘u volleyball assistant coach. Her mom, Shawnette Shim-Navarro, played basketball and volleyball for the Trojans.
At least the music doesn’t stop with Navarro’s departure with her eventual graduation. Her sister, Denisha, is a starting sophomore guard.
However, the three teams — defending Division II state champion Kamehameha-Hawaii, Honokaa and HPA — that qualified for states last season return standout players.
Kamehameha has junior Casey Poe and sophomore Riana Arima; Honokaa has senior Yvonne Daniels and juniors Shemika Frazier and Hunter Liftee; and HPA has junior Chancis Fernandez and sophomore Eliyah Fernandez.
Besides the Navarro sisters and Beck, the other starters are sophomore forward Maka Flores-Carvalho and sophomore guard Bridget Pasion. Senior guards Leah Cariaga, Jenna Gascon, and senior forward Casey Koi offer bench strength on a roster of 12, including seven seniors.
Cariaga, who’s been on the varsity for two seasons, not only provides valuable minutes, but the vital intangible of being an emotional sparkplug as well.
“What I’ve learned being on the varsity is you have to pick yourself up,” she said. “If a player gets down, I like to pick them up. You need to be confident on the court. If you’re not, then you can’t get anything done. I like to be a confidence booster.”
The other seniors are Piilani Peralta, Keani Mello-Waiwaiole and Camry Evangelista. Junior guard Jernest Breithaupt-Louis rounds out the roster.
“The team’s attitude and dedication to the game stand out,” Ka‘u coach Cy Lopez said. “We’ve got young ones. They’re a strong foundation for the future. What I like is we’re really aggressive on defense and have a lot of shooters. Pasion is our best shooter.
“But they’re the young ones and have to break out of their shell. It’s their first year on the varsity level. Once they break out of their shell, they’ll be all right. Shaylin will be a go-to player for us with her drives, offense and her shots. Underneath, Toni and Maka get us a lot of rebounds on offense and defense, and a lot of putbacks.”
It’s Beck’s second season playing basketball. She’s 5 foot 11 and provides a post presence, especially blocking shots. She also brings a BIIF championship pedigree, which includes reaching states three times in volleyball.
“It’s a fun team, and we have good chemistry. We’ve all got good attitudes,” Beck said. “I hope we can make history again. I think we’ve got a good chance. We have to stay positive and keep working. Our goal is to go to states and make history.”