Prep teams await state tourneys' fate
By Wes Nakama
Advertiser Staff Writer
Kalaheo High School girls basketball coach Chico Furtado said his phone rang off the hook during last night's 6 o'clock news, within seconds of schools chief Paul LeMahieu's announcement that next month's six state tournaments would be canceled.
"My players, my family, friends everyone was calling me before he even got off the air," Furtado said. "I thought, 'Something must be wrong, it has to be a mistake.' "
A short time earlier, at Mid-Pacific Institute, Owls baseball coach Dunn Muramaru had a similar response upon hearing the news.
"Is that irrevocable?" Muramaru asked. "I would think the public sentiment would make them reconsider."
Furtado's and Muramaru's instincts proved correct. Later in the evening, the Board of Education and LeMahieu agreed to reconsider the decision.
LeMahieu's initial decision caused shock waves across the state's athletic community.
While many Hawai'i State Teachers Association members expressed relief and joy that their 19-day strike was coming to an end, coaches and athletes received disheartening news of the tournaments' possible cancellation.
"I watched the news, and it was a big bummer, I was super disappointed," said Ryan Kotani, a Roosevelt senior who plays baseball. "When I heard the strike was over, I thought things would go back to normal. Then I heard they're going to cancel the state tournaments ... it's tough. I'm kinda mad about it."
During the strike, Kotani and his teammates practiced on their own at Manoa Valley District Park. The Rough Riders, at 3-2, were hoping to contend for a state berth.
"We practiced Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and me and some other guys would go on Sundays, too," said Kotani, a shortstop. "We showed commitment. We stayed in shape."
'Aiea's baseball team, which is 3-0, also practiced on its own "three or four times a week" at 'Aiea Recreation Center during the strike, according to Na Ali'i first baseman/pitcher Casey Onaga.
"Once the strike was over, we figured there would be a state tournament," said Onaga, a senior. "That's what we were shooting for, the best of the best."
Onaga said cancelling the state tournaments would have lasting effects.
"There's going to be a lot of second-guessing, a lot of 'What ifs?'" Onaga said. "It would be hard to accept."
Furtado, whose Mustangs are also unbeaten, said he believes the tournaments will be played.
"I was shocked at the first announcement," Furtado said, "but I'd be more shocked if it stands."