Team Aloha—the all-star girls from Hawaii—overcame an opening-round loss to post three consecutive victories and win the consolation championship in the 192-team Arizona Elite basketball tournament held April 18-20 in Phoenix.
Team Aloha was sponsored by the Hawaii High School Athletic Association, headed by executive director Keith Amemiya, who also made the trip.
Teams came from throughout the United States and Canada, with heavy representation from Arizona and the surrounding Western states. Team Aloha and an Alaskan team made the longest journeys.
Head coach Dana Takahara-Dias, who also led the 2006 Team Aloha that won the Nike Storm and Swish Tournament in Santa Barbara, had nothing but praise for the student-athletes: “Our girls were outstanding ambassadors of Hawaii and the game, and I’m so proud of the way they played. Considering that we only had three practice sessions, and played against club teams that play together week-in and week-out, I think Team Aloha did a fantastic job in showing the caliber of basketball talent we have in the islands.”
Assistant coach and Honolulu mayor Mufi Hannemann said, “Our opponents and the fans were impressed with the intensity of our play, the teamwork and unselfishness, the tenacity of our defense, and our local style of basketball. From the aloha gifts the girls gave to the opposing players, to the aloha they demonstrated on the court and off, this is a team all Hawaii can be proud of.”
According the tournament organizers, coaches and scouts representing 200 colleges were on hand to assess the athletes. The event was sanctioned by the NCAA.
Coaches from Cal Poly, Cal State Northridge, Weber State, and Idaho were among those who approached the Team Aloha coaches during the event to tell them about their interest in the Hawaii players. The coaches told Takahara-Dias and Hannemann that they were keeping their eyes on Janelle Nomura of Punahou, Kamie Imai of Waiakea, Kanisha Bellow of Kamehameha-Big Island, Violet Alama of Kalani, and Pua Furtado of Kamehameha-Kapalama, among others. (NCCA regulations prohibited the college coaches from speaking directly to the players or their parents during the tournament.)
Members of the 2008 squad included Kalei Adolpho of Molokai … Taeja Afalava of Kahuku …. Violet Alama of Kalani … Kanisha Bello of Kamehameha-Hawaii … Pualei Furtado of Kamehameha-Kapalama … Kara Hanato-Smith of Konawaena … Kamie Imai of Waiakea …Johnnelle Kapua Mid-Pacific … Tami Konishi of Iolani … Keaton McFadden of Mid-Pacific … Janelle Nomura of Punahou … Ashley Satterwhite of Punahou … and Tayler Wang of Hawaii Preparatory.
The team was selected based on nominations from sportswriters state-wide. They represented the prep leagues from the Big Island and Maui and two from Oahu.
Team Aloha now has a 7-1 record overall.
Game 1 (April 18): Irvine Sol (California) 35, Team Aloha 25
Half-time score: Irvine 15, Team Aloha 11
High scorer: Kanisha Bello, 6 points
Note: Irvine Sol eventually played in the championship game of this division, losing to Colorado.
Coach Takahara-Dias noted, “I’m proud of the way Team Aloha battled to the end. Although we lost that first game, the girls played with humility and grace.”
Game 2 (April 19): Team Aloha 52, Phoenix Phenoms 20
Half-time score: Team Aloha 25, Phoenix 3
High scorers: Pua Furtado, 9; Tayler Wang, 7
Game 3 (April 19): Team Aloha 50, Lady Swift (California) 36
Half-time score: Team Aloha 33, Lady Swift 20
High scorers: Kamie Imai 9, Taeja Afalava 8
Game 4 (April 20): Team Aloha 54, Big Sky Hoops (Montana) 36
Half-time score: Team Aloha 25, Big Sky Hoops 14
High scorers: Janelle Nomura 11, Kamie Imai 10, Johnnelle Kapua 10
Coach Takahara-Dias said, “We were definitely the underdogs in the championship game. The Big Sky Hoops girls were taller, more experienced, and well-coached. Team Aloha played consistent ball throughout the game, and everyone contributed.”