Na Koa Basketball Academy earned titles for its sixth grade and eighth grade division teams during the nine days the Academy spent in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Na Koa ninth grade division finished third place.
Na Koa Basketball Academy joined teams from the Kauai Lynx in participating in the Jame It On “Classic” and the Grand Finale basketball tournaments hosted by the Amateur Athletic Union. More than 250 teams were entered in both boys and girls divisions, playing on more than 50 courts at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
“Jam It On hosts the largest basketball tournament in the country,” said Kamahalo Kauhane, Na Koa Basketball coach. “We wanted to expose our players, coaching staff and program to something they will be able to learn from and bring back to Kauai while growing as a team.”
The tournaments are held annually in Las Vegas, he said.
Na Koa coach Al Ah Loo was impressed with the team’s adjustments to the tournament’s magnitude.
“It was an epic experience for our program and provided many teachable moments for both our players and coaches,” Ah Loo said. “The seed, size and quickness of teams there forced our players to adjust and learn quickly. We couldn’t be more ecstatic for our players.”
Na Koa Basketball fielded four teams ranging from Grade 5 through Grade 9 in the tournament.
“If there is anything that says what happened to these teams, it was a lot of hear with a lot of hard work,” said Na Koa coach Sy Shim. “These boys didn’t give up, they kept going no matter what. A total of 34 games in six days by four of our teams allowed us to learn about ourselves as a team.”
Mone Malafu led the efforts of Na Koa sixth grade boys.
“He was a matchup nightmare for other teams trying to guard against his quickness,” said Na Koa coach Kalalea Kauhane. “Although he was undersized to some of the taller teams, he outplayed them on both ends of the court.”
Kalalea said shooting guard Ceejay Vidinha and Michael Questin shot the lights out from 3-point land, and point guard Keaka Kauhane’s consistent play-making with assists and crucial baskets provided a balanced attack for the Na Koa 6th grade champions.
“Jacob Danley and Nash Ah Loo brought a much-needed physical play for our team rebounding and keeping the big boys out of the paint,” Kalalea said. “Rebounding was an area of focus we harped on our players.”
Kala Rall, playing with the Na Koa seventh-eighth grade team, said he got more points than while playing in the summer youth basketball league.
“When I was on Kauai playing, I would average about six to eight points a game,” Rall said. “Our team played tough against some really great teams from China, California, Washington, and Arizona. I couldn’t believe I had 27 points in one game. It was the best game of my life.”
Na Koa eighth grade dropped its first game in a close nail-biter, but ran the table in the “Classic,” finishing with a 4-1 record.
“Each game, our players became more confident, and they got better,” said Na Koa coach Dino Hawelu. “Each game posed a different lineup for us. There were some really quick teams, and some physical teams. We platooned a lot to save our players’ legs, and it worked for us.”
Maluhia Kauhane, one of the Na Koa eighth grade team players, said everyone played hard.
“We played as a team from player one through eleven,” Maluhia said. ” Every minute we were on the court, each player needed to give 100 percent because the competition play faster, more physical, and are really disciplined.”
Coach Kamahalu was pleased with the outcome of the nine days.
“The past three years, we emphasized on increasing more games from top to bottom,” he said. “We asked all our players to believe in the process, they needed to buy into it 100 percent.”