LIHUE — The Red Raider girls are 2-0 to start the season.
Kauai High School’s varsity girls basketball team defeated Kapaa, 46-37, at home Tuesday evening.
“Understanding our own team, I think,” said Kauai head coach James Dingus of the team’s early success. “We’ve got a four-year starter in varsity playing center, and we try to get the ball to her so she can do what she’s learned how to do over those four years. And then other players learning how to play off of that so it turns into team basketball instead of just one person getting the ball.
“We’re trying to figure out how the whole team system works so — playing through the post and playing inside-out. Having the post player understanding if she gets double or triple-teamed, that there’s going to be other people that are open and get them the ball.”
Red Raiders senior center Taegan Keep posted a double-double with 25 points and 15 rebounds. She also had two blocks and two assists.
“Some things the team’s doing well, we’re starting to play our game — setting up the offense and playing inside-out, look for the openings and get the shots,” Keep said. “Just find those open shots, and take it to our game.”
She added about her performance: “Like I’ve said before, you can always get better. … I know I’m an inside player, and I use my height and my strength to help my team, and give them what I can contribute.”
Kauai (2-0 KIF) led throughout but started to really gain separation in the third quarter. A layup by Keep in the period gave the team a double-digit lead.
“I thought their press got us a little frazzled at times. And then if we had some turnovers, then we were able to get some transition baskets off of those turnovers,” Dingus said. “That’s something we want to work on. We know both the other teams in KIF, that’s something they do and we got to be ready for that.
“But I thought Kapaa played hard. They understand who they are. They got some really talented guards and a big post also, and those were the players that got the shots for them,” he continued. “I thought they played a really smart game.”
Kapaa (0-2 KIF) was only down five points going into halftime, but was outscored in the third quarter, 15-8.
The Warriors did outscore their opponents in the final period, 14-11, but couldn’t close the gap.
“I got a young team, so they’re still learning how to play together. But they did pretty well despite the loss,” said Kapaa head coach William Aki. “We got a few things to fix, but I think we can still fix our season despite the two losses we’ve had. Like I always tell them, ‘It’s not how you start. It’s how you finish.’”
Warriors junior guard Jaliyah Casem led Kapaa in scoring with 20 points, scoring eight in the fourth quarter, and also had three steals and two rebounds.
In previous seasons, Casem had more of a facilitating role offensively. But in Tuesday’s game, she was a lot more aggressive as a scorer.
“When we go small, we are really short. We got to be a little more aggressive on the ball. That why I changed her vision of playing,” Aki said. “Last year and the year previous, we had a lot of bigs that could work the inside better than we do this year. But we’re learning. If the rest of them can pull themselves to play that way as well, we’ll be alright the rest of the season.”
Red Raiders sophomore guard Marissa Layosa contributed eight points, four rebounds, two assists and a steal in the team’s win. Senior guard Cici Tanicala had two points, eight rebounds and an assist. Junior guard Tiana Manera had two points, four assists and four rebounds.
Warriors junior center Mele Tafea had six points, seven rebounds and one block for Kapaa. Freshman guard Lilya Cummings had five points, eight rebounds, two steals and an assist.
Kauai High also won the junior varsity game, edging the JV Warriors, 20-16.
With a two-point lead in the final seconds, Kauai’s Katrina Cadiz clinched the win off a steal and fastbreak layup, her only points in the contest.
Kauai’s Jessica Cezar had six points for the JV Red Raiders. Kapaa’s Tara Daligcon and Lilia Unutoa each had six points.
Kauai will next host Waimea (1-1 KIF) on Friday. The JV game will begin 5:30 p.m. and the varsity will follow.
Kapaa next plays at Waimea High School on Tuesday.