WAIMEA — The girls season on the hardwood is in full swing as the Red Raiders won the opener on the Westside.
Kauai High School’s varsity girls basketball team defeated Waimea, 43-35, Tuesday night at Clem Gomes Gym at Waimea High School.
“It’s fun to get back into it. It’s a fun time of year for the coaches, and everybody’s optimistic,” said Kauai head coach James Dingus. “We played good enough to win. We’re kind of understanding how our team works and what our team has. Did enough tonight to get a W against a competitive team. Yeah, it was a fun one.”
Kauai (1-0 KIF) maintained a slim lead throughout the first three quarters and then started to build separation in the fourth.
Red Raiders freshman guard Amalya Sales hit a 3-pointer to open the period. A jumper by senior forward Kaylee Braun extended Kauai’s lead to seven.
“I thought we started to get a little separation in the third quarter, but then we had some turnovers. Waimea was able to capitalize on those and close the gap,” Dingus said. “Just took care of the ball a little bit better. Maybe they got a little bit of a break in-between the third and fourth quarters, and just able to execute a little bit.”
Red Raiders senior center Taegen Keep posted a double-double and was the game’s leading scorer with 23 points and 11 rebounds. She also had four blocks and one assist.
“I’m happy with the way I played for our first game,” Keep said. “I can always improve. I did miss shots, but that’s how you get better. You keep working. It takes all of us. It’s not just me. It takes a whole team, and we’re going to work together to get better as a team.”
Dingus added: “Taegan was impressive inside. She really controlled the paint — not only scoring but blocking some shots and getting rebounds and helping teammates that got beat on defense. She’s a pretty good basketball player. She’s played varsity for four years. That’s what you hope for out of her.”
Waimea (0-1 KIF) kept the deficit close for most of the game with creating turnovers, accounting for 11 steals to Kauai High’s five.
The Menehune were especially aggressive when defending full court. Waimea head coach Natalie Mata said, however, the half-court defense faltered.
“You cannot win a basketball game by playing defense sometimes,” Mata said. “The rest of the possessions, you got to be 100 percent all the way. That’s where we lacked. Us coaches and our girls know that. So, that’s where our focus is now.”
Mata hopes to get over those first game anxieties quickly as Waimea will play at Kapaa High School on Saturday. The junior varsity game will begin 5:30 p.m. and the varsity will follow.
“We beat ourselves tonight,” she said. “First game of the season for us, literally. We had no preseason games. Not an excuse, but hopefully this was the game to take out their jitters. Yeah, we beat ourselves tonight.”
Sales had eight points, five rebounds, three assists and a steal for Kauai. Braun had seven points, four rebounds, an assist and a steal.
Kauai High next hosts Kapaa on Dec. 12.
Menehune senior guards Monique Lorenzo and Kiarra Palacio each scored nine points. Lorenzo added three rebounds, three assists and two steals, and Palacio had one rebound, one steal and one assist. Freshman guard Kaye Serapio had eight points, eight rebounds and two steals.
Waimea defeated Kauai, 25-24, in the junior varsity game.
Waimea’s Cori Burton and Kauai’s Jasmyn Ballesteros each scored eight points to lead their respective teams.