With a young squad and only six returnees, it’s easy to understand why Waiakea High School varsity girls basketball coach Grant Kauhi sees his Warriors as a work-in-progress this season.
“We’re very young and looking to get better with experience,” Kauhi said. “We don’t have a lot of size, so we’re going to look to play pressure defense and score a lot of our points in transition.
“We’re going to count on Shaila (Apele), Kaydee (Rapozo) and Nicole (Antonio) for leadership. They’ve done a good job so far bringing the other girls along in practice. We seem to have good team chemistry, and everyone is working together.”
Apele, a versatile 5-foot-8 forward, can play inside or step out and drain the 15-foot jumper.
“We’ll need scoring and rebounding from Shaila; scoring from Kaydee; and we’ll need both Kaydee and Nicole to run the offense — they’re the only two point guards on our 11-player roster,” said Kauhi, noting all three players averaged about 9 points per game last year.
Rapozo, a 5-3 guard, is clever with the ball, directs the offense from the point and has a reliable 3-point shot.
Antonio, a 5-3 guard, is a solid scorer and defender, and should play a bigger role in Division I Waiakea’s success this season.
“We’ll need those three to step up this year and our new girls to get better and better as the season goes on,” Kauhi said.
The other returnees are senior Vanessa Ignacio (5-4 guard), junior Ashlee Santiago (5-3 guard) and sophomore Elyse Hasegawa (5-4 guard). The newcomers include Evangeline Pascual (5-2, Jr.), Brieanna Astrande (5-2, Jr.), Christa Amuimuia (5-5, Jr.), Danielle Oda (5-5, Fr.) and Cryssie Okinaka (5-4, Fr.).
One girl Kauhi believes can make a difference on offense is Oda.
“Cryssie is a good outside scorer and she’s a good rebounder for her size,” the Warriors coach said. “But overall, we’re still a young team. We know we’re going to take our licks early. We want to learn from our mistakes and get a lot of experience in the preseason so hopefully we’ll be ready when the BIIF starts.”
League play begins Dec. 3.
He pointed to Hilo and Konawaena as the class of D-I.
“Those teams play year-round,” Kauhi said. “Anyone who plays them in our preseason tournament will definitely find out right away what their strengths and weaknesses are.”
Still, Kauhi is optimistic about this year’s Warriors.
“We’re young but it’s a good group to work with,” he said. “The team is going to get better. We just want to get as much experience as we can in the preseason and be ready for league.
“We’re going to mix up our defenses, go a little full court and try to get into transition every time we can. We want to use our speed to make up for our lack of size. But with this team, we know the girls are going to play hard and give us their best effort every time.”
This year, the Big Island Interscholastic Federation returns to an islandwide round-robin schedule. The regular-season champions in D-I and II will earn the first of two Hawaii High School Athletic Association berths in each classification. The top four teams in D-I and II will advance to the BIIF playoffs, scheduled Jan. 31 to Feb. 1 at Keaau High, and the winners will earn the BIIF’s top seeds at the state tournament.
Also in a revised state tournament schedule for 2014, four regional sites will host first- and second-round games during the weekend of Feb. 7 and 8, with the regional winners advancing to the Final Four, Feb. 14-15 on Oahu.
The three-team regional sites will be hosted by the BIIF (1), Maui Interscholastic League (1) and Oahu Interscholastic Association/Interscholastic League of Honolulu (2). The top seed at each site will draw a bye and play the first-round game winner. For example, if the BIIF is the No. 1 seed in its regional and paired with two Oahu teams, the Oahu teams would play their game on Oahu with the winner coming to the Big Island to play the BIIF champion in the regional final.
Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of Big Island Interscholastic Federation girls basketball previews that will run leading up to the Dec. 3 opener.