Pearl City, Mililani Girls Vie For League Bas­ket­ball Crown

MidWeek Islander (Central Oahu) - - Sports - By JACK DANILEWICZ

The fore­cast is “an­other close en­counter” for Thurs­day night’s girls bas­ket­ball show­down be­tween Pearl City and Mililani. That much both sides can agree on.

When the teams met back on Dec. 30, the Tro­jans led by a point af­ter a quar­ter, were tied with the Charg­ers at in­ter­mis­sion, trailed by two fol­low­ing the third stanza, and even­tu­ally won, 38-36. Each team man­aged to reach dou­ble-dig­its in all but one quar­ter.

That win also sad­dled Pearl City with its only loss of the OIA Red West sea­son. The stakes are even higher this time, as the game Thurs­day could de­cide the league’s sea­son crown, as­sum­ing both teams took care of busi­ness in their games over the week­end. Mililani was to play Wa­ianae last Fri­day, while Pearl City met Aiea. Oceanic-16 will tele­vise Thurs­day’s game, which will be played at 5 p.m. at Kalani High School.

Like the Charg­ers, Mililani also had lost only one game (58-51) head­ing into last week­end, that com­ing on the road at Kapolei Dec. 17. Mililani en­tered the week­end on an OIA-best eightgame win streak. With the OIA Red West slate akin to a marathon rather than a sprint, Mililani coach Pa­trick Basilio wasn’t even aware of the num­ber of wins his team had reeled off in suc­ces­sion late last week as he pre­pared his team for Wa­ianae.

“I only know we’ve been play­ing some re­ally good bas­ket­ball,” he said. “ The girls have been work­ing hard at it.”

The theme re­mains much the same as for the en­tire sea­son. The fo­cus is on elim­i­nat­ing self-im­posed mis­cues.

“I tell the girls that if we can min­i­mize our turnovers, I like our chances against any other team.”

Pearl City was led by cen­ter Markeshia Man­ning and point guard Jor­dan Ahakuelo in the first game. Each scored 11 points. While de­fend­ing both of them fig­ures to be a key for Mililani, Basilio above all else is looking for a to­tal team ef­fort on the de­fen­sive end.

“We don’t try to scheme for one player — they have so many (tal­ented play­ers) — but we have to win the in­di­vid­ual bat­tles first,” he said.“Tal­ent-wise, I think we match up pretty well, but they’ve been to­gether a long time, and you can see it on the floor. The flow to their game is smoother, al­though we’re catch­ing up.”

Ahakuelo has fig­ured big all year for Pearl City and makes the Charger of­fense go. Mililani’s Court­ney Se­nas drew the as­sign­ment of guard­ing Ahakuelo last time and will do so again af­ter a stel­lar ef­fort, ac­cord- ing to Basilio.

“She (Ahakuelo) is such an ex­plo­sive player. We try to put pres­sure on her, but she’s so heady with the ball that she’ll get to the free throw line. As long as we can keep Court­ney out of foul trou­ble, she’ll be OK.”

Like Pearl City, Mililani dis­played its in­side-out­side game in the first game as cen­ter Darcey Goulsby and point guard Kel­lie Sakai, who tal­lied 11 and 9 points, re­spec­tively, led the way for the Charg­ers. Am­ber Ogata also has been a clutch per­former for Mililani this sea­son and is a match-up night­mare for most of its op­po­nents.

“ Their bigs ( play­ers in­side) are a lit­tle taller than ours, but Darcy has a lit­tle more speed, so I think that evens out the lack of height,” Basilio said of Goulsby. “Kel­lie has been run­ning our of­fense so clean. She’s taken charge of our of­fen­sive sets, and ev­ery- one else has fol­lowed suit. Am­ber has re­ally stepped it up. She’s been knock­ing down some big shots, and she’s stepped it up on de­fense, too.

“We just have to play smart bas­ket­ball, elim­i­nate turnovers, max­i­mize our op­por­tu­ni­ties and do the lit­tle stuff,” he added.

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