Lahainaluna girls make historic run
by Wes Nakama
Advertiser Staff Writer
History — recent and distant — was not on Lahainaluna's side entering last Friday's Hawaiian Airlines Girls Basketball Division I State Championship game.
No other Maui Interscholastic League team had even made it that far in the tournament's 34-year history, much less won it all. Konawaena, meanwhile, was the defending state champ with its entire starting five returning from last year's squad.
The Wildcats also had annihilated their competition in the quarterfinals and semifinals, routing Kapolei, 59-31, on Wednesday and 'Iolani, 54-22, on Thursday.
Konawaena even led Saturday's game, 22-15, at halftime and 37-26 with a minute remaining in the third period.
But Lahainaluna — America's oldest high school west of the Rocky Mountains — entered this season intent on making history itself and did it with a furious fourth-quarter rally and then eventually holding off the Wildcats, 47-45.
Leading the way were senior post Milika Taufa, who finished with a game-high 26 points, and junior point guard Maiki Viela, who scored nine points, dished out three assists and made two steals while playing all 32 minutes.
Viela had a crucial role in getting the Lunas into the title game, scoring 29 points in a 64-56 semifinal victory over Punahou the night before. That included a 10-minute first-half stretch in which Taufa was on the bench with three fouls.
"She's the best point guard in the state," Punahou coach Mike Taylor said of Viela. "We tried to box (and one) her, but she just has so much heart and desire. She's the one that got everybody energized. She's a natural leader, she's terrific."
Taufa, a 6-foot-3 post with a soft touch around the basket and surprisingly light feet, scored seven straight points early in the fourth quarter to help Lahainaluna tie the championship game at 37-37 with 5:38 remaining.
She later scored six straight to put the Lunas ahead, 46-39, with 1:51 remaining. Taufa also finished with nine rebounds and five blocked shots, and — perhaps most importantly — played all 32 minutes.
"I wanted to show my coach I could do it (stay out of foul trouble)," she said.