KALAHEO — Liana Hasegawa triggered a loud round of cheer when she found the bucket from outside the three-point line, Thursday afternoon at the Kalaheo Neighborhood Center.
The trey came late in the game against the Con3 Jacks and kept Kaulupono from being shut out as the team from Maui finished with a 66-4 win in the goodwill game featuring girls sixth grade and under.
“We won the West Coast Nationals in Las Vegas when these girls were in the fifth grade,” said Kai Pahukoa, the coach of the Con3 Jacks contingent of nearly 50 players and supporters. “We’re going back to defend this title, but these girls are young and a lot of them will be playing with the fifth grade boys in a coed game.”
The match opened the first Kauai Lynx invitational basketball tournament which will run through Sunday afternoon at the Kalaheo Neighborhood Center.
“There were a couple of teams who expressed interest in coming here to play basketball,” said Lenny Rapozo, coach of the Lihue Lakers boys team and the director of the county’s Department of Parks and Recreation. “I let Clarence Sales of Kauai Lynx know and he put this tournament together with a lot of the teams who participated in the county’s spring basketball league. We have the HyLife from Hilo, Hawaii, coming in Friday and will be on the floor, Friday night.”
Pahukoa said it was coming to Kauai was a nice change, and gives the parents an opportunity to experience new things.
“My wife Jan works on all these things like fundraising and stuff,” Pahukoa said. “I just coach — she tells me where and when I have to be where. A lot of our parents are on Kauai for the first time. Usually we travel to Oahu for the Sharks’ tournament during the Memorial Day weekend. But our parents wanted to try something new.”
Pahukoa said the program from Upcountry Maui has the 6th grade and under girls, the co-ed boys team, an 8th grade girls team, and even a high school junior varsity team — all of who will see action during the tournament.
“We’ve got some of the high school girls who are going to be playing during the goodwill game against the JV team,” said Bobby Kamakele, coach of the Kaulupono program.
Pahukoa said he’s concentrating on trying to develop a good girls program on Maui.
“Right now, when high school tryouts come up, there’re only a handful of girls,” he said. “I coach boys basketball, too, but the focus is to create a strong girls program. We have about 70 girls from as young as 7 years old, and the aim is to have them be competitive by the time they reach high school. We practice and play with the same teams with the same officials in the same place, so coming to Kauai gives the girls a chance to play against other people in other places and have different officials.”